Saturday, March 11, 2017

Beer: A Love Story

Back when our parents were warning us about the evil reefer, it was common for us to accuse them of hypocrisy because they drank martinis. They countered that it wasn't the same thing. They said they just enjoyed their martinis, and it wasn't like a drug at all.

I didn't do any accusing, personally. My parents didn't have martinis. Or the occasional glass of wine. Or anything else, except once a year when they'd uncap the fusty old bottle of cheap Taylor sherry and have themselves a little nip. When it came to the proper acquisition of bad habits, my parents were horrible role models.

Nevertheless I soldiered on. I didn't like beer. Not until I went to live in London, where the beer was a whole lot better. That's where I made a study of it, and Guinness in particular. "Tall, dark, and have some," it said on the billboard, and I did. Oh, honey. It was gorgeous. It had a creamy head you could write your initials in and still see them at the bottom of the glass, in case you forgot who you were. Golden curls of goodness roiled and frolicked beneath the foam. Bubbles sidled along the glass like an ever-renewing fountain of yum. It was delicious. And most of all, it solved everything. It filled up all the tiny holes: all the pits and pocks of my muttering soul, all gone smooth again.

We dope-smoking hippies were right: the alcohol really was a drug.

I'm not complaining. This isn't an anti-alcohol screed. I think alcohol is a good thing, until it's not. Our parents (well, maybe your parents) drank to take the edge off. It works. It's good medicine. It gets to be a problem when there are too many edges, and it takes too much medicine to smooth them over. If your soul is shot through with little holes, no amount of alcoholic spackle can be enough. When I came back to America, I located a decent beer--Narragansett Porter--and began taking the edge off at ten in the morning. That would be what some people might have called a red flag, but some of us need more flags than others.

The other thing I came back with was a recurring happy dream. I'd get it once or twice a year. In my dream, I'd take a few steps down from the street into a London cellar pub and have a wonderful local brew and shoot darts with the locals. Then I'd come back into the sunshine (in my dream, London had sunshine), walk another few blocks, and step down into a different pub. And repeat. For thirty years this was my happy place dream.

Meanwhile, I concocted some of my own spackle and began to put my soul back together. I made it out of a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. A little music, a little truth, a little walk in the woods, more than a little time.

I haven't had that happy dream in years. I can walk out my door right now and partake of any of a hundred different local beers in a matter of a few blocks. I'm living the dream in the best beer town in the world. If your soul has a few pits and pocks in it, it will take the edges right off.

But if you don't have too many edges, it will just put a doily of joy under your big tumbler of life.

44 comments:

  1. Beer? Mine is wine. I came to it late.I also now have what I believe some call a soul mate. (I call it a man who washes the dishes but leaves me to clean the shower...)Have you made the acquaintance of Lowenbrau? Stick an umlaut in there somewhere.)

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    1. I made Mr. Lowenbrau's acquaintance about the same time I met Mr. Guinness. They still make that, huh? It always did in a pinch, but I'm a hophead now.

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  2. After extensive study, I have found that Leinenkugel's grapefruit shandy is my beer of choice... precisely because it doesn't taste like beer. No hoppy taste. Lighter on the alcohol. No sweetness about it. It's refreshing, and it takes the edge off much better than anti-depressants did -- and without taking away my emotional range.

    I manage to avoid over-consumption by NOT following the usual "rules" of drinking wisely. For one thing, I DON'T drink socially; if I am drinking with a lot of other people, I will consume WAY too much. When I am out, I stick to mineral water. I only drink at home, either alone or with my husband. Only then can I stop at one (or two). Sometimes I find myself having a drink in the morning. GASP! This is usually when I am under a lot of stress about something, and again, I stop way before I am too plotzed to function.

    Some people take anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants. I prefer alcohol. It's cheaper and a lot more fun. Plus, I just do not trust Big Pharma.

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    1. Especially when Little Pharma is right there in your fridge! You know, I thought I'd get in a lot more trouble with this post, but so far, so good.

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  3. Good grief that was so good, the descriptions, your passion, ..that it.. having a beer.NOW!

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  4. I like good beer as much (ok, maybe more) as the next person, but I'll tell you what did make me drool: that bucket of fresh picked blackberries. None in MT, except the pathetic little tasteless ones in safeway. Huckleberries on the other hand.....
    I miss going out along the Sandy and picking blackberries.

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    1. You know, if you're vewwy vewwy quiet and wait another couple years, our blackberries will be creeping up your driveway.

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  5. I LOVE Guinness. Someone once told me it's like a beer milkshake, but your description is poetry!

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    1. I've never found it quite as good here. I'm told they have an export version for America that's different. I was also told that the Guinness I loved was an export version for England, and if I really wanted to swoon, I'd go to Ireland. I don't know if any of that is true.

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    2. Guinness in Ireland? It is twoo, it's twoo.....

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    3. I drank a half pint of Guinness with dinner every night when I was in Ireland last fall. My sister gave me "official" Imperial half-pint glasses for Christmas, so I have the same most nights here. I guess I'm not enough of an expert to know the difference between ours and theirs.

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    4. You're right--we really need all of them together to properly compare. Barkeep!

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  6. I love Guinness too, I consider it the nectar of the Gods. But strangely enough, each time I drank it in the UK it rained.

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  7. Great post. I like to think of the Inklings in the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, enjoying a pint and talking literature. That sounds a bit like heaven. I am a fan of various IPAs, even some organic ones.

