Bottoms Up

The monotony of alcohol at Williams is difficult. Swimming through Keystone and Popov, I forget what it is like to sit and actually enjoy any form of alcohol.

Snobs left and right will say things like, “Keystone is actually horse-piss,” and “My doctor uses Popov to sterilize needles,” but one must give credit where credit is due. Both are so terrible, but because they are terribly cheap, boxes and bottles are still picked up by the ton every weekend in this town. If I recycled every Keystone can left forgotten in the snow, I would probably have enough to buy myself (or make myself) a boat and live the rest of my life floating somewhere in the Mediterranean. As tempting as the circularity of a 30 paired with a bottle of Gatorade and cheap vodka sounds, I found myself reaching out for change, for something new.

I found it in two enigmatic German beers, Weihenstephaner and Franziskaner Dunkel,  both prime examples of the Hefe-Weissbier style of brewing (beer brewed with a large proportion of wheat). As I walked into the Spirit Shoppe looking for craft beer, I felt like I had stepped out of the cave. Passing the boxes of 30s that were stacked like monuments, I saw both beers sitting in a bright refrigerator. I picked the most interesting looking, as I have little to no experience with beer (thank you, Keystone) and checked out. The ride home was a descent back into the cave, with two bottles of German hefe clinking next to my “Romanesque and Gothic Art and Architecture” textbook and my laptop as I looked forward to an afternoon ripe for relaxation.

I am not one to drink alone. Sitting down in my common room, a pad in hand in the hope of jotting down words or phrases to capture the spirit of the spirit, I cracked open the first beer, the Franziskaner Dunkel. I poured it into a glass that I’ve kept in storage for the day when I would use it for something besides the “golden ambrosia” of Keystone Light. The Dunkel poured out red-brown with a thin brown head forming over. The aroma of smoke and fruit, opulent and rich, wafted out over the rim of the glass and into my expecting nostrils, a happy surprise.

With music and the Bruins game in the background, I took my first sip. The fruitful aroma mixed with the beer as I took it in. It tasted like a summer’s day in California’s Central Valley, on a train. It was a trail on Lopez Island in the Puget Sound. The dark, rich mix tasted of burnt apricot and wood, thick like ale but not as dense as a stout. Taking my final drink, I felt as satisfied as the jolly monk on the bottle’s label.

The second, the Weihenstephaner, was recommended to me by a friend. Pouring out the dregs of the last beer, I filled the glass with the next, a blonde, which was light and herbal compared to its brother. Neither as dense nor thick, the Weihenstephaner poured well and a white head, thicker than the last, topped the glass. I took a drink. It was not as complex as the darker ale, but it still had a life of its own. A crisp beer full of lively herbal smells, it reminded me of freshly-cut grass. Another drink and the aftertaste felt like the morning after rain, still overcast. As gray as it seems, the beer was refreshing, like an ocean breeze. The carbonation added to the tingling sensation, but that was also probably in part the happiness I felt at finally experiencing a beer that did not leave me with an urge to scrape my tongue with steel wool.

The combination of flavor and texture left me satisfied, sitting watching the end of the game, my pad still blank but my head abuzz with the impression the beer had left. Perhaps it was not only the beer but also the escape from the routine, from the 30-rack thrones and the Natty Light wizard staffs. If I had the choice – and the budget – I would gladly divorce myself from the ugly relationship that I have with the beverage of choice at the College every weekend. And it’s as close as the Spirit Shoppe, a stone’s throw away from any spot on campus. Cheers!

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