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.
Few things can drive a dad to drink quite like vacation.
“Hey, Josh, everybody drinks on vacation,” you’re probably thinking. “Heck, the best thing about vacation is cracking beers in your underwear before 11am.” Look, I love morning drinking. A pre-noon IPA dissolves the stress of city life and freelancing in a floundering industry, neatly destroying ambition like a little red devil perched on your shoulder whispering, “Have another. You’re not working today.”
Problem is, as a parent you’re always working. At nine months of age, Violet is rapidly developing new skills. She’s crawling, standing, and eating solids. But each budding skill gives her another tool to kill herself, whether it’s scooting to a stairwell or chewing a beer cap. (My bad.) During weekdays, daycare eases our dawn-to-dusk survival duties. But vacation means no daycare. You leave one job, then you clock into another gig freighted with life and (potential) death.
“Trust me, Violet, you don’t want to chew that electrical cord,” I told my daughter a few weeks ago. We were packing for a trip to Fire Island, a lovely sliver of sand and surf off Long Island. Here, deer roam, cars are barred, and cell service is scant. The drawback: Vacationers must hoof everything to the isle. This means food, liquor, beer, and anything a baby requires to stay alive.
Remember that computer game Oregon Trail? The one where you cram a wagon with enough stuff to ensure that the settlers survive, say, dysentery? Packing for vacation with a baby is much like the Oregon Trail, save for one notable difference: You’re the one toting the load, not a team of oxen.
When we arrived at the beach house, my back was achy, my left shoulder tender to the touch. I needed beer. My wife needed a nap. “You’re in charge of Violet,” she said, retreating to the bedroom. I looked at Violet, who was wearing her beach-ready shark outfit. She smiled, that massive toothless grin that could melt a glacier, then started crawling toward the spiral staircase. I snagged her before she could tumble into the deadly darkness, then I grabbed a Modern Times Blazing World from our cooler.
When I was in San Diego last month, a favorite discovery was Modern Times. Since debuting last year, the brewery has set itself apart by roasting coffee (used in the Black House stout) and creating complex saisons and IPAs such as the wildly tropical Fortunate Islands. (Not to mention the fact that the tasting room is dominated by a massive Post-it notes mural of Michael Jackson and Bubbles.)
With Violet in my lap, I opened the Blazing World and inhaled the amber ale’s pungent aroma, which smelled like a marijuana apothecary crammed into a 16-ounce can. The cannabis bouquet came from Simcoe hops, while Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops offered a fruity trip to the tropics. Still, I was skeptical. These days, amber ales ain’t my bag. I like my IPAs lean and dry, with a barely-there malt backbone.
But a tense parent is not a picky parent. I took a sip and felt my biases slip away. Blazing World’s bready caramel base served as the perfect platform for hops, letting the bitterness sing—but not scream—right through the dry and resinous finish. Blazing World was as dank as it was drinkable, a hophead’s dream combination. Glug by glug, my shoulders unknotted, my pulse slowed. Violet squirmed, craning her tiny neck to look at my can, a white cylinder that looked awfully smiliar to her bottle.
“Sorry sweetheart,” I said, whisking her to the kitchen. I filled a bottle to the brim with milk. “On vacation,” I said, handing my daughter her preferred liquid pacifier, “everyone deserves a drink.”