Welcome to Beer with Baby, a column in which beer writer Joshua Bernstein reviews craft brews through the eyes of a tired, over-stressed parent. 

Like a werewolf bathed by a full moon, I’m a changed man once 4:59 becomes 5pm. I unlock my alcohol-free shackles and amble to my fridge, plucking a cold beer from the crowded the bottom shelf. Then I drink, a beer writer’s pleasure and work mixing with each greedy gulp.

At least, that used to be my routine. With our daughter in the mix, 5pm is when I grab Violet from daycare and stroll her home, where we’ll spend the next 90 minutes riding a roller-coaster of joy and tears until the tracks finally terminate with sleep. It’s enough to drive a man to drink—but not before the daycare mission is complete.

As a profession, being a beer journalist isn’t so shocking. Hell, all writers drink—I’m just franker about my imbibing. My alcohol intake is justified! However, daycare is a DUI checkpoint for parents. No state-certified caregiver would gladly hand over a child to a parent who smelled like he made love to a longneck of imperial IPA. And can you image the headlines? Drunk beer journalist tries to pick up his daughter from daycare, drops her.

Daycare is a DUI checkpoint for parents.

I do believe the New York Post headline would be visible from 30 paces.

To short-circuit that scenario, I refrain from cracking a beer until we’re back home, where Violet and I can both enjoy our respective bottles. That was last week’s plan. I’d just received Green Flash’s latest round of beers, the first since they, like many recent breweries, received a brand facelift.

Green Flash’s new labels feature bold, oversize typographical treatments that clearly communicate each beer’s style and key flavor profile (“extravagantly hopped,” “big bold and complex”). It’s a modern look that will polarize some Green Flash fans, while drawing others into the fold. I never judge a beer by its cover. The juice inside matters most.

While West Coast IPA and Hop Head Red IPA have been reformulated to up their aromatics and ABV, squarely planting them in double IPA country, I was most curious about Road Warrior. It’s an imperial red IPA, with citrusy Amarillo, pungent and earthy Columbus and tropical Mosaic hops romping through a field of rye and crystal malt. A curious choice for a summer seasonal, but it’s one that reaffirms Green Flash as an IPA powerhouse. With Violet cradled in my arm’s crook, I tromped to the fridge.

“These beers pay for your diapers,” I told Violet, grabbing a Road Warrior and toting her to the bedroom. I placed her on the bed. She grinned, that pure and glorious toothless grin. I popped the bottle and took a sticky, resinous sip, relishing the IPA’s rumba of caramel candy and peppery spice, with a fruity bass line rumbling throughout. The booze was muted, drowned out by that appealingly saccharine note of crystal malt. Not be left out, Violet added a musical contribution: a cry, sharp and high-pitched, as if all the world’s sadness was escaping her lungs.

For me, 5pm is happy hour. For Violet, it’s the end of a long day’s journey of new sights and sounds, of her growing brain connecting new synapses. It’s tiring, draining toil. She needs comfort, stability in her rapidly shifting world. I put down my beer, its bitterness trailing off into sweetness, and picked up Violet, calming her with soft kisses and reassuring murmurs.

Happy hour could wait another hour.

Joshua M. Bernstein is the author of Brewed Awakening and The Complete Beer Course. He lives in Brooklyn with Violet, his wife, and a corgi named Sammy. Follow him on Twitter @JoshMBernstein.

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