In January 2010 I was somewhere outside of Aspen, Colorado with my ex-Navy videographer coworker. We had been wondering around Aspen for three days waiting for it to snow so we can grab some snow footage for a video we were putting together. The radar was clear with no precipitation in sight and I was able to convince him that we should go out for a drink that night.
I was only 8 months removed from slamming down Natties in college and was just beginning to come around to craft beer. My eyes were beginning to open after a recent trip to Wilmington, North Carolina where I was exposed to “local beer” for the first time. Well, at this point in my life traveling to Aspen was about 5x further than anywhere I’ve ever been before and figured why not see if this place has something local.
The bar was decently packed for a weeknight. It was dimly lit and there was a bluegrass band jamming away at the rear wall. The Denver Nuggets game was on a few of the TVs. It was a close game from what I remember. I asked the bartender for something I couldn’t get at home and he poured me a New Belgium 2° Below. He told me I’d enjoy it.
It. Was. Incredible. I had never had anything like it. It was the greatest beer I had ever had up to that moment. The flavors! The drinkability! What is this amazing liquid?! From that point forward I knew I had to go out and seek better beer. Looking back, that beer has changed my life. I’m sure I would have found my way towards craft beer eventually but that moment altered the course of this journey called life.
I ended up finishing my first pint in time to order another before it was time to go back to the hotel and wait for snow. This must be love. I called my wife, then girlfriend, to tell her about it. She looked it up online and broke the news that she didn’t think we got it in Virginia.
It snowed the following day so we got our footage then jumped on a flight that evening. I never got to try 2° Below again…until the other day.
New Belgium stopped producing 2° Below before they started distributing to my area sometime in 2013 if I remember correctly. It was lost to the beer gods. Then last winter New Belgium came out with “Folly Packs.” I’m not positive if they came out then or if they started distributing them to VA but a Folly Pack essentially is a mixed 12-pack where four of the beers are a previously discontinued one. The past two winters it has included 2° Below. For whatever reason I did not pick one up last winter. This winter though I saw the last 12-pack at Total Wine and threw it into my cart. 2° Below!!! It’s happening!!!!!
Then it happened. And now I have to write this post to warn you:
Sometimes dreams shouldn’t come true. Sometimes wishes shouldn’t be granted. Sometimes things are better as memories.
Since having 2° Below in January 2010 I’ve had all sorts of incredible beers. I’ve had all sorts of similar incredible moments that revolved around beer like the one I had in a bar in Aspen. What have I learned? The beers in these moments don’t necessarily have to live up to the hype that you’ve built up for them. In fact, you should mentally process them differently.
Same beer + different scenario ≠ same results
2° Below is not a bad beer. It was good. It had those winter ale spices I could vaguely remember from years before. But it wasn’t the same. I had evolved. Not that I’m above that beer, it’s that things aren’t the same. I had (ridiculously high) expectations. My palate has been exposed to many different beers now. I wanted to relive that moment from the past. But I couldn’t. Nowhere close.
However, there are a couple positives I want to take away from this. First, I learned a lesson. Second, a beer-loving buddy of mine was excited for me to have my second first 2° Below since we share a common bond around the beer. By some sheer happenstance we were both on Twitter at the same time and decided to drink one together at the same time some ~400mi apart.
I consider that cool. I consider that small moment something I’ll look back on and cherish when I think about 2° Below.
When I think of 2° Below I won’t think of disappointment. I’ll think of a beer that changed my life. I’ll think of a beer that can connect two like-minded individuals hundreds of miles apart.
I still have three more left in my Folly Pack and I can’t wait to drink the rest of them.