A beverage resolution

September 3, 2013

Autumn officially begins in a few weeks, and “meteorological fall” began Sept. 1, but here on my back porch I can tell you that it’s very likely to begin sometime later today or tonight. There’s a change in the weather. The lenticular clouds, forming a patchy, ribbed ceiling at roughly 20,000 feet (estimating that by sighting my extended thumb with one eye), suggest cold air coming in at altitude. With seasonal change comes, as always, hope for renewal, recalibration, and reinvention. For example, I’m thinking of shocking the world and becoming someone who is known for the extent to which he is a knowledgable and enthusiastic consumer of beer.

You scoff. You say: Dude, you’re a wine drinker. And I’m telling you that I’m full of surprises. Trust me, I’m a lot more enigmatic than you think, and that includes my beverage preferences. I know some would argue that vowing to drink more beer is an example of being excessively aspirational. You caution: Don’t set your goals too high, or you’ll be sorely disappointed. We all know how our major resolutions usually turn out. But remember the famous saying: A man’s reach cannot exceed his grasp, or maybe it’s that a man’s grasp cannot exceed his reach. Either way, it’s profound and unforgettable, and what I’m envisioning right now, hovering there at the very end of my reach and/or grasp, and then settling into the palm as neatly as a hot dog into a bun, is a brewski.

Up until now, on this eve of my personal transformation, I’ve liked beer fine, and have been known to enjoy a malted refreshment like any other person. But I could never claim, honestly, to be a beer aficionado. I like microbrews, but I also like macrobrews. I haven’t even developed a fully formed position on the issue of bottles versus cans. Instinctively I think I like the cans, because it reminds me of my childhood, and the litter along the highways and stream beds. Discarded beer cans are the way we southerners tell the rest of the world that there are good times to be had, right here on this muddy river bank where the mullet are jumpin’. (“Gone fishin’” is, of course, a euphemism for “Gone drinkin’ a whole mess o’ beer.”)

When they invented the cans where the mountains turn blue if the beer is sufficiently cold, that got my attention. That made me think, “We are blessed to live in this Age of Technology.”

Growing up, I learned to drink beer at the end of a hard day of serious labor. We’d pull into the drive-through beverage mart in the 1964 Chevy pickup with the steel bed and buy us a 6-pack of Tuborg Gold. Unfortunately I often struggled to quaff the bitter beverage, seeing as how I was but a teenager and not fully mature, and retained a child’s revulsion of anything bitter. It took me years to learn to drink a beer like a man. Much of my life has been devoted to the training of my palate. When you get your palate to where you want it to be, you feel empowered, like you have leverage on lesser mortals. It’s important not to be smug about it, though. People can sense it when you’re doing that whole “palate superiority” thing.

Looking up from my laptop, I see the clouds have shifted again, thickening, growing darker, the ceiling coming down. Maybe the big change-over isn’t coming as quickly as I thought.

But I can be patient. I’m not going anywhere. That’s actually a nice feeling, too. Sure, change and reinvention and recalibration is great, but so is the opposite of all that. That’ll be a subject to address later – the virtues of inflexibility, immutability and total congealment.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach | August 30, 2013