Lots of guys guzzle a beer every day of the year, but few pour a different brew 365 times in a row. And then slowly savor it before crafting an online review and documenting the pint with a photo.
For Day 360 of his A Year in Beer blog, Travis Pollan tried a Coffee Porter from Real Ale at the Ginger Man in Fort Worth, which is fitting since the pub is open 365 days a year.
Here's Pollan's take on the Coffee Porter, one of his favorite styles: "This beer pours a very dark brown color with reddish highlights when put to the light. Foamy white head. Aroma has lots of dark malts, roasted notes, dark baker's chocolate and small bits of coffee.... Flavor is sweet and bitter chocolate. Some dark coffee as well with a bitter finish...."
From abbey ales to farmhouse saisons to Vienna lagers, Pollan sampled 69 different styles of beer in 2011, even including a malt liquor (umm, no thanks), honey-based meads and, for good measure, a low-alcohol beer.
But Pollan, a 27-year-old elementary school music teacher, imposed a few rules on his beer run: Concentrate on craft brews available in Dallas-Fort Worth, pay special attention to Texas brewers like Real Ale in Blanco and Rahr & Sons in Fort Worth. And to keep things from getting out of hand, he limited himself to one beer a day.
"I didn't want it to turn into 365 days of headaches and aspirin in the morning," said Pollan, whose slender build is testament to his one-beer ration.
The idea for the blog was hatched after some of Pollan's friends heard of the idea, a liquid variation on the movie Julie & Julia, in which a blogger cooks her way through Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
"We thought it would be cool to do it with beer, and I thought I could do that,'" he said. "I thought it was going to be easy, but it turned out to be a lot more difficult than I imagined."
Pollan's tastes have come a long way since he had his first beer at age 21, an experience that was less than an epiphany.
"It was the standard stuff you see in the TV commercials, and I didn't much care for it. I didn't quite understand what the whole deal was; I didn't like it," he said.
But he kept noticing all those colorfully named craft beers and thought there must be something more to it. He soon discovered there is a world of brewing beyond the mass-production lagers that own the U.S. market.
Pollan couldn't afford a pricey six-pack of craft brew every day, so he sought out variety at places like Central Market and World Market where he could get one apiece. He also visited local beer pubs to sip new offerings and then supplemented his selection with tastings at brewers.
"Drinking was the easy part," he said. The daily writing exercise was more challenging.
The blog also became a way for his new girlfriend, Gloria Montemayor, a pre-K teacher, to gain a little insight into the relationship.
"I started reading them when I was first interested in Travis. I was impressed with his writing skills," said Montemayor, 36.
"It got me interested in trying new beers, and I started home brewing, too," she said. "Now I finally know what I like to drink: brown ales. I'm definitely a convert."
Beyond those "dark, slick and smooth" coffee porters that Pollan loves, he developed a taste for hoppy India pale ales with an "aggressive bite."
But in trying to sample every style, he also discovered that "a lot of the beers were mediocre," he said. "I didn't really call anything garbage or trash water. One man's trash is another man's treasure," Pollan said. "I didn't want to come across as a beer snob. I hate that. I'm a beer enthusiast."
Pollan isn't sure if he'll "sign up for another year," but he plans to keep the site going with more on Texas brews or a new emphasis on home brewing.
Online: A Year in Beer, cavalierbeer.wordpress.com