My hatred of beer has felt like an albatross hanging around my neck since my teens. I just don't like the taste of it, and I’d really like to just be able to declare that and stand in my truth, but as far back as I can remember, telling people that I don't drink beer has elicited responses like ooooh, pardon me your majesty let me open up a bottle of our finest champagne for ya…
I understand that certain elements of my appearance (height, posture, eyebrows???) tend to give off an air of stick-up-my-ass-ness that usually dissolves within moments of actually meeting or talking with me, but that darn beer aversion sticks out like a sore personality trait thumb. It is the truth within the lie that lends it credence, the concrete evidence that people can point to in “proving” their misconception about me. I don’t like champagne either, by the way, which is somehow difficult for people to believe.
That's all still relatively copacetic and shouldn’t be thaaaaat big a deal though, right? I'm an adult who needn’t feel ruled by other’s ideas about me. But the beer thing feels huge to me because I feel left out. I want to like it. I want to be able to get my beverage of choice at the grocery store like everyone else and not be the person in the group who requires a separate trip to the liquor store.
(This could also be accomplished by simply moving back to California, or a state with more inclusive liquor merchant laws, like Nevada, where the grocery stores have massive wine and alcohol selections. Even the Rite-Aid and 7-11 there are liquor purveyors, but I'm in NY for the foreseeable future. Sigh.)
Never again do I want to watch a friendly bartender at a sports bar or pub barely suppress a grimace as I ask what kinds of red wine they have. And never again do I want to drink said wine, usually a sad bottle of cheap, headache-inducing swill ordered by the proprietor out of obligation and left to sit, ordered as infrequently as it is by jackholes like me who won’t just drink beer.
I've tried so many different beers over the years. I'm fine with most liquors that are not tequila, and I'm more than fine with rum and vodka in particular, but sometimes I’d like to just crack open a casual brewski (?) and not be the person watching the baseball game ordering a cocktail like a dingbat.
Beer tastings, recommendations from bartenders and experts, I've tried it all, and although classmates used my mature appearance to purchase beer for basement parties, every time I tried to drink one, I gagged.
I was able to drink a Zima here and there, but only after letting a jolly rancher dissolve in the bottom first. Classy!
Beyond that, I can't even do a “hard lemonade,” cider, wine cooler, or any of the other malt beverages on the market. They all taste like preludes to nausea. I've even recently tried those [Flavor]- a Rita joints in my quest for a basic beverage and I was convinced that I had gotten an accidentally spoiled batch, until I later tried a few other varieties and found that they all taste like an unfortunate accident.
Every couple of years, someone I meet hears of my beer hatred and swears up and down that they’ve got THE ONE. The one beer that will change my mind. From microbrews to varieties I could barely pronounce, they all taste like variations on a nauseating theme to me. There's one cider that's traditionally served with a lemon wedge that came close to not being disgusting, but it still had that same aftertaste of rancid pisswater, just with a refreshing hint of lemon.
It’s possible that my anti-beer stance was formed while I was still learning to form words. I don't have many baby pictures of myself, but I recently came across this one and was told/reminded that my father would frequently let me “finish off” his beer.
I showed this to my father without saying a word except “look what I found,” and the first thing he said was “haha that's beer I was giving you, I’m sure of it.” I have no memory of that day, but I do recall being offered the backwash of a Heineken bottle and I've seen enough older West Indian men giving babies the last sips of their beers in my day to know that I was included in this foolishment.
“You loved beer!” my father said, cluelessly. I imagine I would have liked almost anything my father gave me repeatedly because I craved his attention and also I was a baby, but sure, Dad. What you said.
I almost think it's too on-the-nose to link my beer hatred with my daddy issues, but there’s a chance it could be like the aversion that develops when a child who tries cigarettes is forced to smoke a pack and then never touches them again. Like, maybe I had so much beer as a baby and small child that I’m just sick of it now? That felt as ridiculous to type as I imagine it does to read, by the way, but here we are.
Anyway, it doesn't matter now because I found myself a beer! I was shopping at a grocery store that was fancier than my usual grocery spots, and as such it had sample tables sprinkled throughout. I walked by a table teeming with beer bottles, and the sample person offered me one. I simply said “No, thank you.”
There was a long line at the registers, which is where I was headed, and it was so backed up that I could only move about a foot before I was technically on line, so the beer sample fella kept persisting in offering me one of his little Dixie cups of the stuff.
He was just doing his job, and being quite genial about it, so I wasn’t even remotely irritated, but after a few more general protests, I told him directly, “No, I just don’t drink beer. None of it. I hate the stuff.”
He replied with a genuine “Cool! Well then you’ll love this!” that was worthy of P.T. Barnum himself. Intrigued and clearly stuck there regardless because of the long line, I decided to at least look at the bottle.
The Best Damn Root beer, huh? Well I like root beer in non-alcoholic, soft-drink form. So I gave it a shot. And it’s great. Really, really great. It doesn’t taste like “just root beer;” there’s definitely a beer-ish taste in there, but it’s not the distasteful funk that so turns my stomach. It’s also got a bit more alcohol by volume than straight beer, so hellooooooo there buzz, don’t mind if I do!
Since trying it and loving it* and doing my Googles, I’ve learned that The Best Damn Root Beer, made by established beer pros Anheuser-Busch, is part of a new crop of iterations on the old flavor to have hit the market recently, “hard root beers.” As I mentioned above, “hard” drinks make me gag just like regular old beer, so I’m pleasantly surprised that this hard root beer hits the spot so thoroughly.
And then there’s my admittedly silly yet thoroughly real-feeling psychological element. Is it childish of me to want so badly to participate in what I see as a simple, commonplace beverage ritual? Maybe. Am I excited to finally do so without gagging? Absolutely! There’s something so fun to me about buying a six-pack, popping off that bottlecap, and tipping back a bottle. I’ve felt left out for so long, and I hate that some used my beer abstinence to prop up their gendered BS about who drinks what.
Maybe the novelty will wear off, but for now, I’m a beer-guzzling mama and I like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some popcorn to pop and a baseball game to watch.
* Beyond that first sample sip, nothing was provided for free, nor was any promotional consideration paid in any way, shape, or form. Just excited about the beer, for real.