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The Good Old Days: Distortion of the Past and the Death of the Beer Scene

Scarlett and I have been watching a sermon series on Exodus and the pastor pointed out several times when the Israelites lamented that things were better back when they were in Egypt. They had this distorted view of the past in the face of present challenges. This has me thinking about the things in my life when I use phrases like “the good old days.” How often do we look back on the past and remember the good but not the bad? In turn, do we look at today’s challenges and fail to see the beauty in our present?

Recently I used the expression “back in the good old beer days,” referring to the rise of craft beer, weekly pint nights, and beer festivals. These were indeed good days. I made some lifelong friends who were once only Twitter friends. We joined forces to try every craft beer, collect every pint glass, and compete for the most untapped ratings. Remember Dan from my sour fest post? This was a common occurrence back in the good old beer days. Eventually craft beer became mainstream and those events slowly petered out.

I have many stories to tell from these days. My handle on Twitter and Untapped (a beer rating app) was the Devil’s Milk Queen. Devil’s Milk was my favorite beer, back in those days. It was a high alcohol barley wine that I still have complete verticals aging in my cellar. A vertical tasting is when you have multiple years of the same beer that you open at the same time and compare vintages. I had a little bit of fame on the circuit to the point that once when we were sitting in the Burley Oak taproom tasting and we overheard the brewer say “hey you guys the Devil’s Milk Queen is tasting a bunch of our beers, I wonder where she is getting it.” To which I raised my hand and said over here and then we didn’t pay for any more beer.

Pat and I used to make an annual trip out to the Eastern Shore to hit up all the breweries from RAR in Cambridge, to Evolution in Salisbury, to Burley in Berlin, and occasionally a stop at Tall Tales or OC Brewing. The idea now of driving three hours away just to taste beer seems absolutely ridiculous. So does staying out till 9 PM on a Wednesday. The thought of putting back multiple 21% beers, thanks Colossus, in a single morning these days is plain absurd. But I have great memories of our friend John Smith (keeping his identity a secret on this one), who drove up from Virginia every year for Oktoberfest, doing just that. Heck we had friends who came out from Ohio because the Maryland beer scene was so hot.

Here’s the thing, that particular Oktoberfest ended very badly for John Smith and while we laughed at the situation, it wasn’t all that great for his friends either. But we look back now and we said that was such a great time. We weren’t dumb enough to drive to Oktoberfest, we took the train because this was before Uber. However, the reason we stayed out till 9 PM on a Wednesday, was because we drank too much at 4 PM to drive home right away. I have over 1,300 unique beers in Untapped and I haven’t logged anything in two years. So many beers that a bunch of random people on the internet knew who I was. Maybe that’s not something I should list on my resume. Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of those days. I have lasting friendships and to this day we keep our brewer friends’ beer on tap in our house. But it’s probably a good thing that we don’t live like this any more.

The beer scene came into our lives at a time when we needed it. Pat was on the road 5 days a week and I was home alone with a toddler. Sending Scarlett to her grandparents on a Wednesday to do grown up things was important for my mental health. It was a treat to get a hotel downtown for a beer festival. It was how Pat and I got away and had quality time together. But all good things must come to and end and from the ashes rises new traditions come alive.

I miss the Pratt Street Real Ale Fest, and while the festival is gone. Pratt Street Ale House is still there. It became a new tradition when Scarlett got older and we attended BronyCon (a My Little Pony convention) to eat our lunch and have our afternoon snack at Pratt Street. BonyCon has also come and gone, just like Scarlett’s interest in My Little Pony, but Pratt Street remains. If New York City is the fifth character in Sex in the City, Pratt Street Ale House is a character in our life.

It’s not as if Pat and I have stopped enjoying beer, but as all my readers know, wine is our new passion. We’ve moved from weekends in Baltimore for beer festivals to weekends in Bordeaux and Champagne. Brussels is on the to do list, and while in Paris, Pat often drinks the fine selection of Belgian beers that many cafes have on tap. Every once and awhile I will pull out a bottle from our beer cellar, which has moved to a corner in our basement as the towers of wine racks slowly replace the dwindling collection of rare beers.

Modern vintages of these brews are no longer rare. The newest generation of beer drinkers apparently isn’t interested in being on a list of people liquor stores call when Firestone’s Parabola hits the shelf. Having to drop everything you’re doing to rush to try to get one. It’s not a bad thing that craft is everywhere now. Or that the standard for good beer has gone up nationwide. Nor is it a bad thing that my 39 year old self isn’t trying to drink from 9 AM to 9 PM. A little bit of expensive wine goes a long way and that’s probably a good thing.

In retrospect I am not sure how good the good old days were. I am sure the best of the good old days live on. The friendships, the respect for craftsmanship is brewing, the alehouses that have become homes where we now celebrate soccer victories, birthdays, reunions and even a wedding. The Israelites idolized the old days, because the new days were hard, to the point they claimed to miss slavery. It’s easy to say I miss the good old days and distort the memories to forget the less desirable parts. I have to caution myself not to idolize the past and embrace the present with open arms. Love the old days for what they were and thank God for what I have now.


After a year of being closed due to the pandemic. Pratt Street Ale House has recently reopened so if you love beer and are local, please go support them.

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