Jeanine Fritz usually writes in this space on Mondays, but she took this week off. Was it Oktoberfest fatigue? Did she RUNNOFT with her lederhosen-clad cardboard beau, Mr. Oktoberfritz? We will never know.
(We will know next week. She’ll be back then.)
Meanwhile, here we are in October with no wise words from Fritz on how to transition into the post-Oktoberfest month. She wrote about why it’s in September, so I won’t revisit that. But I do have a tale involving beer to share, and it started in Fritz’s dear Bavaria.
When my friend Uwe learned I was coming to Europe for the first time, he insisted that we visit him in Tegernsee, an idyllic town south of Munich. There, Uwe took us for a “hike” that involved walking a short to a farmhouse where he asked what kind of beer we wanted.
I grew up in St. Louis and hadn’t been exposed to much beyond Budweiser products. I didn’t know what to say. So he ordered me my first hefeweizen.
And on that summer day on a picnic bench, I gladly sucked down the gauzy, lively beer that tasted like just like the sunshine we basked in and thanked Uwe and all of Germany for opening my taste buds and my mind.
Meanwhile, years passed and many beers were downed amid our Boulder-area microbrewing boom. I discovered IPAs and Belgians, got drunk on two gulps of Mephistopholes the night Avery tapped it for the public the first time, learned to pace myself at Stout Month. But last year, it was time to travel abroad again, to Scotland this time, and my expectations for mind-bending beer were higher than the Highlands.
Let’s pause to examine where I picked up this notion that the beer in Scotland would knock my woolly socks off. This idea came from…nowhere. I didn’t read a book or a magazine article about an unbelievable Scottish brewery. I didn’t see a show on the Food Network. My pal Pete, who lives in England, didn’t say to me when he visited Colorado, “wow Jenn, the beer in Scotland is bloody amazing compared to this dreck.” No, Pete was pleased with what he sampled at the Southern Sun and didn’t make any comparisons to UK brews.
So with expectations based on nothing but a vague sense of history and my taste for Oskar Blues’ Old Chub Scottish Style Ale, we tried beers in pub after pub, and while we had good, solid beers that compelled us to empty every drop from our pint glasses, our woolly socks remained snuggly on our feet.
Then we went to Oban, a seaside village with a 200-year-old whisky distillery. (There’s no “e” in whiskey in Scotland.)
Did I mention that in addition to beer, I love whiskey — however you want to spell it?
We toured the Oban distillery. At some point over the more than 200 years that the Scots have been at it, they figured out that 14 years is the perfect amount of time to age this whisky. To prove it, the tour guide offered us a dram from a cask aged for 11 years; it was brightly alcoholic and not as earthy and subtle as the finished product (which we also sampled).
Fourteen years to find the best flavor of whisky. I was in Scotland fewer than 14 days. I bought a bottle of Oban whisky, uncertain how I would cram it safely into my tiny suitcase, and accepted that my socks had been knocked off in the distillery. But I adjusted my beer disappointment. After all, I’d only had a small taste. I needed at least 14 days to explore Scottish Ales. Maybe more.
Maybe 14 years.