I n, 1992 my dad decided to start brewing beer at home. At this time, companies such as New Belgium and Wynkoop were in their infancy and Colorado had not yet been christened the “Napa Valley of beer.”
My dad brewed stouts and lagers and his favorite, IPAs. He taught my sister and I about International Bitterness Units and the angle at which one tilts a glass in order to pour the perfect pint. At the time he began this adventure, my mom was babysitting a little girl who lived on our block and my dad made sure that the first words she spoke included hops, malt and barley.
Because he was also a hippie, it was not unusual for him to take us to Boulder on a Sunday morning to dig through the Dumpsters behind bars for unbroken bottles that he could reuse.
Although at the tender age of 8 I appreciated the need to recycle, I was embarrassed by my dad’s strange hobby and what it meant for my very limited social life. To add insult to injury, the little girls on our block were reluctant to play Barbies at our house because it smelled like a brewery.
At one point my dad decided to grow his own hops. He planted a vine under a trellis outside of our playhouse in the backyard and within weeks it was growing rampant. My sister set her bicycle against the trellis one day and the hops vine ate it like a scene from “Little Shop of Horrors.” My dad had to hack her bike out with a machete.
We would avoid the part of the brewing process that involved giant pots bubbling on the stove like cauldrons. But because this was our father’s passion, we couldn’t resist brewing in its entirety. As soon as the beer was transferred to big glass containers where it would ferment for a few weeks, we were hooked. My sister and I and all of our friends would lie on our bellies in the cool basement and watch the little plastic percolator. Pop… pop pop pop… pop. We would make up songs in time to the perking and laugh hysterically if the pace of it slowed or quickened from our chosen beat.
As an adolescent, I learned to accept my dad’s pastime. I started paying attention to labels and I read his brewing magazines. I found myself judging my friend’s parents based on what kind of beer I saw in the fridge.
“Oh, your dad drinks Zima huh? Cool…”
When I went to my first party in college and someone handed me a Keystone Light, I honestly wasn’t sure what they expected me to do with it. I had become a beer snob well before I could even legally buy beer.
When I turned 21 my friends took me out to bars all over Denver. Several bartenders took a look at my I.D. and asked about my dad. One reminisced about a time when my sister and I visited the taproom at his brewpub on our Rollerblades. I felt a little bit like they were spies, out to report to my dad that I had been forsaking the great local microbrews for rum and Cokes.
I love the passion for beer that my dad passed on to me. I love being able to “run with the boys” when talk of beer and brewing comes up at a table. I live for that first spring day when you can smell in the air that the long winter is finally over and all of Denver heads for the parks and patios.
On that day I whine and fidget until the glorious moment when I can sit outside and crack open a malty Bock or an IPA with biting hops. I have even learned to recognize the time and place for beer snobbery and I can thoroughly enjoy a PBR at the Rockbar… just don’t tell my dad!
Liz Marsh, of Broomfield, is a beer connoisseur. When she’s not within earshot, her friends call her “That Beer Nerd.”