My most recent post for TODAY.com is about the Big River Brewing Company at the Boardwalk Hotel in Disney World. I was down there last week with the family, and Big River was a life saver – a lush desert island of craft beer in an otherwise barren sea of industrial light lagers.
While I was there, I had one of those magical beer moments that etch themselves into your mind forever. It got me to thinking about other special beer moments from vacations gone by, and I was surprised that I could only come up with a couple. I guess they are more rare than I anticipated.
Here are the three I could come up with, from most recent to most distant:
3. Steamboat Pale Ale at Big River Brewing Company at Walt Disney World. As I said, this one just happened, and it mostly had to do with hop withdrawal. Our trip to Disney World was all about the mouse and nothing else. We stayed on Disney property, relied on Disney transportation to get from place to place, and bought a seven day pass to all of the parks. We were trapped in the bubble. Mostly that’s a cool thing, especially with young kids, but it sucks for a beer geek. The best stuff I could find was Sam Adams Boston Lager and Summer Ale, both of which are nice, but neither of which are a hop bomb. After four days or so with no crafty beers, I had no idea how much I was craving hops until I had my first sip of that that Steamboat Pale Ale. My body tingled with delight, both from the cold beer on a very hot day and from the hop flavor dancing into the happy place in my brain. It was marvelous. As I said over on TODAY.com, I could taste it in my toes. I’ll remember that moment for a long time.
2. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy in the Wisconsin Dells. This happened a few years ago, when my wife and kids and I were visiting my parents out in Milwaukee. We decided to spend the weekend up in the Wisconsin Dells, which has been a northern summertime escape for generations of folks from Milwaukee and Chicago. We were having a lot of fun with water parks, duck boat tours and poking around the funky little shops in the downtown strip, but by the end of the day the 90 degree heat had me tired and parched. We stopped into a restaurant for dinner, choosing to sit on the patio next to the river. Our table had a little tent card on it pimping Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. It looked pretty refreshing, so I ordered one without giving it much thought. I had never had a shandy before, and I was blown away when I took a long pull on the beer and was rewarded with a huge gush of lemony goodness. This half-beer and half-lemonade was exactly what I needed, and I’ve been a fan of this stuff ever since. I know Leinie’s isn’t exactly craft beer, but I don’t give a damn. When I’m mowing my lawn, I’m dreaming of a Summer Shandy. I even tried to make my own a few times, which is always a disaster. Leave it to the pros, kids!
1. German Pilsner in Dusseldorf, Germany. This one happened in the early 90’s, probably late spring of ’93. My dad decided to bring me along on a business trip to Germany, and we moved around from Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Koln. I never really had many beers with my dad before that trip, and I NEVER had an honest to goodness German pilsner. I can still remember that warm late afternoon in the Altstadt (German for “old town”) section of Dusseldorf, my dad and I sitting on a low wall outside of a tavern, gazing down on the cobblestones and watching all the German girls go by (at least that’s what I was doing). It was a wonderful moment, and possibly the best setting ever to have your first real pilsner. I was back in the Altstadt last year on business, but this time it was all about the Dusseldorf Altbiers, those dark and malty wonders. Too bad I didn’t know enough back then to introduce my dad to one – they’re magical in their own right.
I’ve had many beers on vacation, and many of them have been excellent. But few have made that special connection that makes you remember that particular glass full of beer with crystal clarity. It might sound hokey, but I cherish moments like these. If beer geeks kept scrapbooks, these moments would get a two page spread.
How about you? Are there any magical beer moments you can recall while traveling? As always, let us know below!