I drank straight from the can. I would have poured it into a glass but none were clean. I sat on my dirty couch amid squalour and gloom, binging on mindless television. The fantasy on the screen didn't stop my eye from straying over the stack of rejection letters piling up on the coffee table, but the beer helped a little. Life was running away without me, and I was caught in that blend of lethargy and resentment that leaves me steps behind the world.
The beer was a Crosswinds Pale Ale from the Lake of Bays Brewing Company. It was a gift from my mother, who thought I’d find it interesting. I suppose it did engage my attention, but only as a mild curiosity. It was bland for a craft beer, mirroring my mood. The label claimed “notes of citrus and a clean landing,” but I only tasted bitterness.
And I reveled in it.
Bitterness is the backbone of beer. Despite an endless variety of brews, there's always a taste that sits at the back of your throat, asking you to spit it out. Domestic lagers try to force this taste out, watering down their formula until they lose everything except the slightest twinge of hops. Palatable to the masses.
Those of us who enjoy beer in its variety are suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Truth is, nobody likes beer the first time they drink it. After all the hype from television and teens, the first time you try Lucky Lager at the bush party behind Katlin’s house it will let you down.
If this is your first disappointment in life it won’t be your last. Later that year when you ask her to the spring formal she will laugh in your face. Your first job, which you were so optimistic about, will be a chaotic mess of incompetence and abusive management. As will your second, and third, and so on. And when you think you've found love, when you are ready to share all that you are with another, the skin of the relationship will flake away, revealing a hollow space where you are more alone than you were before.
Bitterness is the taste of life. Dress it up however you like. Try to hide it under the fresh spice of celebration, or the malty taste of contentment, but you will always come down with a bitter landing.
I've acquired the taste for beer, but never the taste for life.
Conor is not an alcoholic. He is an engaged and passionate person who does about half as much distraught navel-gazing as this blog would suggest. He has an aptitude for communication and a passion for storytelling. When he finds he has free time he plays silly games and enjoys good beer.