Ask the Beer Geeks: What was your Gateway Beer?

We all have that one beer that we can trace everything back to – the one that changed our mind on what beer could taste like and opened up an entire new world of flavor experiences. The Gateway Beer. With almost 7,000 breweries open and operating in the US, chances are that there’s a beer out there like that for everyone. We wanted to find out what those beers were for Craft Beer Cellar store owners, so we asked:

What was your ‘Gateway Beer’? When was the last time you had it and did you still enjoy it?


Barry Sussman
CBC Fort Point – Boston, MA

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout. I used to drink it after track workouts at Miracle of Science in Cambridge, MA. For the longest time I couldn’t remember whether the brewery was named ‘Left Hand’ or ‘Right Hand, I just knew that it was red. I enjoyed one not too long ago and it has also become one of my son’s favorite beers!


New Belgium Fat Tire Gateway Beer

Virginia Thomas
CBC HQ via Chicago

This makes me feel kind of old to admit, but my gateway beer was New Belgium Fat Tire. I still remember how coveted it was before it was distributed here in Chicago. The huge malty punch that it packed was so different in flavor compared to macro lagers! The brewery’s release East of the Mississippi River was very much anticipated. New Belgium sent bombers, emblazoned with special labels to commemorate the occasion (2006 if memory serves me right) and it changed my beer world! It is not the beer I reach for nowadays, but New Belgium still makes fine beers, and I still recommend Fat Tire as a great gateway beer for others!


Long Trail Ale Gateway Beer

Dan Morrison
CBC Amesbury, MA

I encountered Long Trail Ale very early on, even though it’s actually older than me (I’m the youngest CBC owner) and something about it was enchanting. Sweet on the nose, an instant malty flavor on the palate, its gorgeous amber hue – it started the wheels that led me to think “huh, maybe there’s something to this whole Craft Beer thing”. As I began to write this, I figured it was time to revisit LTA, and it’s like sitting down with a dear old friend to reminisce about fun times had together. It remains a fantastic beer. Grab one, pour it into your favorite glass, and just maybe it will whisper its message of balance and love of craft beer to you too.


Ryan Mass
CBC Lynchburg, VA

My gateway into Craft was Newcastle Brown nearly 20 years ago. A friend of mine kept trying to expand my perception of beer with different styles, but to no avail. My palate simply wasn’t developed enough to appreciate stouts, Belgian beer or the IPAs of the late 90s. But at Newcastle, we found a winner – deceptively light with a great nutty caramel flavor. I still enjoy Newcastle, especially with my gateway friend when we get together.


Andrea Cross-Dieal
CBC Cary, NC (Opening Fall 2018!)

Fortunately, there was an innovative bar in town when I turned 21 that carried beers from around the world. This was the late 80s in Michigan, so I had been drinking mostly Stroh’s, Molson, and Labatt’s 😉. My initial gateway beers were the English and German classics: Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, Mackeson Stout, Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock, and Paulaner Hefeweizen. The servers even poured the Hefeweizen using the fancy “inverted pour” method, so we got a show with our beer! A short time later, I was introduced to American Craft Beer via Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I would say that SNPA was my gateway to becoming the IPA fan that I am today. If I’m ever in a bar with a limited beer selection, I can usually count on a solid Sierra Nevada to get me through.


Andy Lippitt
CBC Norfolk

My gateway into Craft Beer was English Ales. This was the late 70’s, and there were really no interesting or flavorful American beers to be found. I distinctly remember being very excited one night after work  because I was splurging on Michelob (ha!) when a co-worker said to me, “I wish I could still drink that kind of stuff, I’d save a ton of money.” Curious, I asked him what he drank, and he gave me a Bass Ale. To say my 18-year-old mind was blown would be a vast understatement. Beer could actually have flavor? Who knew? Sadly, Bass isn’t the beer it used to be, but I owe that beer a debt of gratitude!


Sam Adams Boston Lager Gateway Beer


Joe Nunnari
CBC Swampscott, MA

I’m showing my age with this one, but it was Samuel Adams Boston Lager after years of Genesee, Utica Club, and for those really special occasions, it was Molson Golden. I can still remember the first one and thinking maybe I can enjoy beer. I’ve always loved those Sam holiday mixed packs with the special seasonal releases as well!

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