Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Toast to Dad in ALS Awareness Month

May is ALS Awareness month and, while I normally wouldn’t include this sort of thing on my blog, this is a topic that’s close to me and my family. ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fatal disease that progressively kills your motor neurons until your body can no longer function. Dad was diagnosed in 1999. He was having a hard time holding things and, after ruling everything else out, doctors determined he had ALS. Most people die within 5 years of diagnosis; dad died in 3.

In 1992, Dad had an opportunity to take a temporary job in Heidelberg, Germany for the Dept of Defense. He accepted the assignment and took the family with him over the summer. After a brief return to the states, he accepted a longer contract in 1993 and the family moved to Heidelberg for a five-year stint. I was in college in the states during that time, but got to spend summers in Heidelberg (plus I took most of a year off college to work & travel over there).

My dad left the US drinking MGD and returned drinking German beer – most typically Pils, Dunkles, or Hefeweizen. His experience there completely changed his perspective on beer, which led to my own understanding that beer was something more than Blue Boar.

He took a few trips to Bamberg, home of Rauchbier; it was one of his favorite cities, and I’ll never forget hearing about his discovery of beer that tasted like ham. He took the family to Berlin and introduced me to Berliner Weiss (mit schuss, of course). He also introduced me to Hefeweizen, which I swore had a shot of banana syrup in it no thanks to that Berlin experience. I drank my fair share of Helles and Pils, typically at fests in various small towns we’d visit. And a lot of Grolsch. (I blame that on the clubs.)

And, finally, he introduced me to the concept of proper glassware. He collected steins, krugs, goblets, weizen glasses, and a bunch of other beer-holding devices. My mom’s been gracious enough to let me have many of the glasses he collected, including small samplers from various small-town breweries and fests. My favorite, though, is the Augustiner Edelstoff willi becher glass. I hope to have this one for a long time.

Though Dad was diagnosed with ALS shortly after the family’s return to Portland, his interest in good beer continued. We hung out at Produce Row, Bridgeport, and Horse Brass. We drank Deschutes, Rogue, Widmer, and other good Oregon brews in a city that would, just a few years later, become a major beer destination for beer enthusiasts everywhere. He would have loved what’s happened with craft beer and I have no doubt he would have continued to introduce me to new aspects of the brewing world.

May 25th would have been my dad’s 61st birthday. During ALS awareness month, in honor of my dad and the beer enthusiasm he developed while in Germany, I propose a toast to those who have sparked or shared your interest in craft beer, glassware, beer-related travel, and all other things beery. Prost!

Doug - Dad and Beer Lover
1949 - 2002

To find out more about ALS or how you can help, visit the ALS Association's website. To volunteer for a charity walk, find an upcoming walk  near you.

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