A Love-Hate Affair With Beer

When I started drinking beer as a full-fledged legal drinker, my only experience was four previous years of beers whose names I never knew, and honestly didn’t care to know. Taste didn’t matter. I would never go to a Kappa Sig party and ask a brother, “excuse me, what’s on tap tonight?” There were no choices, just red Solo cups full of pure, unadulterated bacchanalia and mayhem awaiting the party. After graduating and moving to Washington, D.C., I was able to afford “better” beer but had no idea what to order so I would stick with anything that had the word “Light” attached to it. Imagine my disgust at the thick, foamy, dark sludge known as Guinness. Amber was the darkest color my eyes and taste buds could take. The only Irish beer I could afford to regularly order and handle was a Harp. I absolutely HATED anything else. Travels to Mexico would consist of my undergraduate habit of Corona with lime; my Canadian excursions would mentally limit me to Labbatt or Molson. To try anything “exotic” (i.e. craft beer) was not yet in the realm of possibilities after trying a stout. (Note: I grew up a picky eater and I also hated avocados because they were green. Don’t get me started on guacamole, which I now love.)

For many years I despised most types of beer and food only because my mind told me so. My brain cells and taste buds couldn’t handle anything beyond my comfort zone. For many of us, certain beers are either hated or loved. There is no grey area, and I have witnessed this many times pouring beer for customers. Some will admit that they only buy one brand and I always applaud their efforts for at least trying something handcrafted and full of flavor. Others will make faces that look as if I had just tortured them with their worst liquid nightmare. Immediately they dump out the rest of their small sample of poison. It’s obvious they hate this witches’ brew but will never utter those words to me so as not to hurt my feelings. Others will take one big gulp in order to get it over with and not really get the full flavor of a craft beer. Again, I thank the sheepish and almost non-willing customer for sampling something new to them.

Ask me what my favorite beer is and I couldn’t tell you. Ask me what I love and I will give you a long list of many styles of ales and lagers I adore. Ask me what I hate and I’ll have no answer. Ask me what my least favorite styles of beer are and I will easily tell you Scottish Ales and anything smoky. Love and hate are very definitive words. Depending on the subject, I’m sure I could come up with something worth hating. For some drinkers certain beers walk a fine line on the pleasure or the pain scale. In the wonderful world of craft beer, we have a plethora of choices with which to make our own judgments. Like art, taste is subjective. That’s the beauty of the broad spectrum of what we have in our world. My only concern is the overuse of the words “love” and “hate” when it comes to taste, even when I look at my younger self who refused to try any beers that weren’t some type of light lager. I now enjoy a foamy stout that leaves a mustache on my upper lip and can’t get enough of guacamole. No more limes in my Corona unless I’m on a beach (never in a bottle but in a michelada) but if someone else plops a lime, covers the top of the bottle with his or her thumb and vigorously shakes it upside down, instead of hating what he or she just did, I’ll say “cheers!”

In this month of February where gimmicky hearts and love is emphasized EVERYWHERE until the 15th when red is discarded and heart shaped boxes of chocolate are immediately 50% off and abruptly replaced with all things green and clover leaf shaped, it’s no wonder the words “love” and “hate” are so overused in our society. I hated green food and now I enjoy most of it. I hated dark beer and now can’t get enough of the stuff. So the next time you are ready to order your go-to beer, ask the bartender for a sample of something you’ve never tried or heard of. You might like it, or heck, even love it! Cheers!

Adapted from Table Hopping, February 2015

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