Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beer Drinkers and Drinking Beer

            The fridge was filled top to bottom, front to back with rows upon rows of aluminum cans, all neatly stacked with labels facing out.  The recycling bin was larger than the regular garbage container.  I was drinking beer.  For years, I drank beer, lots of beer.  I dabbled in variety but mostly stuck to the major label stuff.  The taste, color, and maker was of no real consequence as long as the refrigerator was full.  The only important factor was quantity.  Filling the recycle bin was a contest.  How fast can I fill it?  I was pretty good at drinking beer.  I was young and afraid the party would end.
            However, the party did end, for me anyway.  I grew tired of the headache, and treating that headache with more beer.  Dry-mouth and bad breath mornings got old.  Forgetting how I got to bed or the good times I had with friends was no longer cute.  The smell of the toxic perspiration as it oozed out of me the following day was not worth the flavor of the poison going in.  The tasteless liquid did nothing in quantity but dull my taste buds, keeping them from true flavor.  Propping up a bar stool and frequenting a bar where everyone knew my name and my drink was not a legacy I wished to leave. With the arrival of my wife, who was amused at the sight of my bachelor fridge overflowing with the food groups all contained in a can, and later my children, I no longer wanted to make memories that I couldn't remember.
            Parties still have their place and I overindulge from time to time, but I have "matured" into a beer drinker.  I have gone back to the reason I started drinking beer in the first place, the taste.  I cut my teeth on craft beer before quantity became important.  Long Trail Ale will always be the first, best beer to me.  I would rather try a six-pack of different micro-brews than swill cases of tasteless yellow water.  The experience, the act of tasting, the aroma as it leaves the glass, these are now important to me.  How the beer compliments the rest of my meal, how it brackets the contents of the day, the way it contains the flavor of the season, is now the most important aspects.  I am coming close to beer snobbery.
            To this day, I still love beer, all kinds of beer.  I have traveled hundreds of miles in search of it.  Road trips and vacations have been scheduled around the opening and closings of micro-breweries.  Travel routes have been altered to swing by a particular brewery in order to obtain a special seasonal offering.  Collecting beers and breweries has grown into a strange hobby.  Seven states to date have been scoured for multiple places to find beer, with hundreds of other spots already mapped.  I have visited over thirty different craft breweries and have tasted hundreds of different recipes.  This is something that will never grow old and the memories will not be forgotten, swirling in a foggy haze.  Some will even hold the moment in the waft of its nutty nose and the sting of its bitter finish.

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