Sometimes a beer life is good, and sometimes a beer life gets better. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a long, lost elementary school friend a few months ago on Facebook. Imagine my delight when the dude turns out to be a homebrewer. Matt Newberg. He was tall, loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, his birthday was/is October 3 (it’s funny the things you remember) and he had a cute little sister. We had a good time growing up–at least until he moved away after fifth grade.
I asked Matt to do a guest post, because I thought it would be fun to take a look back and share an old friend with my new friends…though I’m pretty sure he made some of this stuff up:
Matt and J., pre-beer friends from the good, old days.
Christmas, and winter in general, always makes me think back to my childhood in the big city of Villisca, Iowa (population about 1,000 in those days, I suppose).
Back in the day, snow was fun. I mean all we had to do as kids was build snow forts and sled and have snowball fights. I remember one day a girl in our class came to the bus stop with wet hair, and by the time we got to school, it was frozen stiff. The smell of frozen hair laid on that old radiator in our classroom at Nodaway School will forever be with me. There weren’t many of us–maybe 30 or so in our class–a good size if you ask me.
One of my best friends was this kid named Jason Wilson. I still have a good sized scar on my left knee from a failed jump over a big wheel at his house. I remember his house well. Many a day we spent trading baseball cards and dubbing Hall and Oates from one tape recorder to the other. I remember he had a capped tooth and a cute little sister. His mom seemed super cool and I was oh so envious of his Schwan’s soda making system. The Schwan’s man was a big hit in Villisca–I ate a lot of chicken strips and ice cream from that delicious delivery service, but I never could talk mom and dad into the “make your own soda” kit. I guess it was no real surprise when, through the magic of Facebook, I reconnect with Jason and discover him to be a fellow homebrewer.
Somewhere along the way Jason became Jay (one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons is when Homer discovers his name is not Homer J. Simpson, but rather Homer Jay Simpson), I got fatter, and we both got a lot older. I moved away from Villisca in 1984 at the close of our 5th grade year. Pretty tough to say goodbye to a few of those guys. We made the occasional visit back, but the last time I saw Jay, we were, I believe, juniors in high school. My grandfather, who lived around the corner from Jay, died sometime around February–I just remember it being cold when a carload of my friends from the old days stopped to take me out for the night. We wound up at a garage party drinking what I’m sure was Busch Light, and Jay dancing on a table in his underwear. Busch Light has not passed these lips in a long time.
Golf course construction has been my career choice for the last decade-plus. For the first several years of that stint, I traveled the country quite extensively building and remodeling courses and sampling an ever increasing number of regional and just plain new-to-me beers. Not really sure when I really got interested in trying new beers–to that point it had been cheap, mass produced garbage, but that is what I thought beer was supposed to be. Dos Equis, Corona, and Rolling Rock were as adventurous as I had gotten until 2001. I was working in southern Indiana and found a liquor store with a whole wall of beers and a “build your own six pack” section–the first I had ever seen. What a great concept, I thought (and still do think). That is when my love of beer turned passionate. I was introduced to Three Floyds Brewery–Robert the Bruce and Pride and Joy in particular. Wow–that is some good stuff! I tried nearly every beer on that liquor store wall that year and haven’t stopped since. Every new state I went to work in brought a whole new menu of regional brews to try. The only problem I found is falling in absolute love with a brew (i.e. Three Floyds) and then moving somewhere it is not available. I used to stop in Indiana to pick up a few cases on my way home for Christmas every year, but haven’t traveled home the last few years . I live in Florida now-no longer travel for work and have been brewing for about three years.
I thought homebrewing would help ease the withdrawals of all the delicious beers not available in Florida. It has been a fun and exciting hobby for me and I have recently turned my wife from a beer hater to a beer lover (well, a beer liker, anyway–I’ll keep working). I still use extract with specialty grains, but hope to move into all-grain eventually. I’m glad I have an old friend I can call on for help and advice. Cheers and happy new year!