Dear Good Beer:
I've just made one of the toughest decisions in my life. In the name of a personal and professional adventure, I must say goodbye to you.
For the past 15 months, I chronicled our relationship in semi-regular columns here; I shared our experiments with ice cream last summer; I told stories when you got dressed up for Halloween and Thanksgiving. I repeated my best practices for treating you right.
But in the coming weeks, I will be setting out to travel the world and write. I have stops planned in Kenya, India and Thailand, with other impromptu trips in between.
Sadly, you will not be able to go with me. No more Schlafly or Boulevard. Or Odell or Rogue or Southern Tier or Bell's. In the places I'm going, even finding a Budweiser will be a difficult task.
We've grown so much so fast together. Just a few years ago I was swilling Miller Lite; now I'm trying to pick out the hops in my favorite India Pale Ales.
The lessons you've taught me range from appreciating your fine points like alpha acids and original gravity to your desire to be worshiped in the proper glass and paired alongside my food.
I've grown accustomed to the chase for you, visiting stores around the region: Randall's in south St. Louis and Fairview Heights; Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton and elsewhere; Corral Liquors in Granite City; Lukas Liquor in Ellisville; Friar Tuck in Crestwood.
I've been frustrated and also excited by the differences in selections that vary on each side of the river. And I've gotten used to packing you in my checked bags on trips back from Colorado, Minnesota and Maryland.
I've also learned a few tricks: Sometimes Schnucks stores will hoard you, so I can find my favorite styles long after they're gone elsewhere. The cheapest places to buy you are often Trader Joe's and ALDI.
We've had such good memories at our favorite spots for date nights, places where the beer lists are long and carefully chosen: Cicero's in the Loop; the Royale, the Shaved Duck, the Stable and Newstead Tower Pub in south city; Hair of the Dog downtown; the International Tap House and Growler's for those trips out to the county.
Too, we visited your birthplaces and met your loving parents. St. Louis has truly become a beer town and the folks at Schlafly, O'Fallon, Mattingly, Square One, Augusta, Buffalo, Morgan Street, Trailhead, the Highlands, Michelob and Anheuser-Busch know you so much better. They offer tours just to show you off.
I also feel guilty that I never made it down to Ste. Genevieve, to hang out with you at the Charleville and Crown Valley breweries.
Oh how I'll miss the festivals that we would throw in your honor - the regular bashes at Schlafly, the big annual shindigs in Forest Park.
Remember all the good afternoons just reading together? Randy Mosher's "Tasting Beer," Garrett Oliver's "Brewmaster's Table," Ken Wells' "Travels With Barley." I even enjoyed our hours wasted online, Twittering about what I was drinking or reading the posts at Mike Sweeney's STLhops.com and Beeradvocate.com.
We've shared good laughs tweaking the beer snobs who guard you too jealously. And we've had fun at the expense of those mass-marketing campaigns that promote the "More Taste League" or the qualities of "Drinkability."
In my devotion, I've even labored to spend time with your awful cousins: Miller Chill and Bud Light Lime.
Yet I still know too little about you; I bought supplies yet never got the chance to brew you myself. I still struggle with the technical differences between porters and stouts. I tuned my taste buds to your hopped-up IPAs and yet only recently started really appreciating your Belgian ales.
And I wish I had more time to rib wine lovers about how you pair better with cheese.
I'll instead have to put up with the lagers of the world - Tusker and Kingfisher and the like. They just can't compare to you, Good Beer.
I hope others have the chance to enjoy you as I have. You're totally worth it.
THE SHORT LIST
Any list I come up with will be incomplete at best. But after 15 months of writing this column - and thousands of dollars spent on beer - these are the brews I look for in bars and stores time and time again.
Missouri brews • Schlafly's Export IPA and Irish-style Extra Stout; Boulevard's Tank 7 Saison and Single-Wide IPA; O'Fallon's Five-Day IPA; Charleville's Triple Wit.
Elsewhere • Odell 90 Shilling, Rouge's St. Rogue Red; Bell's Two Hearted; Breckenridge 471 Small Batch IPA; St. Bernardus Abt 12; Samuel Adams' Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. - Adam Jadhav
Adam Jadhav is leaving, but Hip Hops remains.
Evan Benn, a beer lover and new member of the Post-Dispatch staff, is taking over Hip Hops. His first column will appear July 15.