My spoon fell.
As I took a sip of the Vienna lager, I was transported in an instant to toast.
At first I thought I was re-experiencing my mom’s buttered wheat bread toast, a staple of childhood breakfasts and what-you-ate-when-you’re-sick, but that was far more buttery and saline.
Then I thought about a high school date. I nonchalantly ordered the five alarm bell chili for lunch from the local coffee shop, a place I had chosen to signal maturity and good taste, which came with two pieces of toast. As we ate and she talked, sweat began dripping into my eyes and I became self-conscious about my armpits. My only ally in that meal was the toast: two pieces of white bread with a generous pat of butter that cooled my mouth just enough to continue eating and offering casual remarks with her, though every cell in my mouth was in pain. The malt character in this beer is far more complex than the white bread I had that day.
No, this was something else.
I was having pizza one day long ago, listening to a friend tell me a story that captivated me. The crust had an indescribable richness, a nuttiness, a doughy character and yet and a lightness carried a thousand thoughts.
These three moments were hardly inflection points, and I’d be surprised if anyone else even remembered them. But this was the power of beer unlocking the past.
The day was not suited to such retrospection. My kids had given me yet another cold this season, and my reserve of sleep was running as thin as everything you’d expect of being a newish dad. At lunchtime, the kids were both asleep, so I opened the fridge and resigned myself to reheating the last of the chicken noodle soup my mom had brought over last time she visited. Maybe that’s why I grabbed the Fair State can off the shelf as I closed the refrigerator door.
As I poured the soup into a bowl and waited for the microwave to do its thing, I cracked open the can and poured it into a shaker pint glass. After the voluminous head went down a bit, I took a sip. Nutty, maybe toasted almonds. Bread crust. Toasted wheat bread. Not a hint of caramel in sight. The balance was exquisite, avoiding being a sweet mess without being harsh, drying, or staid.
The microwave beeped and I sat down at the table to have my humble lunch. The soup was rich with browned chicken flavors, and crunchy celery and carrots that made it vibrant. And yet, when I took my next sip I dropped my spoon.
How many times had I eaten chicken noodle soup with a piece of toast? No idea, but suddenly my mind was full of memories. Little me being restored by this meal whenever I was sick, though the table seemed so tall back then. A date gone awry. A now-forgotten friendship kindled. And, with my kids napping, I wondered what meal they would recall 30 years from now that I never even thought to remember.