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    1. As am I. And you have no idea how very various they are around here. Plus every brewery makes seasonals.

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  8. Y'all have it backwards. Guinness makes me frown and want to scrape the flavour off my tastebuds with a butter knife. I do like the occasional mass-produced Atlantic Canadian beer. Take care of your liver, Murr. We'd like to enjoy your writing as long as we can.

    My god, Pootie ... do we need an intervention??

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    1. Don't worry about the Poot. He has a fuzzy hollow leg.

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  9. My Grandmother, a cultured lady, always said it was a shame that beer tastes so awful because it looks so pretty in the glass. She had a bit of sherry now and then, and once, a gin and tonic by accident. She and Mother were at a garden party on a hot day. Mother was always a big martini drinker and could really handle her booze. They sat down to rest and Mother asked the server for a gin and tonic. When it arrived, Grandmother said, "Oh, that looks so nice and cool and refreshing -- I'll have one too." They pretty much had to carry her home on a stretcher. I miss them both.

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  10. A little alcohol is good for the soul and the brain, especially after middle age. Definitely a fine line between being helpful and hurtful, though. I love dark beers and red wine both.

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    1. I hab been known to straddle that fine line upon occasion.

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  11. While I am glad to read you are all spackled up I do think doobies and mugs of beer are two different animals and need to be treated differently. But we will figure that out eventually.

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    1. I personally am entirely doobie-free. I am not agin it, except for myself.

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  12. My mother relied on alcohol. And started the day with it. She also finished the day with it. Usually on the floor.
    As a direct consequence I treat it with caution. Wine o'clock can be a wonderful thing though - even though it only strikes one.
    The other? Back in the day I enjoyed it. These days it makes me puke.

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    1. A clear message from the universe! Sorry about your mom. That's rough.

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  13. I haven't tired beer since I was about five and we'd all go as a family to the local pub and sit in the ladies lounge, (women weren't allowed in the front bar back then) and sometimes we kids would get a 'shandy' which is half beer and half lemonade. I remember not liking it much and getting raspberry lemonade instead. Australian beer is bitter and I've seen and lived with too many drunks to ever want to try it again. Luckily, I don't have any edges that need taking off, so have no need of anything that tranquilises.

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    1. You're fortunate. Living in Trump's America has upped my alcohol consumption, for sure.

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    2. She's got a good point there, River...I remember shandy. I didn't like it for the same reason other people do: it doesn't taste like beer.

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  14. Live the dream, Murr! With the proliferation of craft beer and classy pubs here in the U.S., we can all live the beer dream.

    When I was a child, my father let me have a sip of his cheap American beer once in a while. I grew up thinking that beer was weak and watery, and it wasn't until adulthood that I learned otherwise. A friend introduced me to Sierra Nevada Porter, and it was an awakening! I had no idea that beer could be thick, full-bodied, and flavorful.

    Now, I've tried different kinds of craft beer, and even home-brewed some of my own. Good times!

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    1. When I moved to Portland, I asked Dave for beer-making equipment for Christmas. I made quite a number of batches, with whole grain instead of extract, too--pretty good! But within a few years, the craft beer industry got up and running, and I could just go out and buy it, so I did. Side note: I also had a thing for cappucinos, but there was only ONE PLACE in town that served them: a little cafe called Espress Yourself, I think it was. But it withered away for lack of customers. I think what I am saying is I was totally ahead of the curve on good coffee and good beer, and if I'd had an enterprising bone in my body, I'd be a billionaire, instead of just a very lucky person with access to good beer and coffee.

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  15. Even though I grew up in Ireland I never had a taste for Guinness but a friend who taught at the same school was told by her doctor to have a Guinness on her way home from school every day. Said it would put meat on her bones (she was very thin.) I don't know if she ever outsmarted her skinny DNA but I know she enjoyed trying. And while she was downing her glass of "porther" I'd have a shandy, 'cause I couldn't stand the taste of beer alone!

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    1. I am surprised by how many people have mentioned shandy -- something I had never even heard of before last year, but now have a definite predilection for. And yes, it is because I don't like the taste of beer.

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    2. I'm thinking this is explaining some of the meat on my bones. Totally worth it though.

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  16. Murr, you don't know me but I stumbled upon your blog a while back and subscribed. You're a very good writer! I often share your missives with friends. Just want to let you know how much I admire your literary skills! (I also agree with what you say, or at least see your point. It's like you're saying what I'd like to say but you're so much more articulate.) Thank you!

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    1. Thank you! So of course I looked you up, and yes, I would be proud to call you my friend. We all need each other, now more than ever. I am not at all sure why you would pick a Valentine to Beer post to comment on, but thank you again, and maybe I'll have something for you Wednesday. I do not always expect everyone reading my little blog will agree with what I say, but I will state that this seems to be a blessedly troll-free zone, and for some reason we all seem to be able to speak our minds here. (Or, you know, I've skeered everyone else off...)

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    2. I've tried commenting previously, on several occasions, but never until tonight made it past the authentication screening. You've got powerful watchdogs!

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    3. Oh so THAT's why no trolls! Actually, I have no idea. I kind of suspect that if it's hard to comment on here it has something to do with my antique Blogger template that matches my antique personality. Some day I'll have to modern up, but I hate farting around with something that's still working (for me, if not my commenters!).

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  18. As a midwife, I highly recommend a good Guinness to my nursing moms. One per day. Good for relaxation in the evening and for building a good milk supply. It's the hops and all the good Vit B

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