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

For a moment, allow your imagination to run wild.

Envision a 19-pound watermelon suddenly sprouting arms, legs, and sentience. Like a juicy Pinocchio, the watermelon starts running around, knocking over furniture, cups, and books. “Stop making such a mess, watermelon,” you say. The watermelon smiles a seedy grin. Then, it breaks a lamp and stumbles off. How do you reason with a strange creature that can’t comprehend your language, that’s functioning according its own operating system?

Substitute watermelon for baby, and you’ll understand my life. At the ripe age of one, Violet has mastered walking. This is equal parts amazing and terrifying. In the recent past, I could surround Violet with toys and reasonably expect her to be content and mostly immobile. This afforded me precious moments to check my email, or perhaps tweet.

Those days are as dead as Laser, that discounted malt liquor I guzzled in high school. Now, Violet is a whirling dervish of unbridled id. She opens drawers, yanks plugs from sockets, and sits down in Sammy Bernstein’s dog bed to gnaw his gnarled bones. “You don’t want to eat that, V,” I’ll tell her, gently removing the slobber-slicked chew toy.

I was thankful I avoided this newspaper headline: child dies during beer tasting.

As soon as I remove one danger, she dashes off to another. Perhaps she’ll explore the toilet bowl’s murky depths, or break through the barrier blocking our scalding radiators? You don’t notice a home’s hidden dangers until a tiny human performs a herky-jerky pole dance on your living room’s lamp. Toddlers are like tiny drunkards that always want to be the life of the party.

In one sense, it’s hilarious. My daughter’s auditioning to be a Vegas showgirl! It’s also nerve-wracking. Any second, that lamp could crash down on her skull. Hilarity and morbidity come hand in hand with being a parent.

So does picking up the slack when your partner works late. My wife’s advertising gig often keeps her at work until 8pm, meaning I must shoulder evening Violet duty. That was the case last week when I corralled the baby bird and took her back to our coop. The cold, wet weather meant we’d spend the evening confined to the apartment. It’s essentially two hours of me ensuring she lives to see her second birthday.

“Violet, please don’t climb on top of your kitchen,” I said, removing her from the miniature wooden stove that’s her hiding place for socks and half-eaten apple slices. “Let’s get daddy a beer.”

We headed to the kitchen, where Violet nearly knocked over Sammy’s water bowl, and I snagged Sierra Nevada’s Wild Hop IPA. This year, the trailblazing Californian brewers debuted the Harvest series. The five releases featured novel hop varieties, such as Yakima 291 and Equinox, as well as both fresh-hopped and wet-hopped beers. For its final Harvest beer, Sierra Nevada showcased the Neomexicanus hop.

A @sierranevada Wild Hop IPA seems like the perfect beer to enjoy with this wild child.

A photo posted by Joshua M. Bernstein (@joshmbernstein) on


Back in the mid-1990s, rogue plant researcher and homebrewer Todd Bates scoured northern New Mexico’s mountains in search of hardy hop breeds. He discovered an odd-looking variety with cones that produce multiple heads. Beyond a Medusa-like look, the hop presented an appealing aroma of apricots, melons, and citrus. In time, farmers planting what became known as Neomexicanus (Medusa is a nickname), supplying Sierra Nevada with enough acreage to brew Wild Hop.

Back in the living room with my little lady, I opened the bottle and filled a glass with dark-gold liquid. The IPA smelled sweetly fruity, a buckshot blast of tangerines and ripe melons. I tasted the IPA, relishing how the fruit bowl of flavors was balanced by an earthy, leafy bitterness and…something else. I shut my eyes and took another taste. Citrus rind. For sure. I opened my eyes. Violet was gone. Silence.

“Violet, sweetheart, where are you?” I called. Sometimes, the noise of kids can drive you crazy. Worse still is silence. Quiet means your kid is likely doing something devious, something potentially dangerous. I dashed to the kitchen. No Violet. I also rolled snake eyes in the bathroom. “Violet!” I cried out again.

I ran to the last remaining room, her bedroom—which is where I found her, thumbing through a kid’s book about dim sum. I picked her up and kissed her forehead. “I was worried about you, sweetheart,” I said, thankful that I avoided this newspaper headline: child dies during beer tasting. She smiled, flashing her three bottom teeth, then ambled off in search of new adventure.

Lesson learned: Scientists can domesticate a wild hop, but no one can tame a toddler.