Posts Tagged ‘FIrst Beer’

Summer has arrived finally. The warm, somewhat humid, sunny day brought me to the beer store or, more correctly for the Live Free or Die state, the regular old grocery store, Hannaford. I rolled past the cooler windows looking for the just right brew for this bright summer day. I slid past all the IPA’s: Harpoon, Smuttynose, Red Hook, etc. I even passed up the thin little slot where the Harpoon Leviathan brew Imperial IPA sat. I went past the Guinness Extra Stout and even past the Sam Adams summer ales – summer this, summer that – wimp beer I say.

Pabst-1I know what was really on my mind – summer quantity – the volume pack – in cans – cold – budget priced, but… had to have the taste that came through in an ice cold can. Well it could have been Bud, which certainly fits that bill pretty much, except my summer brew secret is Pabst Blue Ribbon!

I’m not going to tell you that I would pour it into a pint glass and watch the head form, or remark on the grand color, or describe the array of tastes it releases. No, it is a thirst quencher first and foremost. It is crisp and clean, a touch of hops, a dry after taste but nothing to write home about. Pabst is durable and, unlike Bud, the last ounce in a slightly warmed up can doesn’t get skunked. None of that bad Bud aftertaste from the dregs.

One might wonder where Pabst has been over the years. They proudly write of the America’s Best award from 1893 on the cans. However as the Best Big Brewery they garnered awards in 2006 and 2007. Pabst serves as the brewery behind many old brands including Ballantine, Schlitz, Shaeffer, Olympia, Blatz and on and on.ourPortfolio-1

Pabst six

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 ballentineSo after trashing Dogfish Head Fort the other night I got to thinking. Why did the three of us take exception to mixing raspberries with beer.   What in that combination or any fruit/beer combo turns us way off… like when someone buys a Sam Adams sampler and gets the Cranberry Lambic which gets slid to the way back of the fridge and left for that desperate night when  no cash, no beer, dark and rainy, and no nearby-open-store,  coincide to make us reach… reach past the partly used Ranch dressing, past the barbecue sauce from last summer, past the leftover slice of pizza and latch onto the Lambic. I think it is in the way  we enter the beer world.

If I open a bottle of beer, which I must clarify, I lean toward ale and am partial to stout, porter, IPA and that ilk, then I have expectations. When I first drank Flemish Sour Ale I thought something had gone horribly wrong in the brewery. Only when I prepared myself for the Sour was I able to appreciate its character. That doesn’t mean I then loved it… I appreciated what it was and I thought of the cold, damp, spring of Flanders and the Ale House, ancient and well loved by the local craftsmen talking about the bicycle racing season just begun on the cobbled farm roads and mud.

My first taste, the eye opening, permanently implanting memory of that remarkable fluid, beer, occurred when I was about eleven years old at a boy scout gathering of some sort. My father, my older brother and I spent that warm early summer day watching and enjoying various activities. A haze fills most of that day except for the clear, sunny skies, the smell of warm, spring earth and damp grass. My father stood at the horseshoe pitch with the other fathers. I tagged along, my brother was out of sight. The men had green bottles in their hands; I wish I could say for sure but I always thought of them as Ballantine Ale bottles. It was a common ale for the old timers. I might add that when I was eleven Ike was President of the US.

Nevertheless, my father – not particularly a beer drinker- handed me his bottle while he stood up to toss the old iron shoes. I remember the dirt, moist and dark, the smell of good earth like behind the Forsythia bushes down near the stone foundation at home. I remember the kahki work pants that my father and nearly all the men wore on Saturday, heavy and soft from wear.I remember the dungarees that I wore with the rolled up cuffs and broken-in feel, the feel of jeans that in those days came from hard use, not purchased that way. I remembered the cold green bottle that I grasped by the neck. And I remember holding it up to my lips and tilting, the fluid sliding down my throat. 

That taste, that day, stayed with me. A bitter, hoppy, strong after-taste ale. Ever after I measured beer with that first taste, the early Knickerbocker, Ballantine – the true gen, the GIQ’s of Pabst or Knick or Schaefer of my early high school years. They had to have that earthy strength, always reminding me of the damp earth of the early summer day with my father.

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