What I saw when I was drinking

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Yesterday afternoon, I drank up the last of my homebrew. Plummer’s Hollow will be dry until I get around to making some more. So it was a bittersweet occasion. Hell, it was a bittersweet beer.

But don’t be alarmed — I wasn’t drinking alone. I never do.

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For one thing, there were the flies. Not the kind that bite, but the kind that just want to land on you and walk around a bit, pausing every few steps to rub your grime off their forefeet.

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A good, strong stout should help you appreciate, you know, the little things: The songs of the birds. The weave of your jeans. The way you don’t feel anything one way or the other when you kill a fly, and you begin to wonder if that makes you a potential sociopath.

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I got many glimpses of the chipmunk that lives in my herb garden as it hurried back and forth to its burrow, climbing tall weed stalks to get at their seeds and riding them down to the ground. I thought about my grandmother, who used to hand-feed chipmunks when she and Grandpa lived here for several summers back in the 1970s. In all likelihood, she fed this very chipmunk’s great x 30 grandmother. I can’t help feeling that creates a special bond between us. Not special enough to make we want to try hand-feeding it, but pretty special.

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Through the slats on the porch railing, I had a good view of a crowd of garlic, though I wasn’t close enough to eavesdrop. People tell me I should decapitate them so their bulbs will grow bigger, but I can rarely bring myself to do so. They have such character! I love watching them uncurl, finally pointing their bills straight up like bitterns. And when their heads split open and the children within grow beaks of their own, I scatter them far and wide. Slowly but surely, I’m turning the lawn into a garlic patch.

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From time to time, my eyes strayed back to the book on my lap: Jim Harrison’s The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems. I was reading the section of poems called After Ikkyu and liking it pretty well. Harrison is a good drinking companion.

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But mostly, I looked at the beer. As I mentioned, it’s homebrew, so I wouldn’t have to carbonate and bottle it. Three years ago, in fact, I left a couple batches in the carboy and just siphoned off a pitcher whenever I got thirsty. I don’t particularly need the mouth-feel of carbonation; I do it for the foam. What do wine drinkers look at? I’ve never understood that. Beer is beautiful.

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UPDATE: With the last photo, I meant to reference Dsida Jeno’s “Poem of Darkness,” which I recently became acquainted with thanks to frizzyLogic. True, Jeno himself mentions coffee. But what better than stout for a “dark and bitter drink” into which, “one dank brown evening,” to “melt and sink”?

20 Comments


  1. wine drinkers don’t really need a visual. they’re too distracted by the marriage of flavors, the synergy of deliciousness that usually occurs when wine and food get together on the tongue. beer is for the thirsty poet, wine for the gourmand.

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  2. And all of us-! You were thinking of us the whole time. NET friends are good company :)

    Now was that a challenge of sorts to us wine drinkers? The froth on the foam is wonderful, but so is the ruby in the crystal.

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  3. The jewel in the heart of the lotus? Too rich for my blood!

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  4. Ohh, that beer looks really really good. Make some more soon, Dave.

    I used to be a hand-chipmunk-feeder too, when I was a kid. In fact “my”chipmunk used to sit under my window in the morning and chip at me until I came out and fed it. Favorite food? Gingersnaps.

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  5. Make some more soon, Dave.

    Only if you promise to come visit. (And bring some gingersnaps when you do!)

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  6. Now, that’s a fine looking glass of beer. But the steadiness of hand that took the fine photographs during its consumption suggests that its damage potential was decidedly limited. So I’ll bring my own, if that’s okay…

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  7. Ah, that’s where you’re wrong, my friend! This was no copy of Guiness; it was a Mugwort Anti-Imperial Stout with an alcohol content around ten percent. I was on my third pint when I shot these pictures.

    Remember, I’m two decades younger than you. My hands don’t shake too badly yet.

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  8. This is a lovely post, Dave. I especially like the first photograph, and the last, though I feel a certain attraction to the photo of the lines of text, too. (Predictable, aren’t I?)

    You make me wish Ethan and I had time — or made time — to brew. We haven’t done it in years, but we used to make a coffee stout (which we called “ink”) which was pretty terrific.

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  9. Thanks, Rachel. I only made a coffee stout once, but it was pretty good. Not a bedtime beer – but definitely one Jeno would’ve approved of!

    Yeah, it’s fairly time-consuming, inasmuch as it requires most of a day to brew, about three hours to bottle, and some attention during the first few days. But once you rack it into a secondary, you can leave it for quite a few weeks until you find time for bottling. For me, getting organized to actually mail-order the ingredients is the tough part. I love the actual brewing part, from the ginding of the grains in my Corona mill, to tossing herbs into the mix almost at random and wondering how it will come out.

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  10. I liked the photo of your garlic. My sister just gave me some garlic stipes from her farmshare; so far I’ve just chopped part of them into some chicken salad. I’ll probably fry the rest into something-or-other.

    The other day I collected some fallen beechnuts from my Mom’s yard, in hopes of seeing what they taste like. My first attempt didn’t work out so well as far as extricating the nutmeat, but dang, those things sure *smell* nice!

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  11. If I could take photographs as beautiful as yours, I would show you how lovely a glass of wine at dusk can be.

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  12. David – I must admit, I’ve never persisted in extracting the meat from a beechnut, either. If you do, let us know what it tastes like!

    Patry – I have the feeling that if you ever got a digital camera, you’d blow us all out of the water.

    Rurality – No, not really. The thujone content is a fraction of what its close relative, wormwood contains; it may contribute some extra bit of elation, but that’s hard to isolate. The most noticeable difference between a beer brewed with yarrow or mugwort and a “normal” beer that uses hops is that you don’t get the depressive/soporific effect of the hops.

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  13. Where do you buy your beer making supplies? My favorite source closed its doors, and it’s been three years since I’ve had home brew. This is especially painful, as it is impossible to buy any beer with beer flavor locally. (You can buy it, but it’s been so mishandled that it’s flavor recalls skunk.)

    I do like my hops, but I’m definitely curious to try mugwort. (Which species do you grow?)

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  14. And Dave’s stout, I can testify, is delicious. Some of the best I’ve had, & and I come from a part of the U.S. that knows something about brewing.

    I confess I was in some trepidation about the mugwort, beforehand, but I needn’t have been. It’s much like hops, but with a conscience :-)

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  15. Thanks, dale. I was complimented by the mere fact that you wanted to drink it, given what alcohol does to your sleep patterns.

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  16. My dear D doesn’t drink, but he loves when I get a good stout in a bar, Guinness when nothing better is on offer, is at least lovely to watch.

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  17. A non-drinking spouse sounds ideal: more beer for you, and you always have a designated driver! On the other hand, beer is a social drink, as I tried to suggest in my post.

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