Of rafts and summers and malt beverages in a cooler. (Part 1)

I vividly remember the first time I tasted beer. It was summer time, July 4th to be exact and the family was gathered for the annual picnic in our quiet area of north east Connecticut. The day was typical, hot, sunny and buzzing with the high energy that so often accompanies a pristine summer day in New England.

My father had been actively involved in a game of horseshoes, which is of course played with a beer in one hand and the horseshoe you’re throwing in another. The only problem was that his beer was empty ‘must have a hole in it!’ he kidded and sent me on my way to get him a refill. I can still remember the can, Busch Beer in all of its blue snow capped mountain glory. I opened it and looked at him and said those five words every son says to his father “can I have a sip?’. He smirked at me and said ‘sure’.

It was the summer of 1993, I was ten years old and it was awful. My face said it all and he laughed a deep laugh and took it from me. I had expected so many things from this mythical drink he enjoyed so much, but the tangy bitter taste I got when I took a sip was never one of them. I felt cheated, like the whole thing was a big trick. More importantly I felt like it was the most disgusting drink out there, immediately inferior to Mountain Dew or Pepsi and I knew I would stay away from beer for a long time.

From that point forward for many years I just didn’t fully understand beer. I understood some of it, beer was what you drank when it was plentiful and you wanted to get up the courage to hit on the girl at the party who you always had the crush on but never the guts to even talk to. What I didn’t understand though were the guys who actually liked beer.

Whereas the sheer thought of drinking a beer at anything other than a light speed pace would cause me to actually gag these guys would sip it and say things like ‘ahhhh’ and ‘mmm that’s good’. I was convinced they were bullshitting to look cool to girls at the party that they had crushes on but never the guts to even talk to. For a large part of my young adult life I simply avoided beer in favor of other alcoholic drinks I could actually enjoy like rum and cokes or dare I admit vodka and redbull.

The problem with good tasting alcoholic drinks though is that if everyone is drinking beer and you’re drinking say a rum and coke to their one beer the math starts to work against you and you wind up having a bad time very fast. An alternative needed to be found so I could fit in in social situations but not hate myself the next day. Thankfully a solution presented itself in the clever marketing campaign of Mikes Hard Lemonade.

It was a no-brainer really, I liked lemonade, I liked the bar scene in my early 20’s, Mikes was my go to drink. The downside to this is obvious to anyone who has drank more than 3 of them in one night however; they tear through your stomach worse than mall Indian food.

Luckily after seeing the success of Mikes Hard Lemonade the Boston Beer Company shareholders developed and marketed a product that would provide a beer like buzz with no bubble gut and they called it Twisted Tea. I tried it and was hooked on the stuff, it was like beer but didn’t taste like crap! Of course liking Twisted Tea among a group of dedicated beer drinkers certainly got me many a funny look or comment, but hey I was having a good time so who cares!

Twisted Tea became my go to drink for many years and would hold its own in my world until that one fateful day when I found myself stuck on a raft going down the Chattahoochee river, sun beating down on my neck and through a couple cunning ruses by some concerned friends I emerged as the one thing 10 year old me was certain I would never become; a beer drinker.


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