Thoughts on beer.


The country singer Tom T. Hall may have captured my thoughts exactly when he wrote his immortal ode to the magic of hops: “I Like Beer”.

The chorus explains it well:

I like beer. It makes me a jolly good fellow.
I like beer. I helps me unwind and sometimes it makes me feel mellow.
Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much, vodka puts my mouth in gear.
This little refrain should help me explain as a matter of fact I like beer.

A wise Benjamin Franklin observed that: “Beer was proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

I tried to develop a taste for wines once in an attempt to be more sophisticated, but ended up giving away my wine rack. It all tasted slightly like grape kool-aid to me, no matter how much it cost.

While I do think highly of champagne (it seems closer to beer than wine, anyway), I agree with Mr. Hall that the cost of the good stuff makes it an expensive treat.

However, at the risk of appearing a “beer snob”, I don’t drink most of what is sold at the convenience store. I said I like BEER. Real honest, to goodness beer! Not “lite” beer, or the other mass-produced can-o-chemicals stuff. The great thing about beer, as opposed to wine or champagne, is that the really great stuff is still fairly inexpensive. I just grabbed two cases of the Samuel Adams brew-master variety packs for about $22 a case at the Austin Sam’s Club. Great beers at less than a buck each!

A case of Stella (light and refreshing) runs just a bit more. Sam’s Club used to stock my personal favorite, Newcastle Brown Ale (nectar of the gods!), but they have since discontinued it. I look for it on sale at the grocery store and stock up when I can. Bass Ale is also high on my beer lust-list.

However, now and then a Shiner Bock also tastes great and reminds me of my struggling days when I first came to Austin in the mid-1980’s. It was the national beverage of South Austin at the time. A close friend, Danny R. Young, (who has since gone to his eternal rest) really sold me on the stuff. I owned a woodworking business at the time and he was my single-best customer over the years. We would sometimes savor a Shiner Bock or two late at night after finishing project at his restaurant (the somewhat famous Young’s Texicalli Grille, in South Austin). Google it! It will be part of your South Austin history lesson.

Danny Young was also the person who introduced me to Newcastle Brown Ale when we ventured into a little downtown Austin place called the Dog and Duck Pub. He called it the “Arf and quack”.

There are friend, good friends, and best friends. Then there are those friends who open your world to Newcastle Brown Ale on tap. If there is a category above best friend, it would apply here.

Cheers, Danny.

Now, as with all pleasures in life, one must show a modicum of moderation. Good beers are not something to be consumed rapidly and in mass quantities. They are full, rich, and filling. They satisfy.

One theory of civilization is that we owe our transition from hunter-gathers to agricultural societies because of beer, not bread. Take some grains and toss them in water and they ferment. Wow, what was that! Tastes good and makes one feel a bit better after a hard day of chasing something to eat. Hey, let’s have somebody spend their time making this stuff!

My daughter Jennifer, a graduate of the Texas Culinary Academy, wrote a somewhat scholarly paper on this theory as part of her course-work.

I will occasionally get draft beer when I go out, as a special treat. As mentioned before, Newcastle on tap is nirvana. However, alcohol served outside the home is usually more than I want to spend and I really don’t care to drink and drive. Austin drivers are some of the worst in Texas (our accident rates are 1/3rd higher than the Texas average). I “play defense” by being extra sober. Since I often travel on a 250 cc scooter around town (it is cheap and fun), I don’t want to risk even a split-second off my reaction times.

Anyway, I generally associated beer with the end of the day. It is something to savor when the day’s labors are done. It is quiet, and one is reading news or playing a computer game. Whatever good or ill was accomplished that day is behind you now. A cold bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Ale (tonight’s treat) is your reward for getting through it all once again.

Now, please excuse me while I rummage through the beer fridge.

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