Patti Scarff is a server/manager at downtown Kalamazoo’s Central City Tap House. She has earned title of being the ultimate trivia queen, knowing everything from beer to geography (seriously, just ask her).
I started drinking beer for the only reason anyone in a new town starts doing anything—to impress the cool kids. Admittedly, I’d had my share of Natural Light (which is gross) and Yuengling (not gross) going to college and its requisite frat parties in Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until my summer in Maine that I realized not only that I liked beer, but that there was more to it than bubbles and a faint bread-like flavor. It helps that the people I wanted to befriend were avid microbrew consumers.
The first beer I truly liked was the Atlantic Brewing Company’s Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale. In my nostalgia-hazed memory the beer is sweet without being cloying, refreshingly effervescent, has a strong fresh blueberry aroma, and yet still tastes like beer. Of course, I haven’t had any Blueberry Ale in the intervening years, but I did segue from there to other, equally sugar-ridden concoctions like Long Trail Blackberry Wheat and Magic Hat #9. I have since realized that, similar to pies and breakfast cereals, fruity beers are not the only good beers. A combination of reading about beer, listening to people who know more than me talk about beer, and of course tasting beer have allowed my preferences to expand beyond stereotypically “chick beers.”
My favorites these days, based on rigorous sampling and many pompous sounding conversations in bars, are tripels (and their similarly malty siblings dubbels, and the rarer quadrupels) and anything smoked, whether an actual German rauchbier or an American smoked stout (Darkhorse Fore Smoked Stout being a prime example). Working as a server in a beer-focused restaurant, I get to taste new things almost daily and occasionally get to meet the brewers, thus furthering my knowledge and conviction that I’m an excellent judge of any pint placed before me. The other neat thing about my job now is that I get to help my guests find new beers and new styles that they enjoy, especially the patrons who want to impress the cool (but not necessarily older) waitress.