Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

September 4, 2009

Beer Diary:

An Ode To A Summer Beer

Nothing reminds you of a summer thankfully long gone more than a scorchingly bitter beer.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Every summer produces a memorable beer, but the foundation of the memories usually comes with what was going on when you drank the beer instead of the actual beer itself. Yet the beer becomes a taproot back to that instant in the past, so that every first sip of that beer thence transports you back—if only for a flash of a half-second—to that moment where summer seemed endless and full of opportunities that you were sure would irrevocably change your life for the better. Until, of course, the day after Labor Day when you realized that instead you just got older, fatter, and more bitter. At least the beer was good, though.

A few summers back, for instance, I played softball. Yeah, you’d think Eddie Glick and sports wouldn’t mix, bu the games were at night, so no chance of my pasty skin getting scorched a healthy bright red, and it got me out of the house the same night Ma and Slick had their weirdo swinger parties. Plus softball—with the exception of bowling—is the ultimate fat guy-friendly sport. We didn’t have rules quite like in that episode of the Simpsons (“You can’t leave first until you chug a beer. Any man scoring has to chug a beer. You have to chug a beer at the top of all odd-numbered innings. Oh, and the fourth inning is the beer inning.”) but the rare event of one of us hitting it out of the infield on the fly did elicit a cheer from the two drunks in the stands that were still conscious and paying attention.

I’m sure the owner didn’t want his bar to be associated with our embarassingly bad play.
Since the level of play was a bit excruciating to watch—let alone participate in—the best part of the season, of course, was afterward, when we all piled into our beat-up cars and rumbled over to the bar across town that actually got duped into sponsoring a team of fat losers. The owner must have caught on quick, though, because we didn’t even get t-shirts with the name of the bar on it like all the other teams did. Either that or he didn’t want his bar associated with our embarassingly bad play.

Embarassment, though, should have been the least of the bar’s worries, because this place was a dive bar in every sense of the word. On any given weeknight, there was usually someone passed out at the end of the bar when we got there. At 8:00. The jukebox was stuck in 1991, which was about the last time the floor had been mopped. The food was double-deep-fried anything—it really didn’t matter what was inside that rock-hard, oil-soaked breading because it all looked and tasted the same anyway. And the beer list was borderline criminal: Bud, Bud Light, and “blue smoothie”—Busch Light. There was tap beer, but you took your life into your hands when you drank anything that came out those lines—if they weren’t clogged shut. And, in the back of the glass-doored cooler you could see from the other side of the bar, for some inexplicable reason, Bell’s Two Hearted. It was a weird anomaly and, for this beer dork, a godsend.

The beer list at this bar was borderline criminal.
And they served that beer cold. Tongue shockingly so. Which on a hot, muggy August night was not unappreciated, even though it basically killed the taste of the beer. But it worked out almost perfectly for me. I sat in the corner—on the other end of the bar from the passed-out wino—and nursed my Two Hearted while everyone else on the team pounded watery shit beer. Since I had to drive afterward I took it slow (Two Hearted being 7 percent ABV), which meant by the time I was halfway through, the beer had warmed up enough for that blast of Centennial bitterness mixed perfectly with the surprisingly rich malt backbone and tangy Bell’s house yeast to tickle my taste buds. It was like getting the best of both worlds: an ice-cold summer brew to cool you down, followed by a big, pleasingly complex IPA to keep the rest of the night interesting.

One night about midsummer I had just ordered my first Two Hearted, and when the bartender dug into the back of the cooler it appeared I was getting the last one. Panicked, I asked her if they were out of Two Hearted. “We’ve got cases of that stuff in the back,” she said with a laugh. “You’re the only one that ever drinks it.”

To this day Bell’s Two Hearted, especially when it’s served a tad too cold, reminds me of that summer of sore feet, cramped legs, a severely bruised ego, and all being right with the world.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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