In Search of Lost Time, Episode of the Pale Ale

It's true.

It’s true.

With apologies to Proust, I reflect on my history in beer. A long, meaningful, and eventful relationship.

In the small town where I live, everyone knows everyone. People who don’t know my name know my profession, and I answer to “Hey, Bookstore Lady,” on a regular basis. Without fail, the second thing people remember about me is that I like beer. A lot. Most of them do not know that my memory is stored in six-packs and cases like so many bottles of beer at the corner shop.

Time and devotion have ingrained beer in my life. The way others can mark their history by food or travels, I can with beer. The taste of certain beers will take me back to a memory as fast as any smell or song can. One sip of Labatt Blue and I’m a senior in college again, Thursday night pitchers with a basket of unshelled peanuts for $6 at the CI. Toss the shells on the floor, carve your name in the table.

A Harpoon IPA shuttles me to Boston faster than a speeding Chinatown bus. It was my go-to beer at every less-than-fine establishment I frequented. Its high hoppy buzz reminiscent of every dinner I drank at Charlie’s, a diner a block away from the bookstore where I worked. It reminds me of every boy I sat next to at the counter there, wishing they would just kiss me, and the black-and-white tiles, the chrome, and the lobster tank in the corner.

One night in Boston’s Publick House, I drank five Great Divide Hercules Double IPAs, much to the astonishment of my friends, and realized I wasn’t going to marry the man who had stayed at home that night. To this day it tastes of revelation.

Sam Adams Boston Lager is available on tap at Fenway Park and if I am at a cookout with these in the cooler, I can’t help but think of the tiny, hard green chairs at the stadium, the good-hearted jeers I got for wearing my Indians jersey, and the terrifyingly crowded, lager-stinking rides home on the subway where the mood all depended on the final score.

Of course, half of my drinking career was spent in Ohio, and I have a fair number of memories attached to my favorite regional beers. While I was living on the east coast, though, I would fly home with the taste of Great Lakes’ Burning River Pale Ale already in my mouth. Great Lakes has always tasted like home, and like the pride I have for Ohio.

I’m sure to some it seems very strange to remember your life pint by pint. Maybe your grandmother doesn’t share a Lagunitas IPA with you on your birthday. Maybe your father doesn’t escort you to beer festivals. But I can assure you, this pale ale is better than a madeleine, any day. Pop one open; make some memories.