In the beginning…
There was beer. As a rebellious, newly legal-age drinker, I refused to drink the brand of beer my father drank. In my young mind, it carried the stigma of dad beer; budget-friendly, old-fashioned swill drunk by pot-bellied, blue-collar, middle-aged men. Instead I headed out to the local store to buy my own six-pack.
A few blocks from our little Cape Cod style house on its less than quarter acre lot was a German delicatessen and grocer where my parents sent me on errands for milk, bread, or a pack of cigarettes. On the wall opposite the counter was a cooler stocked with colorful cans and bottles of beer, some six-packs, others sold as singles. A few imports and the trendier Michelob and Coors flanked the more prominently displayed icons of the time, Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schaefer, and Rheingold.
It seemed like only yesterday I had been picking luminously colored jellybeans from the candy counter, and now, at 18, I could choose from vibrant, adult market labeling with effervescent liquid gold inside. The German import Lowenbrau with its gold lion label caught my attention. Wasn’t beer invented in Germany and therefore Lowenbrau should be among the best? Or was it the commercial jingle working its subliminal magic on the decision-making part of my brain.
“Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special. The beer you pour must say something more, tonight…Let it be Lowenbrau.”
Having selected the brand of beer, I was now faced with the dilemma of choosing between a premium dark lager or the lighter original version since I only had enough money for one six-pack. Not to let such an obstacle stand in my way, I made up my own six-pack with three each of light and dark beer. The clerk may not have been pleased with my handiwork, but let it slide as he recognized me as a frequent customer and was eager to wish me a happy birthday as he carded me. My birthday six-pack provided several days’ worth of enjoyment, tasting and comparing the light and dark brews, mixing my own version of black and tan, and sharing with a friend.
A few years later, I discovered a new beer that had originally been brewed in the family kitchen. The lager, named for Boston patriot and brewer Samuel Adams, entered my sphere of beer-consciousness along with the terms “microbrewery” and “craft brewing”. Sam Adams was new and hip and definitely not my dad’s beer. It soon became my beer of choice.
Over the next decade I worked my way through lots of craft beers, Belgian ales, Hefeweizen, stouts, porters, and IPAs. I discovered some new favorites like Ommegang Brewery’s Abbey Ale, developed an appreciation of the artful pour of a Guinness stout, and tasted endless examples of fruity and spicy beers that were never repeated on my beer menu (except for a pumpkin beer with just the right balance of clove and nutmeg spice). All the while Sam Adams, who had out-grown microbrew status and gone to play with the big boys, remained a constant and easy fallback for weekends in the mountains and summer pool parties.
Recently we attended a 60th birthday dinner for my brother-in-law at a quaint Italian bistro (AKA pizza joint). I sat across from my two nephews, the ones who, only a few years ago, spent Christmas at our house hiding under the dining room table and playing with a motorized helicopter in the foyer. Now my eyes beheld two earnest young men, sitting at the table like adults and ordering beer. Since the quaint Italian bistro’s wine list consisted of house red and house white, I decided ordering a beer was a good choice and went with my default, the (almost) always available Sam Adams.
Upon hearing me ask the waitress for my Sam Adams, my nephews, who had probably never seen me drink beer, looked at each other in surprise.
“Have you ever had Sam Adams before?” asked the older nephew.
“I’ve been drinking it since the 1980s,” I replied.
My answer hung in the air, as their youthful minds processed the answer and facial expressions concluded, “Sam Adams beer is for old people.” It was the moment I realized that the trendy, cool Sam Adams of my youth had become dad beer.