March 12 I will celebrate what could be considered my greatest accomplishment, one that was more than two years in the making: My enshrinement into the UFO Ring of Honor at the Flying Saucer.
For those who are strangers to the Saucer (or Taco Mac, which has a similar program), members of the UFO Club (Get a T-shirt and a card, woo hoo!) who have tasted 200 different beers at the Saucer have a plate (saucer?) dedicated in their honor added to the walls and ceiling of their home Saucer.
But my journey to the ceiling wasn’t one I traveled alone. The Saucer became my favorite bar in Raleigh, where the wait staff and managers all knew my name and my palate. More than once I was brought a beer as soon as I sat down because my favorite Beer Goddess knew I would love it (and that I hadn’t tried it yet).
So allow me to highlight a few of my favorite Saucer beers and memories …
FIRST FLIGHT, Feb. 23, 2009 – I was freshly 21 (well, less than four months in) and had not had any good beer experiences when I was asked a handful of editors at the Saucer to do some taste tests for a special feature we were doing.
We ordered a couple of flights of N.C. beers (My first Duck Rabbit Milk Stout, among others) and evaluated them for a piece to run the following week called “Rate My Local Brew.” (Page 6 here)
This was a pivotal moment for me, although I didn’t realize it at the time. If not for McCune’s helpful instruction at that particular junction of my life, I could be a very different man today. With my Eastern North Carolina background and preference for liquor at that time, I could have tailspinned into being one of those Bud-swilling folk who drink entire six-packs to get a buzz and then wonder where their beer gut came from.
THE INITIATION, Dec. 15, 2009 – Thanks to Coop, I continued to visit the Saucer off and on. Then it became a favorite haunt of mine and Peggy’s until I realized that to continue going without at least trying to earn my plate was a waste.
Why not get paid to drink beer?
So for Christmas I got Peggy and I memberships. Very fitting, if you knew us at the time. It was also going to be a race, although she handed hers off to Shefte at some point.
It’s clear from my first three beers registered that I was very much a fan of pale ales at this point, because I ordered two (Lonerider Peacemaker, 1, and Flying Dog Doggie Style, 3) on that first trip along with the aforementioned milk stout.
The Peacemaker is still one of my favorite beers, mostly because it’s one of a handful of craft brews I can get in Goldsboro, but also because it represents where it all began.
THE DUDE ABIDES, April 15, 2010 – After tearing through all of the available draft pale ales and milk stouts (Left Hand Nitro, 6, Yum) I began to become a regular at
the Saucer on Wednesdays, when breweries would offer glasses to go with their selection that you could take home. This, I believe, was the first trip to the Saucer for Farrell and Jessica, who just earned their plate in mid-February.
This glass night was by Boulder Beer, which was featuring its Hazed & Infused (20) in an amazing white opaque glass that has become a favorite of mine (It’s essentially reserved for me when I visit Farressica) in celebration of 4/20.
The beer selection fit perfectly into my pale ale binge (it’s an American pale ale) and so did Sweetwater’s 420 (18).
It’s funny. I can’t recall if I ordered that on purpose or not.
THE HOPIPHANY, Aug. 25, 2010 – Terrapin was a brewery I had loved when I discovered it down in Athens, Ga. so when I saw how it was offering a beer called the Hopsecutioner (22), it didn’t take long for me to decide.
I had noticed I was enjoying hop notes more and more and this beer brought it all to a head, pushing me into the Indian pale ale cycle that hasn’t ever quite left me.
Over the next few trips, IPAs became more and more a part of my choices: Green Flash West Coast (30), Avery (33), Fullsteam Rocket Science (35) and Stone (42).
THE NEVERENDING OKTOBERFESTIVUS, Sept. 27, 2010 – It started with Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale (47) and has carried me through countless Oktoberfests, spring pilsners, winter porters and summer wheats. Drinking seasonal beers allowed me to power through new brews without worrying about trying any more than once. This fall is also known as my Big Dick period – Richard and I averaged four trips to the Saucer weekly during this era, most of the time beginning our barstand at 1 a.m., rushing to get in our three beers, then taking a walk to the State Capitol to visit “the presidents.” Enter the following: Duck Rabbit Paul’s Christmas Vacation (69), Aviator Frost Nipper (70), Sierra Nevada Celebration (71) and Shiner Holiday Cheer (73, and Richard’s favorite).
THE LONG-DISTANCE ROMANCE, March 2011 to February 2012 – My move to Goldsboro slowed down my journey to 200, but having Jessica, Farrell and Richard in Raleigh meant I always had a reason to be in Raleigh, and, ipso facto, the Saucer. This is when my pursuit of 200 got serious though: lots of varieties, dozens of memories, including Lonerider Sweet Josie (113), Roth Sex Viking (142) and Fullsteam Carver Sweet Potato (153).
Josie is still one of my favorites while Sex Viking, besides being just an awesome name, is one of Jessica’s faves.
THE ONE, June 24, 2012 – The only beers in my first 200 not ordered in Raleigh were the six I drank in Columbia, S.C. in summer 2012. Among them was the Harpoon Catamount Maple Wheat (160), which I would gladly slather on pancakes. It was a special bottle and a special time, and not just because I love Harpoon Brewery. This is probably my favorite beer ever, but, alas, it is no longer available.
THE FINISH LINE, Jan. 9, 2013 – Yes it was Richard’s birthday. Yes he was there. Yes Farressica was there. Jessica suggested the Mystery Six Impossible Things (198). Farrell suggested the Left Hand Fade to Black (199) but when it came time for No. 200, there was never a discussion. I had decided months before. Maybe even years before. The floral notes. The hoppy finish. I insisted everyone at my table have a sip of the final Harpoon IPA (200) to mark the occasion.
Want to see a difficult-to-read PDF of all 200? Click here: The First 200