My Favorite Beer

Random Observation/Comment #332: “…it borders ice cream and can be drank as a meal in most occasions…” ~This article a little bit further down

see lemons drink guinness with dad

I remember my very first beer with my Father like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2002. I had been helping my Father do some gardening in the backyard for the day, and all I could think about was going back into my bedroom to play Counter Strike on the new cable modem.  (We had just gotten off of DSL and my ping was 15 compared to 200+).  Anyway, when I was excused of my duties, I ran to take one of my famous 5 minute showers so I could maybe get a few games in before dinner.  I’d get to kick my brother off the computer because I had done all the chores for my personal computer-time.

When I got out of the shower, my Father greeted me with a smile and something unexpected.  In his left hand was a glass of dark brown liquid mixing like a cloud of hot cocoa after it’s been swirled into a tornado. The bottom slowly settled into a black liquid that looked like one of the Chinese medicines I used to drink.  My Father’s right hand was open and prompted for a handshake.  He said “Thank you, son. Good work today.”

I stood there processing the moment. My Father never showed much emotion or gratitude.  That wasn’t really his role in the parental tag-team psychology.  I pegged their roles at an early age and so I knew how to play the sides.  My Father was the final decision maker with a soft spot for electronics/cars/music, while my Mother was the nurturing one with conversations related to food/art/creativity.  With this gesture, my Father had clearly crossed the boundary.  It was a big deal in my mind.  To this day, I wish he wasn’t holding the glass so I could have hugged him.  That, of course, would have also been outside of my normal actions.

So I smiled back and returned the handshake with my right hand.  I glanced quickly to meet his eyes and then looked away again. In traditional Chinese families, we don’t usually have eye contact.  With my left hand, I took the cold glass.  I held it with both hands and looked closer to inspect the settling split of the foam and the beer.  This is still my favorite thing to watch in a newly poured Guinness.  As I studied it, my Father poured his own and motioned me to join him in the kitchen.

As I walked towards him, I felt a power surge through my body.  I stopped holding the glass with two hands and walking in small steps looking down at the floor.  I stared up and strode towards him with the Guinness casually gripped in my right hand.  My Father raised his glass and said “Cheers. All the best.” And took his sip.  I smiled and said “Cheers!” and then looked at the black liquid down the barrel of my glass.  It smelled foul and looked like swamp water, but for my Father, I took a small sip.

The foam tickled the top of my lip and the bitter taste opened my taste buds.  It tasted like darkness. A darkness that I have come to love. It was a darkness associated with my Father’s approval and his smile.  I licked the excess foam from the top of my lip and answered my Father’s expression as he examined my reaction. “Mmm… it’s good. Thanks, Dad.”

We shared stories and I finished the Guinness with him in the kitchen until dinner time. I didn’t even go up to play my video game.  It was the bonding time that we never had and a time I felt connected. We were on the same level. That was the magic of a single beer.

Now I know what you’re thinking – and no, I did not become an alcoholic in college.

On the contrary, my Father started me with a $6 NYC beer filled with flavor and robust tastes.  Any of the budweisers, coors, millers, etc, do not even come close to the taste of a Guinness.  I associated drinking beer with the joy of the product itself. It was not the feeling of drunk that I liked, but the taste and craftsmanship.  Throughout college, I only drank top-shelf beer and could only afford one glass, so I enjoyed it.

That moment when my Father gave me my first beer made me a man.  He recognized me and trusted me with that one gesture and it changed my world.  Today, every time I go home and chat with my Dad, we always do it over a Guinness.  I tell him my stories from the week and we laugh about all the little things that we notice in our lives.  As I taste that dark rich body that sometimes borders ice cream and can be drank as a meal in most occasions, I think about my Dad.  I think about the smile and that handshake that welcomed me into manhood.  In retrospect, it could have been any beer that I first shared with my father, but I’m glad it was a Guinness.  This is why Guinness is my favorite beer.

~See Lemons Love Guinness