Reader John Doherty describes his discovery of craft beer. If you have an interesting story about discovering craft beer, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 11 years ago, a co-worker of mine, Bill, and I got into a conversation about beer. He asked me if I had ever visited what he described as a “bar in Philly that had all these beers.” I responded that I hadn’t. Up until that time I had tried all the beers that 99% of people were drinking. With rare exceptions, I did not think much of these beers, nor did I care about trying a few more. Two months later, Bill walked into my office and asked me if I checked that same place out. I told him, “No!” Bill walked closer to me as I was sitting at my desk, his eyes lit up and and he said, “You’ve got to go.” “OK,” I replied. I said to myself, “Let’s get this guy off my back and go.” I asked Bill the name of the establishment. He said, “MONK’S!”
I walked into Monk’s on a Saturday night and I liked all of the energy and the crowd. The whole social aspect of this was a big deal; the beers made for great conversation with the strangers sitting next to me. The longtime Saturday night bartender made me comfortable; I relied on his expertise because I had no idea what to drink with hundreds of beers staring me in the face. I never knew beer could taste so good. The complexity of the beers was something I never knew existed.
Delirium Tremens was the first beer I ever fell in love with. After that, my palate started to change, but it took a while. I started to get into the great dark malty Belgian’s like St. Bernardus 12 and Rochefort 10. Then, my tastes for hops exploded when Monk’s was carrying Three Floyds Dreadnaught (which is no longer available in the area). There was always lots of delicious food to match up with the beer. In my early days of drinking fine beer, there were few places to go. Yards ESA cask got so many people like me into fine local beers! And, the great Standard Tap is where I first tasted that beer. After Monk’s, it was the Standard Tap that educated me on fine beers. I would go there every week and sample all the locals I never had before.
After several months of trying so many beers at Monk’s, I went on Ratebeer.com to see what others thought of as the best beers in the world. I had some of the top 50 in the world according to Ratebeer, but I wanted to try them all. That’s where I discovered Victory Brewery listed as one of the best breweries in the country. I had never heard of them but quickly looked up the location and started visiting the brewery on a weekly basis. I discovered what great beers they made, particularly their pilsners. All these malts and hops from Germany and Czech in the Victory Prima Pils made me appreciate even more all of the great pils we have in this area, like those from Victory, Sly Fox, Tröegs (all served at Phillies games), Stoudts and Dock Street. Having tasted so many outstanding pilsners in Germany when I went on a great trip that Victory put together, I feel our local breweries match up well!
My passion for traveling sometimes is influenced by my experience at Monk’s. And, although my favorite trip involving beer was the unforgettable time I shared with 25 beer lovers on a trip through Germany (sponsored by the great Victory Brewing), my favorite day ever involving beer was when my friend Ed and I, took the train from Brugge to Watou, Belgium, rented bikes and took off for the St. Bernardus Brewery; biking past the beautiful farmlands of growing hops. The owner of Monk’s set us up with a tour at the brewery and Marco the St. Bernardus sales rep, took us out afterward to a local spot with a lot of inexpensive St. Bernardus on tap. Then Carlo from De Struise Brouwers came up to us when he saw my Victory shirt and took us to where they brewed their beers. When I travel I always look to bring beers back that few in the Philly area have ever tried and share them with friends.
My discovery and love of craft beer has taken me around the world and allowed me to share pints with fellow craft beer lovers from all walks of life. But, my deep appreciate for beer will always be rooted right here in Philadelphia, the best beer drinking city!