Lessons in Beer

So I’m still sort of new to IHB, (hi, nice to meet you!) but I’m certainly not new to beer. I’ve traveled quite a bit and it seems beer has been the only consistently present factor throughout my travels. My experience of becoming acquainted with beer parallel a lot of important lessons I’ve had to learn along the way.

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. My family moved around a lot and my mom relieved the anxieties she felt about life by consuming copious amounts of (insert cringe here) Budweiser. She was vehemently against drinking it out of a can, and wouldn’t go near Bud Light; this is where my journey began. By the time I was 10, I knew that canned beer and light beer were sub-par, and that Budweiser was the King of Beers. I had also learned from my mother that “rap is crap” and that Sundays were for church and NASCAR. I was well on my way to becoming bull-headed, self-assured idiot.  

Fortunately, I moved to Washington to live with my dad when I was 15. He rewrote my script on beer and life. My dad has always been very outspoken about what he likes and has a tendency to lean in the opposite direction of my mother. He listened to the Beastie Boys and brewed beer in the garage with my grampa. When I was 16, I was allowed to try some beer with my dad. Imagine my surprise the first time I watched him walk right past the King of Beers and pick up a case of Red Hook. I’ll be honest, it took a long while for my palate to appreciate the intense flavors of non-domestic beers, especially the hoppy IPA flavor, but it all began with a Long Hammer IPA sipped with my dear old dad. During my time living with dad, I learned to laugh at myself (and others), and how to argue my side of any debate.

By the time I visited Ireland in 2009, I thought I was the arbiter of all beer knowledge; I had developed strong (sometimes outrageously misinformed) opinions about every beer I’d ever heard of. These strong opinions often didn’t end at beer; like both of my parents, I believed that what I knew was all that there was to know. For example, I knew that Guinness was going to be terrible in Ireland because the cans I got in the states were disgusting. I was surprised to learn that Guinness in Ireland was smooth and easy. I began to question many of my assumptions about beer (and everything else, for that matter). In Bunratty, Ireland, at a pub called “Durty Nelly’s” I learned to pull a pint and to check my ego when it came to passing judgment.

In 2010, I moved to Ellensburg as a transfer student. I worked at Pizza Hut and spent a lot of time drinking wine and playing Mario Kart in my dorm room. I got my ass handed to me by Irish Death for the first time in the winter of my senior year; after that I retreated to my domestic beer roots and spent a fortune on 30-racks of Keystone. I had derailed my beer snob train and really hopped on the college party bandwagon.  

After finishing my master’s program at CWU, I moved to Lubbock, TX to begin a Ph.D. program at Texas Tech University. By this time, I was a full-blown feminist hippy determined to single-handedly bring down the patriarchy or die trying. I was talking and writing and reading about social power,intersectionality, and women’s right to public space – all the while coming to loathe the very different culture that Lubbock had in comparison to anywhere I’d been in Washington.

I didn’t know anyone in Lubbock and struggling to connect with the culture I eventually sought social interaction at a bar called “The Local.” The place fascinated me (for more reasons than the studly bartender). This bar had a vast beer selection – except every beer there was a Texas beer. I set about to try them all. Here I learned that, even if you think a place or experience is going to be horrible, if you look hard enough you will inevitably find a silver lining. Although “The Local” was a spot I came to enjoy, at a different bar,  my confidence and determination to get my own way got me seven stitches in my face and a deep feeling of homesickness. By mid-February, I was on a plane home for good. This was the year I learned that it’s sometimes better to sit down and shut up – to bend so you don’t get broken.    

I have been in Ellensburg ever since, building on all of the lessons I have learned. And, of course, beer is taking a leading role in that enterprise. I am excited to be working in an environment that fosters an appreciation for the product while simultaneously ignores traditional approaches to what it is “supposed” to be. This is the year I will learn to show gratitude for the life I am living while also rejecting the “conventional wisdom” of the systems that I exist in.   

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