I couldn't have asked for a better "first-beer experience." It was the summer of 1999 and my family, extended and otherwise, traveled to Greece for a family reunion following the passing of my grandmother. The trip would take my brother and me as far from the damp forests of North Idaho as we could conceive of at the time--to tawny, rock-studded islands rising from the unearthly-hued Aegean Sea; blue-domed, hillside villages; beaches of bronzed, semi-nude bathers; rooftop restaurants where dinner lasted for hours and dozens of courses.
It was on one of those nights, with a hazy red dusk gathering on the horizon and the smell of hyacinths in the air, that I ordered my first beer: a Mythos.
Of course, at nearly 19 years old, I was more than old enough to legally drink in Greece, but up to that point I don't think I'd ever even held a beer. The Mythos was delivered to my seat with no fanfare--a big green bottle and a short half-pint glass. I poured straight into the glass, not knowing the proper method, and was rewarded with a quarter pint of foam. Unperturbed, I tipped it back and experienced the sensation first in my nose--the sweet, slightly agricultural scent of malt; the acridity of hops; and the brain buzzing effervescence of alcohol.
I sipped the beer, feeling exactly how you might imagine a 19-year-old country boy would feel sitting on a rooftop 6,000 miles from home, with the cicadas thrumming in the dark, a bouzouki strumming somewhere below and the sound of a strange, warm sea lapping against the boats in the harbor.
I've since learned that Mythos is crap beer. One of the top three-selling brands in Greece, it earns a score of 4 on ratebeer.com. For comparison, Dagger Falls IPA, from Sockeye Brewing, gets a 97. Still, that was my first beer, and I wouldn't trade it even for one of those double barrel aged stouts that break the rankings, have more alcohol than Carlo Rossi Paisano and cost $1 an ounce in a 22-ounce bottle.
Beer is an intensely personal thing. For imbibers it signals a host of tastes, perspectives and experiences; even philosophies, beliefs, loves, fears and wants. While for years Boise Weekly has focused its annual beer coverage on one aspect--temperature--we have decided this year to go a different route: one that more fully explores the glory and wonder of beer and, especially, beer in Boise. Coverage starts on Page 11 and continues throughout the paper. Cheers.