Our Journey:  Or How We Learned  to Stop Worrying and Love Beer

beer_Carole Topalian

Sitting across from each other at the Beer Judge Certification Program exam in Philadelphia, the table adorned with saltines and water cups and the convention hall packed with about 60 other eager test takers, nerves began to settle in. Hours of studying and practice, along with a successful showing on an online exam, had finally led to this. We were about to spend the next 90 minutes tasting and critiquing beers, hoping our observations would earn us the coveted title of “beer judge.” As pencils were picked up and the first beer was poured, way before the clock would even think of striking noon, we realized that craft beer had evolved into way more than just a hobby for us.

Before we sat for the exam, before we started our journey together with Beer Loves Company and before there was Alicia and me, I had a growing taste for well-made beer. In the beginning, though, like most people, I only knew beer to be a watery, yellow mass-produced beverage. That changed after a few—at the time—adventurous orders in watering holes around Long Island. I discovered beer did not have to be a drink with nothing to it. Learning that beer could have character, flavor, nuance and, when expertly constructed, rival any other fermented or distilled beverage was eye opening. I set about trying different styles, always looking to sample something made with passion. Luckily when I met Alicia, I not only found a caring partner but also someone with a genuine curiosity and willingness to give something new a chance.

“I don’t really like beer,” Alicia said, and genuinely believed, through most of her early 20s. Sure she would grab one out of the cooler when everyone else was indulging at a barbecue, but at the end of the day she just thought it was an acquired taste, and she had missed the boat. That all changed when we attended an Oktoberfest celebration with some friends a few years back, where the beer was served in giant mugs and the only options were light or dark. Choosing what she believed to be the lesser of two evils, she went with light and slowly sipped it while enjoying the company. In time, everyone was ready for a refill, but she couldn’t bring herself to down another; out of desperation she tasted what was left of my dark beer. To everyone’s surprise, she really enjoyed it, though she never would have known since she always avoided the intimidating brown ales and black stouts on tap. Turns out Alicia was a beer person all along, she was just drinking the wrong kind.

Together we have expanded our mutual interest in craft beer through travel, home brewing and cooking with beer, and more often than not we write about the experience. As born and raised Long Islanders, we have access to an expanding number of great local breweries as well as craft beer bars, restaurants and now even hop farms. So join us as we explore the edible, drinkable East End.

Follow Alicia’s and Kevin’s thirst for company in their column on ediblelongisland.com.