‘s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.
Greetings and happy Fall Equinox, faithful readers. Sorry for missing my September post. Take this slightly longer post as a partial apology.
There is no word in English for how I feel this time of year. Fall to me — and even here in Texas, it’s starting to feel fall-ish — is equal parts joy and sadness, a particular wistful amusement when I look back at what’s past and look forward to what’s ahead. An edge of chill on the breeze, a couple of days without sun, and I wander down memory lane with wild abandon.
Interestingly enough, one of those triggers of memory for a lot of people seems to be beer. If I see, for example, an ad for Old Style (sadly, I don’t see those very often in Austin) — it’s not the beer it reminds me of, but rather sitting in my great-grandparents’ house on Macon Street in Decatur, Illinois. I hear the late Jack Brickhouse saying “Welcome to Chicago Cubs baseball brought to you by Old Style!” As a counterpoint, I hear my late great-grandfather complain about the chronic ineptness of my beloved Cubbies (and in the mid-seventies, they were bad).
Was I conscious of my surroundings at the time? Did I treasure them? Heck, I was seven or eight years old. I consider it doubtful I treasured much past my comic books. But now, in retrospect, that memory is inexorably linked to Old Style — and if I could get it in Texas, I’d probably drink one or two now and again.
Some beers are like that. You don’t drink them because they’re breathtaking examples of the brewers’ art. You drink them because they are, in the words of Jeremy Irons , a personal time machine.
A good example of this is what I call the LUL, or Local Ubiquitous Lager. (My term, feel free to steal it.) Every small country has a LUL — it’s what they drink in the local joints and wash down the local food specialties with. I carry a wide variety of these. Cusquena (Peru), Almaza (Lebanon), Famosa (Guatemala), Tona (Nicaragua), Singha (Thailand) — the list goes on and on. Sometimes I sell them to expatriates nostalgic for a beer from home. Sometimes they are bought by the adventurous. Either way, they’re reliable beers, usually lagers or pilsners, designed to be food friendly and quick-drinking. You can, truly, drink yourself around the world if you want. Come check out my selection at the Galleria, and you too can start putting little beer-shaped pins on the map of the world.
(I have one regret — I have no indigenous African beers in my cooler. Yet. Maybe some enterprising distributor will read this and change that.)
Another example of how memory plays into beer drinking is the college beer. Come on, most of us had one — admit it. Mine was Wiedemann’s, brewed in Evansville, Indiana. Myself and several friends drank a lot of Wiedemann’s in the late eighties. I have regular customers for beers like Pearl and Lone Star — I suspect that part of the appeal is remembering when we were young and, yes, broke. (Wiedemann’s was, if I recall, three bucks or so for a twelve-pack of cans. One of the local pizza places had a four-dollar single-topping pie. That was a lot of my diet back then, which explains why I look like pre-diet John Goodman.)
Finally, there’s the beer you remember from a special occasion in your life. The first night I kissed my now-wife, we were drinking Sam Adams Summer Ale. Because of that emotional connotation, I try to have a bottle or two every so often when it comes out.
From an objective viewpoint, none of these beers are going to win critical raves and prestigious beer awards. From where I stand, however, they mean something. I encourage all of you to try new beers and make your own memories. Maybe, twenty years from now, you’ll be telling stories like I am now.