I’m just going to come out and say it: I miss Girl Beers.
For those who have no idea what that means, let me explain. My friends — male and female — tend to be beer drinkers^. I actually screen for this, as I refuse to be judged or forced to learn more about wine than I already know: I think I like Cabs, but I’m best in settings where my choices are pared down to “red” or “white.” I’ve always preferred beer (and beer times and conversations over beers) to other kinds of beverages one can order socially/go out for/gesture at others with while yelling your very correct points at them, and during my time in grad school, I’ve developed a bit of a beer palate. And I owe a lot of my beer preferences and associated snobbery to my friend Kim.
My first year of grad school — way back in 2004, when we were seven types of cuter than we are now* –we developed a routine that went something like this: At some point in the evening, my phone would ring and Kim would tell me where I was joining her to “work.” Then, after discussing whether or not I had to put on pants (for some reason, I was coping with stress by wearing lacrosse shorts around the house year-round), I would join her. And that’s how Kim more or less taught me about beer. Through regular meetings, Kim would help me figure out what I liked and what I should try. And I did. And it was good. In addition, at designated points in the semester (four, to be exact), we would have formal grading sessions over beers**. We would alternate who got to buy the six pack and we would do our best to match the beer to the season/holiday/occasion. For example, to grade Paper #2, which fell around Halloween, I bought Rogue Dead Guy. And while these times together are completely unforgettable, I was smacked in the face by the power of good memories last week when Kim wrote this piece about the highs and lows of our holiday-themed grading session*** on her beer blog, Will Write for Beer****.
As grad school wore on, life changed a bit for both of us and we couldn’t just be running around having beers and wearing shorts all the time (I blame my raging case of mono in Fall 2005 for throwing off the rhythm a bit), but Girl Beers remained a fixture of our friendship. Girl Beers wasn’t limited to time of day or day of week; it was an as needed (and much appreciated) event. And it was doubly nice in the aftermath of Sex and the City-esque pink cocktails, strange martini crazes, and other “lady-like” drinking expectations to call up some lady buddies, head out for the afternoon/evening, ask what’s on tap, and possibly stumble into a grilled cheese and tomato soup special.
So, what’s my point? Why write this, except that it’s the holidays, 2011 is sneaking up on me, and Kim lives in Kansas now, meaning that Girl Beers are a bit more trouble than a phone call? Well, that’s it, isn’t it? I’ve been looking back at the moments I value, came up with a snappy title, and wrote about something that mattered to me in the spirit of holiday goodwill and deep thought. Also, I’ve been trying to take it easy the past two days. And the inactivity is driving me a bit nuts, so I knew I was bound to write something.
Just so that this isn’t all navel-gazey, I’ll take a page out of Kim’s book and hand out some beer knowledge. It won’t be as fancy as hers, but here are a few of my favorite breweries and the beers they brew that I’m a big old fan of:
- Harpoon Brewery (Vermont/Massachusetts): UFO (both original and UFO white), Munich Dark, Harpoon IPA (Harpoon’s solid all around, though, so I would recommend the six-style mix case. Even though that six-style mix includes the Raspberry UFO, a controversial beer. But on the up side, on the bottom of the case they offer beer pairings, which always makes me feel fancy.)
- Otter Creek Brewing *****(Vermont): Stovepipe Porter (Awesome both during time in the snow and after. Remember that snow drifts are nature’s cooler. When spring rolls around, you can count your beers.)
- Victory Brewing Company (Pennsylvania): Whirlwind Wit, Baltic Thunder (One to refresh in the summer, one to get loaded in the winter.)
- Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, duh): Brooklyn Brown, Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Pennant Ale ’55 (Personal standbys, all.)
- Bells (Michigan): Oberon, Two-Hearted Ale (Again, a summer beer and a fall beer that gets a little dangerous if you forget that the “two” in “two-hearted” means double. Consider this a public service announcement. Learn from my mistakes/fun.)
- Goose Island ******(Chicago): 312 (Some day I’ll have another.)
- Long Trail Brewing Co. (Vermont): Ah, I like ’em all. I nearly peed myself in the beer store when I found out they expanded their distribution to Pennsylvania. Another time, a friend carried a bottle of Long Trail Ale out of a bar in his cargo pants pocket just to surprise me. It was awesome.
- Flying Dog Brewery (Maryland): Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale, In Heat Wheat Hefeweizen, Gonzo Imperial Porter. (Hunter Thompson references/Ralph Stedman-drawn labels. I would love them even if the beer was bad. But it’s not, so pluses all around.)
^ And I could tell a bunch of similar stories about all of them, since it seems that over the years we’ve developed a series of particular rituals over beers. But the sap factor’s pretty darn high here already, so I’ll tell their stories another day.
* Because we were enthusiastic about books, grad school, and being little academic go-getters. We’re a little saltier and non-academic these days, which makes us less idealistic but (I think) more fun. Looks-wise, we’re pretty much the same. If you were to chart us on a graph it would show a consistent level of cuteness. I would post a picture, but all of the photos of us were taken in that merciful period before Facebook when I was still using a film camera. Also, none of the pictures are appropriate for professionalish ladies to have following them on the Googles. Though, if you know me personally and want a laugh, come on over.
** Don’t worry, we’re professionals. Also, we’d usually only have a beer each. Try grading first-year writing papers and you’ll see how much tension leaves the room with the simple act of sitting a beer within arm’s reach.
***For the full story, read the comments as well as the post.
**** What can I say? The woman has a passion for alcohol-based education.
***** I can sometimes find a bottle of something they make at the beer store near my house. But it’s like spotting Yeti.
******Another beer I can’t get in PA. Possibly the only good thing about visiting some parts of the Midwest.