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Craft Brewing Surprises in 2009: A Beer-Hater’s Revelation

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I've been a crank and bashed beer in the past. I'm usually impatient with the amount of room that beer takes up in my stomach, and gravitate to the efficacious kick and bite of bourbon and vodka.

But time spent with my girlfriend, who is a craft beer fan, has reopened me to the pleasures of slowing down, parking it at a cozy Colorado tap room, and savoring some handcrafted beers. I've had a few brewery-borne revelations this year:

• On a Boulder crawl this July, I stumbled into a pint of Boulder DraftHouse's Blackberry Wheat. The smoky, peachy brew that the others had ordered caught the early evening light from the street just so. I was seduced. It tasted as good as it looked. Too bad there's no more until next summer.

•  Left Hand Brewing Company's Milk Stout is like a perfect date: a little spicy at first, creamy in the middle, then it just melts away. Remarkable. Stout lovers are always telling lighter-beer drinkers that they shouldn't be put off by the dark color—which the neophyte equates with heaviness—and this is the reason why.

• Ah, the joys of the holiday slowdown. The week before last, I found that the Avery Tap Room was a three-minute drive from my office. I sneaked out around four p.m. and got a seat at the very popular outlet, where I repented anew all the bad things I'd said about beer during my confession to the Reverend. Reverend Belgian-Style Quadrupel Ale dances all over your tongue with a complex interplay of multi-staged flavors, and, at 10% ABV, kicks your ass a little too.

How about you, folks? What were your revelatory beer-drinking finds of 2009?

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