This post is about a simple, easy-sounding beer challenge. Eighty beers in eighty days. “One beer a day, how hard can that be,” asks the dumb couple who clearly doesn’t know themselves by now.
Mandy and I recently moved to Encinitas, California which has a much broader selection of restaurants and bars than our previous neighborhood in North County San Diego. More importantly, we can walk to said restaurants and bars. One hapless night we wandered into the Encinitas Ale House and were greeted by a pleasing selection of beers. Their beer menu is expansive, focusing primarily on Belgian beers and local craft brews. We liked it immediately. The decor is dark and pub-like, the staff is eclectic, the beers are aplenty, and the food is quite excellent. As we sat with friends drinking beers we noticed the sign for the challenge; drink eighty beers in eighty days. We inquired about the rules, which were quite simple: drink eighty beers in eighty days at the place. They don’t have to be different, they just have to be eighty. Challenge accepted!
The thing that makes it ACTUALLY challenging is the regularity of it. Had I been in college, and somehow had a thousand bucks to spend on beers, I would’ve knocked this thing out in a maximum of two weeks. The reality is that both of us are adults with professional jobs. We couldn’t really afford, either in dollars or time, to have more than two beers in a sitting during the week. Plus we’re drunks, so on the few occasions where we did have more than two beers in a sitting it usually resulted in either more beers or a bottle of wine at home. Or two bottles. As the days pressed on and regular life kept interfering with our need to drink (to stay on pace for the challenge; I can hear your judgment) it seemed to suck the life out of having a beer. There were days when I would get home after a twelve-hour work stint, tired because I only had four hours of sleep because we had stayed up the previous night to go knock out beers, only to have Mandy tell me that we had to go to the bar again because we were going out of town that weekend and would miss all those precious drinking hours. In the dark middle of the challenge, somewhere between beers twenty-five and forty, drinking beer became a chore.
As we do with all chores, we bitched and moaned about it for several days and then just rolled up our sleeves and got it done as fast as we could. We finished our eighty in fifty days. Once you’re done, you emerge from the dark tunnel of “Just get through it,” into the warm and welcoming world of the other people who have done it and the bartenders who’ve just seen you every night for the past eight days. The only comparison that I have is the World Beer Tour at Old Chicago. I only know of a handful of people who completed their 110-beer challenge but I have spent enough time there staring through the bottom of a beer mug to know that there’s no enthusiasm around it. It feels precisely like what it is; a corporately devised means to entice people to continue coming back. There’s nothing wrong with that, there’s just nothing that is terribly enticing about it, either. At the Ale House, we were congratulated by the staff and total strangers. Our pictures were taken and put up on their Facebook page. It was fun. That’s how it’s supposed to be. We got a bunch of stuff out of it; a sweatshirt, gift cards, invites to members-only parties, and so on, but we also got a bar out of it. Home base. Being a transplant and not knowing a terribly large amount of people here, that was a very nice thing to receive.
You’re probably not wondering what beer I had for my eightieth and final beer, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Being a Nebraskan, I couldn’t resist the Melange A Trois from Nebraska Brewing Company. I hadn’t had nearly enough of their beers despite living in Omaha for five years. It was intimidating, mostly because it was $35. It was also quite delicious. It’s a Belgian Blonde Ale by designation, but it’s aged in chardonnay barrels. The time spent in the wine barrels seems to take the huge yeastiness out of the beer without destroying the flavor. It tasted very well-rounded and balanced. Definitely worth a drink and will even appeal to some of those who don’t quite love Belgian beers.