I remember my first beer like most people remember the first time they heard Nirvana or saw the Mona Lisa. It wasn't that the experience was amazing, in fact the beer was a Michelob Amber bock and it was with my ex-fiance Aaron on his family's back deck. We had grilled dinner and were about to play Trivial Pursuit. I remember all the details. I am fairly certain I was wearing a red shirt and I know Aaron's earlobes were stretched enough to fit a beer cap in because his dad kept making fun of him.
The reason the experience is burned into my memory is because it was MY FiRST BEER. For a girl who grew up in a house where no one drank, beer was mysterious. Even my first few years of college if I was somewhere where people were drinking I dodged the stares by choosing Woodchuck hard cider. I was also a vegetarian hippie and most of my friends drank black coffee and loose leaf tea.
But this was BEER. And I hated it. Every sip. But I persevered because everyone else was drinking and enjoying themselves. I am probably the only 21 year old who was peer pressured into drinking by someone else's Mom and Dad. I wanted to fit in with this family I was marrying into.
I didn't have another beer until Grant and I had been married almost a year. I tried sips here and there but had discovered that even the diviest bars that Grant liked to frequent would make me a vodka and cranberry. So I gave up trying and just accepted that I was not a beer girl. Much to Grant's dismay. He would accuse me many times over the months of our young marriage that I had told him I loved beer when we were first dating. Which I had told him, because he was the kind of guy that was into that and I didn't think it was going anywhere with him anyway. A tiny fib. And I have lost track of the number of times I have been teased about that fib over the past ten years. Best to be yourself, ladies. You never know when a cigarette on the fire escape will turn into happily ever after.
Anyway, a year into our marriage we were living in New Orleans and I was still drinking vodka cranberries and hard cider. I was expensive to hang out with because you couldn't just buy me an Abita and sit down. Our friend Harrison Key was asking me why I didn't drink beer (probably annoyed because my drink was more than everyone else's) and gave me some advice. "Have a really light beer in the heat of the afternoon and you will start to like beer."
My interpretation of his advice went something like this: I went for a run in the heat of a Louisiana afternoon, then chugged a High Life. I then threw up on the sidewalk. More years passed before I tried my next beer.
We moved to State College and Grant began his PhD at Penn State. We bought a big old 1890's house and spent all our free time and money fixing it up. Grant is one of those peculiar beer lovers who feels strongly that certain activities require certain beers. Work outside is complimented with High Life or Yuengling. Work inside, including intellectual work like writing papers or reading methods textbooks, goes with local microbrews like Troegs Hop back or Victory Golden Monkey. There are beer rules.
And I decided that I could either learn the rules and play the game or sit and watch. It was also getting expensive to buy two six packs anytime we wanted to sit on our fantastic back porch and drink together. Add to that the fact that Grant refused to buy hard cider anywhere that people would recognize him, and you have a girl who was weary of always making the beer runs. It was time to get into beer.
I started with the goal of just finishing one. The hardest point is halfway, when the beer is a little warm and no longer sexy. But I persevered. I drank whatever Grant handed me and gave him feedback so he could gradually tailor my beer tastes. I set aside my strong feelings on gender equality and let him order beer for me when we were out. I felt like Deborah Kerr deferring to Gregory Peck.
And one day I realized that I was enjoying beer. I was ordering my own and asking questions if I didn't recognize a yeast or type of hops. I was not intimidated by the beer list at Zenos and actually had chosen a favorite beer. My champagne moment was sitting at a Belgian pub in Philadelphia on a girl trip with my friend Amy chatting up the bartender about what styles of Belgian Triples I liked. He told me he had a new one for me to try, and gave me a Triple Carmelit. The heavens parted and the beer angels sang. I sent a text picture to Grant and got an impressed thumbs up in return. That might have been my finest moment as the wife of a beer lover.
One thing Grant and I have found very important for the life of a marriage where two people have vastly different interests, is to get into the things the other person likes. It sounds simple, right?
And sometimes there is puking involved. It would have been so much easier if I had gotten into drinking in college like everybody else, but this is my story of how I became a beer lover in my 20's. And remind Grant why he is lucky that I was smart enough to choose him.