Introducing: High on Hops

High on Hops - Beer Column

It seems there’s no good way to introduce yourself as the author of a beer column.

“Hi. My name is Lee. I drink a lot of beer.”

It sounds far more like an admission of guilt than the basis of a writing gig. But it’s also very true, no matter how plainly stated.

Lee Heidel - High on HopsMy journey into beer started innocently enough. The first taste was a sip of Lowenbrau from my father’s can after desperately, incessantly begging him for a try. Looking back on my five-year-old self, I recall a lot of whining and leg pulling on my part in an attempt to distract him from the football game on TV. To shut me up, he graciously allowed the tiniest drop to hit my lips. I found it disgusting and went back to playing with my Star Wars TIE Fighter.

My next meaningful beer experiences were in college. My roommates and I sought to distance our parties from those in the fraternity houses by buying “good” beer. We didn’t know where it was made, what hops were used or how big the brewery was. All we really knew was that it was more expensive. Instead of Bud Light or Miller Genuine Draft, we bought kegs of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Abita’s Purple Haze. Bottles of Pete’s Wicked Ale were in the fridge. We considered ourselves serious beer drinkers – scholarly even – buying seasonal releases and trying everything we could find. Admittedly, in mid-90s Athens Georgia, that wasn’t much.

Skip ahead a few years and I’m a reasonably well-adjusted husband and new father looking for a hobby. After a few amazing trysts with Belgian White ales at my local brewpub, I found a passion project in home brewing. Making my own beer led to searching out and trying new styles with interesting ingredients, reading everything I could about the process and visiting breweries around the country. I fell in love with beer.

Drinking all these extra calories, both homemade and those for “research” purposes caused my waistline to expand. That led to a new hobby: running. Once I found a routine for burning off those additional calories by pounding pavement, I started BrewDrinkRun.com with friends who were in the same club. We brew, we drink, and to stay fit, we run. Our website and podcast led to more opportunities – even getting paid to drink beer.

I’m happy to report that I like beer much more now than I did when I was five or even twenty-five. I not only enjoy the varied tastes and the inevitable surprises that a new bottle holds, but I also enjoy the people and places driving America’s craft beer movement ever forward. The men and women in this industry have a true passion for the perfect pour, and I hope to do them justice with my coverage of the field.

Thank you to The Manual for asking me to come on board and share my beer ramblings under the banner of “High on Hops.” I’ll be reviewing beers, highlighting upcoming brewery releases, forecasting industry trends and writing about some of the best places on earth to grab a pint. And I promise not to pull on your leg or whine. At least not too much.