Hi everyone,

I hope you are hanging in there and avoiding quarantine fatigue. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of sports and, as we welcome back, golf, soccer — and next week, hockey and basketball, I admit, it sure has helped my quarantine fatigue. Will these seasons finish out? Hard to know. But it’s very nice to have players out there to root on.

Back in 2016, I wrote about the best beers I’ve ever had that were associated with big events in my life. It was fun to reminisce about those moments and the beers I enjoyed with them.

So today, I’m writing about the best beers I’ve enjoyed in these past five months of 2020 during the pandemic shutdown — just for fun and for some more positive stories during these times.

St Patrick’s Day Eve, March 16. This was the day we closed the brewery. We had no idea how long it would be. I enjoyed a #15 Pale Ale from our brewery with our manager Brian at the end of the shift. It was nice, but surreal — not knowing what was ahead of us. Very memorable.

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March 22. My daughter was rerouted from her spring break trip to Duluth and our home, surely not her first choice. We had a nice barbecue meal and enjoyed a Trumer Pilsner given to us from a past co-worker in California who sent it home with her. It was delicious.

April 1. We got a puppy, something I was looking forward to as the nest would be emptying this fall. We just moved the timeline up a bit. We celebrated with Lou Pepe Kriek from Cantillon brewery in Belgium. I love sour cherry beers. This one, in my opinion, is the greatest brewery of sour beers in the world. Founded in 1900, they have been an inspiration to my brewing career and a regular go-to for great sour beer. The puppy liked his sample, too.

May 15. After a great bike ride, we enjoyed a number of local beers (Earth Rider, Castle Danger, Bent Paddle, Blacklist) with some friends in our driveway (masked and socially distanced). Almost all of our local breweries were represented. We all agreed: We’re lucky to live in an area with so many great breweries. It was maybe the last time I was in any type of get-together until just recently with a few outdoor graduation parties.

June 9. Virtual, televised graduation from Duluth East High School for our son. While watching, we enjoyed an amazing beer from Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm called Astral Fusion, a German-style light wheat beer with raspberries and mango. This beer helped make the unique, televised graduation a bit more festive and easier to process.

July 4. I have been quite happy and lucky that my birthday happens to be on July 4. The fireworks were postponed until later in the year, so we had a simple barbecue with a few private fireworks and sparklers; luckily, I had saved a very special beer to enjoy on the back deck. Westvleteren XII is a Belgian beer that is brewed by monks and is very rare and hard to find (I suggest a Google search). I’m highlighting this beer because I feel that it is one of, if not the greatest, beers in the world. So please, try to secure a bottle or a 6 pack. You won’t be sorry. It really did make this 2020 July Fourth and challenging past several months feel much better.

A toast to graduates. As I mentioned, my son graduated this year, so we’ve been able to attend a few outdoor graduation parties. So, this last great beer, I’ll use for my toast to the kids and families that have really had to navigate uncharted waters as they celebrate graduating and look to the future. I’m talking about a good ol’ classic Leinenkugel’s Original Lager. I thoroughly enjoyed one at a recent graduation party with a really tasty hot dog.

It’s the simple things and our shared empathy and support that will stick with me during this time as well as the beer memories.

Be well and please email me your stories.

Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Contact him at dave@hoopsbrewing.com.