I like beer. I’ve always liked beer. A lot.
It’s taste? Exciting, provocative.
The feeling of drinking a glass on a hot summer day? Exhilarating, refreshing.
The alcohol content? An added bonus.
Sometimes my love of beer causes awkward social situations.
Take the time we were invited to lunch by some new friends. It was Rosh Hashanah. It was humid and muggy. I was wearing a suit and a too-tight necktie. We walked thirty minutes to the house. When we arrived I was sweating, profusely, and feeling very uncomfortable. I loosened my tie. We sat down for lunch. There was no water on the table. Instead, my friend offered me an ice-cold bottle of beer. In desperate need of refreshment and forgetting that we were in polite company, I tipped my head back and drained the entire bottle.
This would have raised nary an eyebrow had it been water or iced tea. But to do it with beer is to put yourself in an altogether different category of being: the drinker. Persona non grata.
When I put down the empty bottle, the look on our host’s face was amused shock. My wife’s expression was the stolid, stone-faced picture of mortification and embarrassment.
I brought my hand to my mouth to suppress the inevitable belch.
What could I say? I love beer, especially on hot days. Which is exactly what I did say.
I make no pretense. I am not a beer connoisseur. I’ve always had a hard time taking beer connoisseurs seriously. I see the beer connoisseur as a middle-aged guy with a big gut and a red nose who has managed to turn a drinking problem and a slight penchant for writing into a career. You can't blame him, really. That might just be my personal dream.
When it comes to forties, my favorite has always been Olde English 800. I love the pure malt flavor, the rich golden hue. Actually, forget that, I really just love the memories I have, late teenage memories: wild laughter, a hot garage transformed into a party palace, and a few friends jumping around, yelling: "forty, forty, forty!"
Wine has its special allure, its great mythological progeny, but beer--we create our own beer myths and often these myths begin ridiculously, with something like a bottle of Olde E.
Other beers I might drink: Natural Light, Schlitz, and, of course "Beast"--Milwaukee's Best Ice.
These are the type of beers that must be shared. There's nothing quite as unifying as sharing horrid beer. I've cemented friendships over a case of "Beast".
We used to buy something called American which was about five dollars a case, no kidding. If you got it nearly freezing and drank it very fast it almost, as our friend Cogan said, tasted like beer. But it was perfect after we'd come back from doing something stupid in the 90 degree sun. We'd throw back about eight each and almost, as Cogan said, get a buzz.
Yeah, beer--I like it best shared, without pretense, on a warm summer's day, on a corner, in a closet, in a bar, on my couch, on the beach, with a few buddies, on a plaza...whatever.
In an Irish bar, it's always a Guinness. My neighborhood in The Bronx has a large Irish immigrant population. It also has several authentic Irish bars, filled with Irish people in their derby caps, sweaters and flannel pants. When I'm at the bar, I love to listen to the lilt of their accents and the cheeriness with which they greet a common stranger. It's a nice thing to behold in New York, a city where most strangers are treated with instant suspicion. In an Irish bar, nobody orders wine. It's all about the beer and warm, light hearted bar-stool philosophy. Every man is a sage. I like that.
Light beer represents everything that is wrong with our American corporate mass culture--that taste, originality, and ultimately experience itself is sacrificed for the projection of a certain image or body type. Light beer offers us an impotent, watered down version of the real thing. As if life itself needs to be neutered, sanitized, and individually wrapped in plastic for our own protection.
I say drink a real beer. If beer is making you fat, then drink less beer.
Or maybe switch to a good whiskey.
I'll get the next round.