A clean glass, a small hiss, and a careful pour. The empty air contained in the glass is gently pushed out and is replaced with a liquid. It’s rich, and fragrant. A small foamy layer sits on top like an island on a beautiful black ocean. I give the rim of the glass a tender kiss and pour the contents within into my mouth. A welcome bitterness washes over my taste buds but it morphs quickly to what a harvest must surely taste like. As the hoppy potion makes it’s way to my stomach I feel a warm tide flow over my mind. I set the glass down, and lean back in my seat. As the tide quickly recedes from my head I think about years that I never lived in and I feel welcomed into a legacy that I’ve inherited. I’m from Wisconsin, there’s an infinity all around me and this beer in front of me will never let me forget that.
Part of me feels a little shameful about this, I don’t like putting stock into cliches, but I feel like I’m not being a good citizen of Wisconsin if I don’t have a beer every once in awhile. I’ll stay away from going into the history of beer in Wisconsin, if you’re interested there are a vast array of books documenting the heroic tales of German and Czech immigrants and the rise to power of names like Miller and Pabst. It’s the fact that there is a history of beer in Wisconsin that makes me feel part of something larger when I decide to sip on a “brewski”. (that kind of hurt)
There’s something about seeing the foamy head rise to the top of a glass, or bottle or can that makes me feel at ease. When it’s cold outside and I cozy up with an I.P.A., I feel a kinship with the miners, lumberjacks and other laborers of the past who drank simply because beer wouldn’t freeze as quickly as water. When my friends gather round me and we talk into the morning as the empty cans of cheap pilsner stack up, I feel as if I could be in a meeting setting the groundwork for sewer socialism from turn of the century Milwaukee. And, on warm summer nights, when I sneak down to the nearby river with a six-pack of some newfangled micro-brewed concoction, I want to raise a glass towards sand county and Aldo Leopold, but I refrain because I don’t know if he drank or not.
I’m not a connoisseur. I can’t tell you if a beer has nutty notes with a coffee finish. I can’t tell you the various processes that go into brewing. I don’t disparage those who can, I simply feel that if I could do those things, it would take the appeal of beer away. Beer is universal. In every country in the world, you can find beer. Perhaps not every country has it’s own brewery, maybe they do, but one way or the other they have it. I simply have the privilege of being from a state that is synonymous with beer, in a similar way that Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia (or Czech Republic, I’m not sure how to reference the country in a historical sense) is. A state in a league of nations.
I think I drink beer, not because it holds a place on a global stage, or because I desire to live in a time that’s not my own, but because it can transcend so much. Believe it or not, but a beer is a powerful thing, it can cross party lines, racial boundaries and if someone has enough imagination, it can travel through time.
I hope someday I’ll be a participant in something that makes this state and this generation well-known, for good reasons. I hope that someday I’ll be able to have a beer with a range of people from around the world and from around the philosophical sphere. I hope someday there will be some other twenty-something kid looking back and wishing he could have a beer with me as arrogant as that may sound.
To that person, whoever you are, however old you are, whatever you believe in, wherever you’re from (but especially if you’re from Wisconsin), cheers.