This week’s post on “Not My Father’s Beer” is in response to The Sessions, overseen by beer writer Jay Brooks. Each month, a different beer blogger host chooses a topic for fellow bloggers to write about. For the 119th Session, Alec Latham, who writes the blog Mostly About Beer, selected the topic “Discomfort Beer.” He goes on to explain, “a beer which initially tasted funny, or odd, or off, or something, but which later became a favorite.”
I can say without a doubt, that of the hundreds of beers I’ve sampled in my lifetime, the one that made me most uncomfortable was my father’s.
In the fifties and sixties in Austin, Texas, my father drank what his friends did, mostly Jax, Pearl and Schlitz. I can’t say when I had my first taste of beer or which brand it was, but I know it was nasty. I remember stealing those early sips of Dad’s beers at the pool parties my parents used to host. While the wives drank coffee in the air-conditioned house, the men sat near the pool and the barbeque pit drinking beer. We kids swam, ran around and enjoyed our parents temporary distraction from correcting our behavior.
One evening somewhere around 1965, when Dad told me to bring him another beer, I ran to the cooler, grabbed a can and, under cover of darkness, gave it a vigorous shaking. I trotted back, handed off the can and kept going. I had visions of it spraying Dad and at least several of his friends. To my disappointment, that didn’t happen, which in retrospect, explains why I’m still alive.
Sure, those were mass-produced lagers and I was a kid sneaking sips and attempting to misbehave, but the discomfort ran much deeper. The reasons for it are something I think my craft beer friends currently in their thirties and twenties probably find difficult to truly understand.
In 1965, I was eleven and the United States was only thirty-two years out of Prohibition. Howard E. Butt, founder of the largest grocery store chain in Austin then and today, was a staunch teetotaler who in the sixties still refused to open his stores on Sunday or sell alcohol any day. Every Sunday, Mom, without Dad, took us kids to the local Baptist church where we got many an earful about the evils of alcohol. In my little world, only non-church-going men drank or went into liquor stores and bars. Since I was a nice girl, even tasting beer was patently sinful.
My perception was that for boys, it was somehow less sinful, maybe because they were future men. My brother claims that he and his friends occasionally pilfered beers from Dad’s stash of pool-party leftovers which, for reasons I can’t explain considering the heat of Texas summers, was kept in the storage room off the garage. Little Bro reports that those beers were pretty awful, but he and his pals simply chugged them.
The legal drinking age was lowered to eighteen when I was in college, but I still didn’t drink much. Drinking meant beer and beer was a still foul tasting beverage and still somehow sinful.
Then, ironically, I married a brewer. Hugo’s father and grandfather had been in sales for Cervecería Cuauhtémoc in Monterrey, Mexico, and Hugo went into, first with Cuauhtémoc, then with Coors. Over time, I came to enjoy a beer at summer barbeques and Rockies games, but I still wasn’t a huge fan.
And then I discovered craft beer. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus, full orchestra and choir.) It started with hefeweizens, those mysterious ales that tasted like bananas and cloves and something way beyond 2-row barley and corn. Then, one day, Hugo suggested I try an IPA. That began my extended romp through the wonderful, bitter world of hops.
Today, I love a good IPA and hefe—and kölsch and barleywine and blond and red ale and black lager and sour and gose and gueze and—you get the idea. Ironically, I suppose I’m closer than ever to my father’s beer because I’ve come to love a really good, clean pilsner.
And while I’ll always advocate for responsible consumption of alcohol, I’m glad that American attitudes toward alcohol and women and alcohol have advanced light years in the half century since I shook up my father’s beer.