Over My Head & Over the Top In Vermont
Among my many personal & cultural deficits, I have always been beer-challenged.
One hot afternoon at least sixty years ago, I Was fishing with my father and a couple of his buddies, on a river somewhere in Northern California. Sunny, hot. I was thirsty. They were all thirsty.
For relief, someone reached into the river and pulled up a string bag full of cans of Bud. A couple cans were punched with one of those old steel beer openers and poured into Dixie cups. My father passed me one.
It was one of those archetypal moments, right? Father giving son the first taste of the golden elixir that has linked so many generations.
I can still see it in my mind today, as a nostalgia-oriented Super Bowl ad, with the sunlight slanting thru the trees, the fishing lines stretched out by the current, the budweiser Clydesdales going past along the river bank, their muffled hoofbeats synchronized and the music swelling.
Except they wouldn’t show the rest of it: the beer was still warm, and I spit out that first sip: bitter, gross, nasty. My father chuckled indulgently. I stayed thirsty. And didn’t catch any fish.
And so it has been ever since for me: beer tastes bitter & yucky.
It’s not a moral thing; it’s a why-do-I-wanna-drink-such-nasty-stuff??
Well, anyway. With this history, what am I doing here in western Vermont, conspiring with my buddy Sean to help him track down a few 4-packs or maybe a full case of beer?
And why did he just spend an hour on the phone, canvassing the handful of outlets who receive shipments of the precious stuff, hearing about how Green Mountain beer fans &’outlanders like him line up hours ahead of time to snatch up the cans as soon as they arrive? (There’s even an independent website that tracks the deliveries for those like Sean who are consulting maps & programming their GPS, plotting strategy for grabbing a batch.)
Well, for me it’s just happenstance. I’m here for a book gig that didn’t happen. But Sean drove up with me, it turns out, for a dishwasher.
Yeah: a guy in Pennsylvania swapped Sean a dishwasher for the promise of getting four packs of this stuff. And Sean pays his debts.
The true cognoscenti reading these notes will likely have guessed that Sean is looking for a brew called Heady Topper, supposedly the most sought-after beer in America, tho I never heard of it until about an hour ago.
And they will envy him, now off on his quest in a rented car, happy to pay the extortionate summer rate, thrilled to spend three hours in line up in Barre, if only he can bring back the stuff for the dishwasher supplier, plus a stash for himself, or maybe for further barter,
To read the reports in beer-lover journals, a case or so of Heady Topper, which is golden here, would be more like platinum back home. So what else does Sean want? A private plane? The down payment on a North Carolina bungalow? Surely he wouldn’t just drink the stuff.
We’ll talk about that later, and hope the Feds aren’t listening. And I won’t even ask him for a sip. Different strokes, and I don’t care about Topper-Mania. It’s all bitter nasty stuff to me, still. Pity me if you will, but even a ride on those Clydesdales wouldn’t change my mind.
And I’m not much of a fisherman either.