In my sophomore year, I went to my first real high school party. You know, the kind you see in the movies when the parents are out of town and the high school football star (my friend’s handsome older brother, in this case) invites everyone in the entire school, even the nerds, to his house and drunk teenagers are vomiting all over the lawn and horny teenagers have locked themselves in bedrooms they were told to stay out of. That kind. I don’t know who had the fake ID to buy it, but there was plenty of beer for the taking. And we were cool kids – we didn’t drink Budweiser or Miller. We drank Labatt. Labatt Blue and Labatt Ice were the high-class beers among underage drinkers in Western New York.
So, I imbibed and I did not like it! The often used analogy of “piss” seemed quite accurate, though I didn’t have experience tasting either. I recall standing on the lawn, Labatt bottle proudly in hand, stupidly flattered by the attention of a stoner who was in the junior class. As we were talking, I was looking for opportunities to surreptitiously pour out some of the beer without ending our very important conversation about Marlboro versus Marlboro Light and losing the potential of being invited to suck some of this undeserving suitor’s cigarette butt breath from his lips.
Eventually I did find opportunities (and got the sloppy, stinky lip lock too), and I kept up the charade all night long. Each time I went into the kitchen or bathroom, the lawn got watered and more of the swill would go down the drain until I had pretended to drink a respectable 4 or 5 beers.
In the following years, my palate adjusted to the taste of beer, though not without a lot of continued feigning at first. I grew up to Samuel Adams, which I also didn’t care for then and still don’t, to Killian’s Irish Red, which was tolerable, and then to Guinness, which I’ve been known to enjoy still from time. I was determined. Much like coffee, beer was something adults drank and I wanted to be an adult. But getting used to it wasn’t the same as liking it and it certainly wasn’t the same as savoring and actually craving it. There were some delicious beers during my two months living in Darmstadt, Germany and some tasty seasonal beers from time to time (I’m a sucker for fruity beers), but I didn’t pay much attention to what it was about certain beers that I liked, and so I had the impression that the experience was kind of hit or miss.
Fast forward through 12-15 years of cocktails and wine to Denver, Colorado – the microbrewery capital of the world and home to hundreds of beer connoisseurs and home brewers, some of whom I’m lucky enough to call my friends. Turns out there isn’t just a range of McDonald’s to Olive Garden in the beer world. It keeps going from Olive Garden to the hottest local spots in Denver to restaurants with three Michelin stars. I discovered the wonders of caramel stouts, saisons, witbiers, and, the Alinea of my beer world, sours. Crooked Stave, Former Future, Seven Day, Russian River, Duchesse de Bourgogne, and so many special batches from the dozens of brewers all in walking distance from my front door. My only question is – were these always here and I just wasn’t old enough (read as = had enough disposable income to be willing to spend it on a single delectable beer that costs as much as a six pack of the piss kind) to take notice? Or is this explosion of barley goodness a relatively new phenomenon?
And believe it or not, in the right context, I even now enjoy some flavorless, mass-produced beer. A few years ago, I landed in Managua for an impromptu holiday and it was about 100 degrees out with 100 percent humidity. I dumped my belongings in the hostel, walked across the street to an open air bar, happily ordered a Corona, and just like a local, sat and watched the world go by for an hour or two. At that moment, that Corona was unbeatable.
Curious about what everyone else is writing for the A to Z Blog Challenge? Me too! I’m using a random number generator to select three blogs from my fellow contributors to read each day. Here are today’s discoveries: