I vaguely recall the first time I drank a Pilsner Urquell. It was 1999 and I had just moved to the Czech Republic for a year, which became 10 but that's a different story. It wasn't my first Czech beer, I had drunk Budvar on the recommendation of my eldest brother and Gambrinus in the All Bar One in Birmingham, but Pilsner Urquell was different, a lot more bite and for a few years I wasn't that big of a fan, preferring Kozel.
Before moving to Central Europe my tipples of choice had been Caffrey's, Guinness or John Smith's Extra Smooth, in that order. A few years later and the only one of the three that I would drink with any regularity was Guinness, then I found a shop in Prague that sold London Pride, Ruddle's County and Old Speckled Hen. While I certainly never abandoned the delights of Czech lager, it was nice to be able to have a taste of home from time to time.
While we were in Florida on holiday a couple of weeks ago we pottered along for dinner at a British ethnopub just down from the resort called The Black Sheep. I wrote about it last year, and the liver and onions is still very nice, but there was something that I didn't expect. I ordered a pint of London Pride and polished it off with a distinct sense of being underwhelmed, so I ordered a pint of Bombardier and thought to myself, what a sweet and vaguely dull disappointment, and so I drank a couple of pints more of Pride, there not really being anything else that grabbed my attention.
That night I lay on the sofa, drinking a bottle of Highland Brewing Company's St Terese's Pale Ale and wondering how my tastes in beer have changed in the last 13 years. St Terese's Pale Ale is certainly no hop bomb, having a "mere" 24 IBU, but those hops are Cascade and Chinook and Highland are one of the few breweries I know that really use America C-hops well in my unhumble opinion. Were St Terese's a more common sight in the beer shops in this area it would likely be a more frequent visitor to the Velkyal beer cellar.
I am not saying here that I now prefer Cascade and Co to the delights of Fuggles and Goldings, and Saaz is still safe on its perch as my favourite hop, but in the hands of Highland, and admittedly Sierra Nevada, I am starting not to think "oh god, not Cascade again".