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.
In hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t the brightest idea to take my 10-month-old daughter to Denver, where I was primed to spend the better part of a week blindingly drunk, covering the Great American Beer Festival.
“It’ll be a family adventure!” I told my wife when we booked tickets, drawing on the same foolhardy optimism that led me to drive a rusty Subaru from London to Mongolia. (Short version: The car crapped out in the Gobi Desert; it was trucked to Ulan Bator atop a pile of goat skins. True story.)
In my mind, we’d be a walking advertisement for successfully integrating family life into a working vacation. In the mornings, we’d take Violet on brisk strolls. Between festival sessions, I’d read my daughter a book. At night, I’d tuck her into bed and then rustle up IPA-soaked shenanigans.
“I need a nap,” my wife told me not long after we settled down in our Denver abode. A four-hour flight with a squirmy, sleep-striking toddler jangled every one of our nerves.
To give my wife a break, I strolled Violet to Prost Brewing. Opened in 2012, the brewery specializes in German-style beers including a kölsch, maibock, doppelbock, and keller pils, which garnered gold at last year’s GABF.
And #GABF is officially afoot with liter mugs of lovely Keller pils at Prost. Today, Violet is tagging along for the ride.
“Want a half-liter or a liter mug?” the waitress asked, waving back to Violet.
I’d been awake since 3:45am in Brooklyn. It was now 4pm in Denver. Daddy needed a beer. Lots of beer.
“A liter, please.”
Soon, I received a forearm-sized mug brimming with golden nectar. Unfiltered and swimming with yeast, Prost’s keller was hazy, grassy, and as snappy as Saltines. The foam was thick and lustrous, like a dollop of Cool Whip. The pilsner looked good enough to eat. Violet thought so too.
“Sweetheart, it’s not a good idea to be wrist-deep in daddy’s beer,” I said. I removed her hands, which she promptly inserted into her mouth. After Violet and I devoured the beer, we headed back to my wife.
When drinking medically inadvisable amounts of beer from 10am until midnight, for a solid three or four days straight, sleep is crucial.
“This is going to be a long week,” I told her, passing off our daughter. It was time to go to work. Which meant drinking more beer.
When drinking medically inadvisable amounts of beer from 10am until midnight, for a solid three or four days straight, sleep is crucial. Without sleep you quickly become a haggard wreck who, in a pinch, could serve as a zombie in The Walking Dead.
Violet could not comprehend our new time zone. Her internal alarm clock woke her at 4am every day. She greeted each morning with a scream, the baby version of a rooster call. Reader, have you experienced hell? I have. It’s being caught in that headache-y zone—halfway between being drunk and hungover—and changing a poop-filled diaper in the dark.
It’s enough to drive a man to drink more. Thing is, when you’ve been awake since 4am, 10am is the perfect time to have a beer. And so the week went on: Sleeping too little. Drinking too much. Caring for my daughter. It was a wrecking ball to my immune system. By Saturday night, my throat felt like I’d gargled razor blades. My nose was a water faucet. My head was a construction zone.
Know what’s incredible? That I’m still standing. Now that I’ve wrapped up with the #GABF, it’s time to unwind with Violet and some @denverbeerco IPA. View on Instagram
But I was in Denver, damn it, and I wanted one last beer. I reached into the fridge and grabbed Denver Beer Co.’s Incredible Pedal IPA. Since the brewery opened in 2011, it has turned out a range of offbeat, yet awfully drinkable beers, from Graham Cracker Porter to Pueblo Chili Beer and Kaffir Lime Wheat. Incredible Pedal rode a slightly more conventional path. It was shotgun of citrus and tropical fruit that blasted right through my cold-addled senses. The IPA was a touch sweeter than the archetypal West Coast hop bomb, but the malt backbone supported the dank, citrusy flavor.
I crushed the can. Beer did not make me feel better. In the backyard, I watched my daughter play on a riding car. She looked so happy, her delight even more infectious than my cold. I picked up Violet, holding her tight to my chest and spinning around until she and I screamed with glee.
“I’m so happy you’re here,” I told Violet, my chest swelling with the kind of joy that you can’t buy by the six-pack.