This is my testimony. I drink a lot of coffee and probably more than my fair share of beer these days, and as such I was thinking about how funny it is that I like either one because of how much I used to hate them both. So I thought I would tell my story and intersperse with some general thoughts on the matter. If you missed Part 1, click here.
Oh, beer. Good gracious, I love a good beer. And good is a relative and often situational term. At a bar for some sort of professional function? That’s an IPA occasion. Just finished doing a bunch of yardwork? Well, then it’s time for something cheap and cold like Coors Light. Cold weather, fire in the fireplace, and a good book? That’s time for something heavier like a stout or porter. We have even talked about the best beers you’ll ever have before.
Beer, like coffee, is another beverage that is an acquired taste, and a taste that most folks seem to acquire in college. I didn’t drink in high school because I: A) was afraid of getting caught by my parents; B) was afraid of getting caught by my coaches; C) didn’t like the few sips my parents had let me have over the years; and D) wasn’t an adult who realized how nice a beer could be in certain situations. But starting with my freshman year of college, I was on a mission to like beer.
The year was 2007. There were Hollisters and Abercrombie & Fitches in every mall, spray tans on every face, and Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” on literally every radio station. I was an honors student moving into a dormitory at Texas State University in San Marcos (I later made a great personal decision by transferring to Texas A&M University, but the Texas State Bobcats and the city of San Marcos still hold special places in my heart). And, like so many others, it was my first opportunity to live a life that was as completely my own as it could be at the time.
As freshmen do, I decided to go to a few parties during new student orientation just to see what college could be like. I never had any inclination to go Greek, but I figured I’d go to some frat parties because those were…literally the only parties I knew about. And I saw some crazy stuff. Ice luge, huge pyramids of empty cans, competitive beer pong, a guy who was like 40 for some reason, and literal trashcans full of what we called “jungle juice” or “trashcan punch,” which was essentially Kool-Aid with literally any and every type of liquor anyone could add to such a thing.
I grabbed a Keystone Light at a Kappa Alpha party, took one sip, and hated it. I tried to power through the whole can, but I couldn’t do it. I went outside, found a corner where I could pee, and just left the can there. I still feel bad about littering, but to be fair that was a pretty mild act in comparison with the frat idiots who just left Styrofoam crap, fast food wrappers, Solo cups, ping pong balls, and myriad other things just out on the yard. I went back in, grabbed a Solo cup, ladled some jungle juice into it, and mingled.
I tried to enjoy beer a few more times in the 2007–2008 school year, but each time it was just unpleasant. I did, however, discover that I enjoyed the taste of bourbon, so I was perfectly content with my Evan Williams and 7Up. (As a brief aside, now I still love bourbon but can’t have it with soda anymore because it’s too sweet. My preferred bourbon is Four Roses, poured generously over ice cubes.) And so I transferred to A&M after that year and took up residence with my best friend Alan and his sister April at an apartment complex in College Station, Texas. April was a senior and well acquainted with beer, and Alan had begun brewing beer with his dad in high school as a hobby, so I was in the constant presence of two beer connoisseurs.
One evening I told them I wanted to like beer, and tasked them to help me with it: Hold me accountable, make me finish any beer I open, and help me get through to the other side with a penchant for beer. That’s what I wanted. Our collective idea was to start with something cheap and work our way up. While this normally would have meant more Keystone, I decided to splurge for the extra $1.50 per twelve pack and get Coors Light. Then, because I can remember my dad saying that beer on tap tasted better than any other form of beer, I poured my Coors Light into a pint glass.
I hated it at first. I really did. I couldn’t enjoy it. I’d be sitting on our couch playing Mario Kart on N64, trying as hard as I could to get some sort of enjoyment out of the cold, bitter beverage, but to no avail. I went to a party and tried beer pong, which did help because it was basically taking shots of beer, but still I had a bit of an aversion. Then one day we had an epiphany. I needed a better situation. One more conducive to a basic, primitive enjoyment of beer. And we had just the solution.
