100th: A milestone and turning point

By on December 27, 2017

When I meet new friends, they eventually learn what I do for a living — write about beer, spirits, food, etc. — almost always this fact elicits a response of “that’s a tough job,” “must be nice,” or some variant along those lines.

I appreciate the jovial sarcasm. I often say, “It’s not about the pay; it’s about the perks.” I would certainly never call getting free beer samples, media invites to brewing events, and a mailbox full of schwag tough.

This is the 100th installment of Hop’in Around; it has withstood time (plus the occasional piece of discouraging mail) and graced these pages since Jan. 2014. To fans and friends, I’d often say with a cliché, “writing a beer column is a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

Tough, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, means “strong enough to withstand adverse conditions.” Over the last year, I learned how opposing the conditions of this job could be. But, it’s something I have learned I can endure.

This may come as a shocking revelation to many readers, but it’s time to come clean… literally. I’ve been living the high life for a long time and the consumption of alcohol has finally taken a toll on my body. My doctor says no more. Whether I had too much too fast or just over played my part, I’ve reached an extreme point where my body cannot handle anymore alcohol.

I drank my last two beers the day after Valentine’s Day. As a swan song, I dusted off two brews I’d been aging:

  • Genesis from Wicked Weed Brewing. When I got this brew, the Asheville, N.C. brewery was just starting their line of sours. It was a gift from the owners, who I had met on a furiously fast tour of breweries in what is called the “Portland of the East.” The 2013 version of this blonde sour aged well, but it didn’t really have a lot of the fruit the label proclaimed: mango, papaya, guava, and pineapple.
  • Migration Series Belgian from Evolution Craft Brewing Company. This moderately big Belgian poured a beautiful head, which helped deliver a funky aroma with a twist of oak. It was a bit more carbonated than I would have liked, but what I bought it for — the aging in Chardonnay barrels — was there. I would have liked to have sat on this 2015 version longer; I’d tried the 2011 during a visit to the Salisbury, Md. brewery many years ago and it blew my mind.

If you were only going to drink two more beers, ever, what would they be? Beer reviewer Michael Upton chose Genesis from Wicked Weed Brewing and Migration Series Belgian from Evolution Craft Brewing Company.

So, those are the last two beers I drank. My photo attached to this column has allowed people to introduce themselves and chat with me about beer, and I enjoy it. Often, I’m simply approached with, “aren’t you the beer guy?” Yup. And I’m still the “beer guy.” I’m just the beer guy who doesn’t drink beer.

I still have my fingers on the pulse of what is going on with brewing, from local events to international trends (I recently fielded a call from Germany, so stay tuned). And I plan to write about beer as long as people are willing to read about it.

Over the last 10 months, I’ve adopted the swish-and-spit technique used by sommeliers to grade wines. I can still taste a beer and relish in each individual nuance brewers have created. So, if you see me at brewery without a beer, brewers, I’m not snubbing you. If I’m at a fest and must dispose of a sample in the dump bucket, please know I’m not dissing that brew. Things have just changed a bit and I thought everyone should know.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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