It is no surprise that Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch’s story involves a bottle of Samuel Adam’s Lager, but the location gets plenty of style points. At the end of 1992, Koch went to Argentina and climbed Aconcagua, at 22,841 feet the highest mountain in the Americas, and highest peak in both the Southern and Western Hemispheres. At the summit on Jan. 1, 1993, Koch cracked open the brew. “I’d carried it in my pack, close to my back and slept with it to keep it from freezing,” Koch explained. “When I opened it at that altitude, it foamed like crazy. There was only an ounce or two left in the bottle and it was a sublime antidote for dehydration.”
Beer journalist and author Stan Hieronymus says one of the joys of travel for him and his wife, Daria, is in the preparation, so they usually have their beer finds mapped out in advance. In 2008, while on a 14-month sabbatical that included 15 weeks in Germany, the couple visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber. They stayed inside the city walls at the Jugendherberge youth hostel, which serves families and people of all ages. It’s quite common, and somewhat disappointing, to find many stores and bars in Germany serving the same brands you can find in the US—but not this hostel in the ancient city. “They had three different local beers in the cooler, sold at about the same price we saw them in the grocery, as well as the proper glassware,” Hieronymus says.
Mike Saxton of Missoula, MT, is the owner and founder of BeerTrips.com. He makes a living designing small group tours to classic beer destinations and finding unique places to ponder life over a pint. His beer discovery takes place in 2009 where you would normally expect to enjoy a Brunello. “At the start of our inaugural Northern Italy BeerTrip we were in Monterosso al Mare, which was included not for beer per se, but simply because the Cinque Terre is one of the world’s great destinations,” Saxton says. “We stayed at Andrea Poggi’s family owned La Spiaggia (The Beach) Hotel in the new part of Monterosso. The guests on this particular trip had been dubbed the ‘repeat offenders,’ as some had attended as many as 10 BeerTrips. Plans had been made for a special ‘imported beer tasting.’ Everyone brought something special from their cellar. We expected nothing beyond Peroni and Moretti in the well-touristed five villages of the Cinque Terre. But then the first of several happy beer moments began to unfold. Upon my arrival at Hotel La Spiaggia, the owner greeted me with a welcome drink—a crisp, dry, local white wine that hit the spot perfectly after 120 minutes on an Italian train. After I quickly emptied the glass, he asked me if I would like a beer. He said he had something sort of special, if I was interested. He soon appeared with a La Trappe Quadruple, a St. Bernardus Pater, a couple Orvals and a single Rochefort 8. I was very happy. He said he would find the rest of the good beer and put it in the fridge. We drank his entire stock of Belgians and Italian craft beers. Even when you know where to find beer, sometimes you don’t know where you will find it!”
Charles Finkel has been a wine distributor, beer importer, package designer and now runs the Pike Pub and Brewery in Seattle with his wife, Rose Ann. Finkel’s unexpected beer experience took place at a dinner at a monastery dating from 1028, buried deep on pastoral land in Belgium’s Gaume region. “My dinning partner was the abbot of the cloister, the CEO in secular speech. Together, we sat at a simple wooden table, laden with food the monks had hunted and gathered,” Finkel says. He was leading a group of 20 American beer sales people and the room was filled with twice as many monks. “We supped on roasted rabbit, vegetable soup, fruit for dessert, and the beer that fathers drank daily—a beer that I called Orval Light. At 3.5 percent, it is their regular tipple and not for sale. The classic Orval, marketed internationally is 7 percent. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Questions rolled before my eyes, like visions—‘Why am I here, just to drink beer?’; ‘Did my job as a beer marketer pale by comparison to days of daily prayer?’; “Do you think that I could ask for more vegetable soup?’ This is one of my most memorable beer drinking experiences! Obviously, the beer gods were watching over me!”