Brian Aucone, Vice President for Animal Collections at the Denver Zoo, and I grew up drinking shitty beer together. Many a Mickey’s, Schaefers, and Keystone Light were had before we figured out there was more in the world of beer. Once we had that worked out, away we went!
Brian recently enjoyed his 1,000th unique beer. An impressive feat given that he is not part of the beer or craft beer industry, does not include beer festival tastings and includes only the occasional home brews friends were kind enough to share.
I found this so awesome that I asked Brian to sit down with me, over a beer of course, and tell me his story.
Shel: So how did you get started and what made you decide to keep track?
Brian: Well, I’ve been enjoying beer way before I was even legal to do so. Remember all that crappy 3.2 beer you used to buy us! In the early ‘90’s I discovered the wonderful world of craft beers. I don’t recall exactly which one, but I believe it was from New Belgium, Pyramid or Red Hook. I continued to find more and more beer that I enjoyed and that set me off on a journey to try all kinds of brews in a continual search for my next tasty pint.
Shel: Do you use an app or how do you keep track of your beers?
Brian: This started long before there was anything to put apps on. Somewhere along the way my lovely and intelligent wife suggested I keep a log of the beers I have tried and the nerd in me thought, wow, that is a great idea and a very boring Excel spreadsheet was born. While my obsession is to always find something new to try, I also continue to go back to those which I particularly loved along the way.
Shel: How do you categorize your beers?
Brian: Well it includes the name of the beer. The style, the brewer/brewery, state (where applicable), country and a letter score for taste. Also, if there is something particularly unique for that certain brew, there is a notes section for true beer-nerd-ness.
Shel: How does your scoring system work?
Brian: That seems to be a source of curiosity for everyone who knows about my list. It is just like school where you can receive an A-F. However, it is completely biased to my taste and has no other point of reference. I’ve found on my travels, that even while having a generally boring beer, having it while visiting Kaziranga National Park in Northeast India and seeing wild, greater one-horned rhinos and Asian elephants seems to make it taste better and thus receives a better score. There’s something to be said about the ambiance, at least a little something. So I’ve also had to modify the scores a little bit and I added the + and – to the letters and some have even scored an A++. Like I said, it’s biased towards me. If you have a clone of my curious taste buds, by all means use my list and scores to decide on beers to try. If not, take it for what it is, my list!
On April 27th, at Falling Rock Taphouse, I tried a Crooked Stave Petite Sour, making it the 1,000th beer on my mouth watering, albeit geeky list.
Shel: Tell me how you went about finding your 1,000 beers.
Brian: Pretty much your normal ways. Weekly trips to the liquor store, visiting local breweries wherever I lived (Denver, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and thankfully back to Denver now) and searching out local beers while traveling here in the US and abroad. I received a lot of recommendations along the way and tried to hunt down any special beers that were recommended.
Shel: When and where did you hit the 1,000th? What was it?
Brian: On April 27th, at Falling Rock Taphouse, I tried a Crooked Stave Petite Sour, making it the 1,000th beer on my mouth watering, albeit geeky list. I felt this was quite the milestone and while I worried over what that 1,000th one would be, rather than try and plan it out, I just settled in and tried something new.
Shel: Any funny stories from the journey?
Brian: The journey has been, and continues to be as I work toward 2,000, quite the adventure. There was the time in St. George, Utah when I was there on a work trip, I inquired about local craft beers and the concierge at the hotel had no idea what I was talking about. It took literally walking out the front door of the hotel to find a brewery directly across the street! There was the trek down the north coast of California from the Redwoods to San Francisco, where we hit some of the great breweries to be found in that part of the world. Anderson Valley and Russian River to name just two. Or the most recent trip to Nepal where I believe I tried all of the beers brewed there, such as Kathmandu and Everest. It seems while I travel for many reasons, one notable similarity of all trips has been seeking out local brews. Not all of the beers were good, but most of them were and many were great.
Shel: So, what’s your favorite beer?
Brian: <laughter> Many have asked me, “what is your favorite”, to which I must answer “the one I am drinking now, of course!” With 1,000 behind me, most were good and as I said, many were great. So I’m not willing to pick a favorite. Even a particular style of beer as a favorite eludes me. I suppose if I was to be stranded on a desert island and had to pick one type of beer, an IPA would be a good choice for eternity. But without that constraint, I really have enjoyed all varieties I have tried.
Shel: Any advice for someone who is trying to catch up to you?
Always be willing to try whatever is next.
Brian: I really encourage everyone to get out of their box and always be willing to try whatever is next. I don’t enjoy really spicy things, but recently tried Ghost Face Killah. It contains, among many different hot peppers, the Ghost Pepper which I believe is the hottest pepper known. I didn’t drink much of that fiery concoction, but I tried it!
Shel: Any final thoughts for the people?
Brian: Truth be told, I passed 1,000 different beers probably a little while back. There were the ones I tried and forgot about before I started the list and of course the ones I either forgot to write down or took a bad picture of the menu because, well, I had had a few beers! Not to worry though as it’s about the beer, that magical elixir of which there can be so many amazing variants, and not about the numbers. It’s all about the journey as they say, not the destination. A journey of taste buds is what it’s been about and continues to be. So whether you have a list, or don’t care what the last beer you had was, as long as the next one is a good one, enjoy the hell out of it and remember that there’s many more to be tried.
Shel: Thanks Brian!