Back then, Texas A&M was in the Big 12 Conference and played football against other Texas teams like the University of Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor. One weekend in late September the Aggies had a home game against a Big 12 opponent, and Alan and April’s uncle had a great tailgate spot right outside the football stadium. You should know that September in that part of Texas generally means temperatures in the 90s with 80% humidity or so. Really hot, really sweaty, really great for a beer. So we showed up to the tailgate, which of course was blazing hot because I think the football game was an evening kickoff or something and the tailgate was hitting its peak at the hottest part of the day.
We had walked from our apartment to the stadium, so we were already pretty tired by the time we got there. And then it happened: When someone offered me something to drink, I said, “I’ll take a beer” without even thinking about it. I surprised myself a bit. Someone handed me a Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower, and I just went to town. I think I drank it down in two or three gulps at most. It was perfect. It was ice cold, light, crisp, and refreshing. It was like a Gatorade commercial where some athlete gets their second wind after having some lemon-lime at halftime, except this was a chubby  year old who was uncomfortably sweaty and dreading the thought of A&M getting walloped by a conference opponent.
From then on, it was different. I had a beer anytime I was outside and hot. Then that quickly became having a beer when it was hot outside even though I was inside, which because we were about an hour and half from Houston was basically every day until November. Then that became having beer at parties, which became having a beer after class and/or work, which became just having a beer on a Saturday morning after my coffee.
Then I began trying fancy beers. IPAs, pale ales, bocks, trippels, dunkels, hefeweizens, Texan, American, Mexican, European, even a couple of Asian beers. I bought one of those comically large cans of Foster’s, which years later I learned isn’t really drank much in Australia. But I became curious about beer and began drinking them more regularly. Don’t get me wrong. It was never a problem. I didn’t drink any more than any other normal college kid, but I did drink at least as often as most other college kids.
For a while I even became a snob. I would go to beer bars like The Flying Saucer and judge people who didn’t get some sort of cool beer instead of a run-of-the-mill Shiner or even Bud, Coors, or Miller. I would peruse the beer aisles at grocery and liquor stores, paying a premium to build my own six pack of stuff I hadn’t tried yet. I tried pairing beer with food. My Texan pride came out when I began buying Lone Star and doing the puzzles on the caps (I eventually had a collection of about 350 puzzles or so, but my wife wisely suggested I get rid of those when we got married because I was 30 and not  anymore.) The one pictured is “Face the Facts,” by the way if anyone was curious. I even decorated my graduation cap to look like a Lone Star label.
Today I’m much more laid back about that, and everything else for that matter. I love Lone Star, and I do love a good IPA, but I don’t judge people for the beer they drink because it’s a stupid thing to judge someone for. I also appreciate cheap beers, especially when doing something outside like playing golf or mowing the lawn.
But the lesson is that beer is an acquired taste. Is it necessary in life to like beer? Absolutely not. My sister doesn’t like beer and I don’t think any less of her for it. It’s weird that beer is an acquired taste, though. I mean, evidence suggest beer has been brewed for the last 13,000 years, and the oldest confirmed use of barley to make beer dates from 3,500 BCE! Crazy, right! And you’d think that if humans have been brewing and drinking beer since the literal Stone Age, we’d have evolved some natural taste for it. But then again, I suppose human evolution is a bit finicky, and I’m not a scientist, so I doubt I understand it at all.
I will tell one brief story to emphasize a point I’d like to make about society as a whole. Beer in the United States has taboo around it. You’re not supposed to drink it early in the day, or at work, or even on your lunch break from work. And there’s an idea that when people drink beer they binge drink. But I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to places like Germany, Austria, France, and Ireland, where daytime beers are not a big deal. In Germany I saw men and women in business suits having a beer with lunch, talking about business stuff. They ate their currywurst and fries, drank a beer or two, then went right back to work, where they no doubt got many things done with typical German efficiency. So why is that so frowned upon here? I mean, I’ve had beers at lunch before and my output at work was completely unaffected. Oh, well. Whatever. I don’t like looking to Europe for guidance on anything, but I think we’d do well to follow their example here.
But anyway, cheers! Have a happy Saturday and a happy Memorial Day weekend! Na zdraví!