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Bud in the MudAlong The Way I Found…
An Introspective Look at My Route

The paths we travel and the routes we often find ourselves on are too often not by our own choosing. This is an all too unfortunate reality for many. Sometimes, however there transpires a series of events, not often altogether extraordinary or unexplainable, that alters our courses abruptly and dramatically for either better or worse. This is my tale of paths that led to me to great beers.

A small southwestern town of plus or minus 10,000 under-stimulated, unimaginative souls is a veritable death sentence to the hope of culture and taste, especially with respect to the finer products of the stalk. The pervasive mentality of practically everyone you’d meet with regards to our favorite effervescent pleasantry was frankly smaller than the town in which I was raised. Like goldfish stunted from growth because of the size of their environmental “bowl”, these poor ignorant fools gravitated to what they were told was “great” by what little of the corporate driven, money grubbing outside world they saw. In time I too succumbed to the hoodwinkery that permeated the perception of the general populous, as I often imbibed swill that to this day makes me shudder in retching discomfort.

In time, however, there screamed from the inner most depths of reason an almost inaudible voice that claimed there had to be something that was better than what I had known for entirely too long.

At different stages in everyone’s life there are periods of intrigue and experimentation, with ideas and thoughts that manifest themselves in varying ways. At this early stage of my metamorphosis I merely ventured into the darker varieties of the mainstream brews that were available locally. This continued until I “flopped out of my bowl”, as it were, and realized that there were other choices I had previously been unaware of, and that these were closer than I had ever imagined.

Growing and Learning
The hunt was on and being stubborn by nature I made it my goal to flush out every last one of my quarry. At this point in my life, my laboratory became the inside of as many different kinds of vessels as I could get my hands on which contained that liquid “choice” I so intently wanted to methodically dissect. Often with giddy abandonment the proper safety precautions were frivolously thrown to the wind. From these seeming lapses in judgment I came to understand many things, almost none negative (although admittedly when negative, dramatic lessons were learned). In retrospect, how special this time was for me, an age of discovery, as if I was treading where no one had gone before and only my tracks were left in the sand. I learned of things called “styles”, “richness”, “color” and most of all “quality” and started slowly, without even realizing, developing and blossoming from the cocoon of substandard I had been shrouded in for so long.

My growth, however, was increasingly apparent to the minions of the mass marketing monopolies, who while posing as friends Fridge Beer Selectionchided and berated me for my dissimilarity with the lemmings that abounded. Often I was tried, sentenced and executed by the lynch mob of my peers when my propensity for high standards was detected, without giving credence to my rebuttal (as irrefutable as my logic might be to thinking individuals).

Time went on and the joys of discovery yielded slowly to the satisfaction of comfortable familiarity with old favorites. Soon circumstances in my journey changed and old favorites became out of reach for me because of what wasn’t plentiful in my pocket. This is an unfair reality that happens far too often to many who get accustomed to quality. Now was just the right time for the wrong kind of influence. Well meaning “friends” were somehow always nearby to offer some sort of unappealing fizzy mess. Unfortunately, these two dry spells lasted too long, my recollections of better times faded, and I buckled under the pressure of my peers. I’m not proud of it, but I fully embrace it as a tragic mistake to be learned from and never repeated again.

Around this time my lovely new bride made me an anniversary present of a home brewing kit, feeling that I would: 1) have abundant interest in it, 2) it would be cathartic, and 3) potentially practical from a budgetary standpoint (much like cooking at home versus eating out, “two out of three ain’t bad”, so they say). I used the kit 2 or 3 times with moderate success based on my limited knowledge of the process and the quality of the ingredients, but soon it lost its allure since my focus on quality had blurred and the cost and time involved did not seem to add up to a “win-win”. That precious gift followed our small family from one abode to the next, collected dust, aged in the heat, and was all but forgotten.

Then one seemingly average day a new acquaintance of mine and I started a conversation which one day I hope will prove Stone Beersmomentous. It started out innocently enough: beer was the topic (of course), he was wondering if the rumors he had heard were true, that I had actually brewed my own beer in the past? My reply was affirmative and the discussion that ensued brought back some recollections of thoughts and feelings that had been suppressed for years. Soon I regained my passion for the exploration of fine beers again with my newfound friend and together we found commonality in our interests beyond this singularly important one. Happily my journey has now led to not just exploring what others offer, but to offering adventures of our own design to others so that they can perhaps travel along the same path I have enjoyed.

Now the call goes out, all you refugees of status-quo, join in the fight, and stand united against the tyranny of mediocrity and worse! Pull yourselves from the mire of prevailing zombie intellect. Help influence others to avoid the bureaucracy and embrace “beereaucracy”. Discourage any you see from propagating the madness that abounds in regards to refreshment selection and enlighten by example if nothing more.

--Heath Stockard