“He was a wise man who invented beer.”
“Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.”
-Jack Nicholson

After a holiday weekend, it seemed fitting to write about something many of us spent time doing, like throwing back a few cool ones. I grew up in Wisconsin, so beer played a prominent role. Remember Laverne and Shirley working the beer bottling line? Wisconsin had the dubious distinction of having the

most taverns per capita at one time. My uncle was a beer distributor when I was a kid, and our whole basement was decorated with Old Style memorabilia. Most of the men and even some of the women in my extended family enjoyed drinking beer, pretty much everyone except my mom. She hated the way it smells–still does.

I graduated from high school voted “Class Partier” but
I did not like beer until I attended college at one of the biggest party schools around, UW-Madison. This was a strange place to develop a taste for beer because the beer tasted TERRIBLE. Of course when you are buying in quantity you are buying the cheapest, most hideous beer possible. I used to take a pack of gum to chew while drinking beer to help me get through a night. I thought, “When I graduate from college, I am going to buy some good beer!”
I graduated college in 1992, and had already fully immersed myself in the bar scene, affectionately known as the “heavy metal years”. Weekends were spent watching live music in bars, drinking beer that was barely a step up from college and served in pitchers. Once in a while we treated ourselves to a night of Heineken, but that was SPECIAL. Even Miller was a step up (it was Wisconsin after all).
I continued drinking for quantity, not quality, for a long time. I was a social drinker, and confined my drinking to the weekends. It was fun. Until it wasn’t. I was tired of feeling like crap for the whole weekend. As I got older it took longer to recover from a night out. The partying that I had been doing for 25 years was catching up with me. I wanted to have productive weekends. I needed a change.
I cut out alcohol for two months. As the holidays approached I had a beer here and there. I reflected on my past experience and realized something profound (for me)—QUALITY trumps QUANTITY. I became a beer connoisseur. And coincidentally, this was when the appearance of microbrews and craft beer started to emerge. I discovered a whole new world of beer that actually TASTED GOOD. I savored it and found a community of people who enjoyed doing the same.
Now a Saturday may be spent checking out the latest tap room with my husband (the scene is HUGE in Cincinnati), usually during the day, and tasting flights of fresh, interesting beers. The brewers are happy to share their passion for brewing, answering questions and sharing their opinions freely. The people sampling the beers alongside me are eager to chat not only about the beer, but all sorts of things that make each visit unique. I’m home early and feel like a million bucks the next day—a far cry from the days of old.
I don’t regret my old party lifestyle, but I don’t miss it either. I have found a wonderful balance that didn’t exist before; I have my weekends back AND get to spend quality time with my husband and friends and meet new people over a tasty brew. Cheers.

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