Believe it or not, beer and I haven't always been inseparable. Once upon a time, we didn't have the same understanding of each other that we do now. As a teen, for example, I didn't get why beer tasted like ass, or why it didn't "work" as quickly as Kamikazes and Long Island Iced Teas. Why, I reasoned with enough naive smug-fuckness to land me a weekly program on Fox News, would I spend hours struggling through five or six of those when I could achieve the same — if not better — results from siphoning up two or three of these in mere minutes? I was no Aristotelian back then, but logically speaking, drinking beer just didn't add up.
With the help of friends and family, however, I persevered through my alcoholic illiteracy. The first boost came indirectly through a college roommate's mother, who used to tip a salt shaker into her beer before every sip. This flavor-enhancing method worked well enough, though I have a hunch it contributed to the high blood pressure I'm currently ignoring. Bingeing on salty foods — such as microwave popcorn and kettle-cooked chips — and then chasing them with Budweiser provided another palate-converting bump. But ultimately, my transformation from spirit snob to beer belly came down to broke-ness: Five-dollar keg parties were what I could afford, and five-gallon jugs of jungle juice were never a guarantee.
Cliches, I teach my college composition students, are hackneyed and tired and should be avoided at all costs. Yet deep down, rhetoricians understand that these turns of phrase, however trite, became that way for good reason. Take, as illustration, "slow and steady wins the race," a platitude so parabolic, so banal that it sets eyes to rolling and ears to bleeding. Yet syntactically, those six words convey everything I could hope to about how I learned to appreciate beer: namely, that it taught me to not be in such a goddamned hurry to get drunk.
Breckenridge Brewery Blake Street Pub
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And so these days, my five or ten favorite brews and I communicate better than most married couples, having built our union on a foundation of trust, on a covenant that says, "Go ahead and start drinking at noon, with an early dinner, before you even leave work. I'll take care of you."
But all relationships experience strife, especially when one or more parties are undergoing a significant life change, as I am tonight at Breckenridge Brewery Blake Street Pub (2220 Blake Street). Faced with a junior-high-gymnasium-sized scoreboard of beer names I've never before encountered — many of which I know won't be around long enough for me to form a meaningful connection with — I am at a total loss, wrought with indecision. So I start with what I (think I) know: Pandora's Bock, a dark, Bavarian lager beer not all that different in taste and consistency from Shiner Bock (my favorite draft). Curious as I am about the other eleven beers still to be sampled, I find myself immediately infatuated with Pandora, so I order another. I eventually move on to the Agave Wheat (too crisp; I prefer more pulp), the Ballpark Brown (too heavy) and the Great Divide Wild Raspberry Ale, the featured guest beer. But none of these manage to woo me the way Pandora does.
Later in the night, when our group moves from the dining room to the bar, I order a Pick 6 — four-ounce shooters of any six beers for eight bucks. I try both the Oatmeal and Thunder Stouts, preferring the latter because it's nitrogenated and goes down much like Guinness. I try the Avalanche Amber, the Vanilla Porter and the 2220 Pale Ale; I even try the small-batch 471 Extra ESB. All are superior craft brews, full of flavor and homemade flair, but none of them have the caramel-nut maltiness, the Strisselspalt hops or the mahogany hue of Pandora's Bock. I am enraptured by its relish, enamored with its finish, enveloped by its poise. It's not until later, when I'm peeping the Breckenridge Brewery website, that I discover the added bonus of Pandora's 7.5 percent alcohol by volume — and learn that it's only on tap from January to March. No worries — I understand what it takes to maintain a beerlationship: communication, understanding, devotion.
'Til death do us part.