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.
Since Violet was born more than nine months ago, fellow parents have slipped me some awful advice, including this whopper: “The first year of your child’s life, you really won’t drink very much beer.”
I blinked hard, as incredulous as the time I discovered that my coke-head roommate urinated in Dr. Pepper bottles—and then kept said bottles inside empty pizza boxes. “Won’t I want more beer?” I wondered. Surely, a double IPA would minimize the stress of infant vomit.
“Seriously,” he said. “You won’t want more than a beer or two every once in a while.”
Reader, not since my parents informed me that my “symbolic circumcision” wouldn’t hurt (that’s a different traumatic story) have I been told such a lie. Parenthood makes you want to drink. A ton. Childcare is a blend of boredom, exasperation, struggle, and joy—though not as much of the former as you’d like, especially when your daughter screams like a horror-movie heroine, forcing you to quickly diagnose the problem. Dirty diaper? Hungry? Tired? Wants to be held? A crisis because your brain is barely bigger than a single-serving yogurt container and you can’t comprehend why the dog won’t let you yank his tail?
Parenthood makes you want to drink. A ton.
To smooth the daily grind, you need a steady drip, drip, drip of alcohol, which can only be achieved with a session beer. By that I mean beer low in alcohol yet flavor-packed, exemplified by Founders’ All Day IPA, Stone Go To IPA, and Carton Boat Beer. These are brews you can sip by the sixer and still follow that cardinal rule: Don’t drop your child, especially when holding her upside down like a giggling sack of potatoes.
Since I’ve overdosed on All Day this summer (cheap 15-packs + beach time = bliss), I’ve sought alternatives. While perusing my local bottle shop last week, I uncovered Lil’ Heaven, a session IPA from Connecticut’s Two Roads. Its brewmaster is Phil Markowski, who previously tended kettles at Southampton Publick House. Since the brewery debuted in December 2012, Two Roads has earned a bit of regional buzz for its thirst-quenching Worker’s Comp Saison; crisp, dry-hopped Ol’ Factory Pils; barrel-aged brews; and several stellar IPAs—including the Lil’ Heaven I smuggled into daycare inside Violet’s diaper bag.
After grabbing Violet and strapping her into the stroller, I rolled her and Sammy to my local Brooklyn park. Since parenthood, I’ve become a master multitasker. A park visit is no longer solely for Sammy’s pleasure and relief; it’s also my personal happy hour, as well as a chance for Violet to crawl freely and, increasingly, attempt to walk. I removed Sammy’s leash, spread a blanket on the ground, unclipped Violet from the stroller, and set her down.
In the instant it took to crack my beer tab, she crawled off at a clip that would make Usain Bolt nervous.
“Hold on sweetheart,” I said, snaring a chubby leg before she could crawl into the grass that Sammy had enthusiastically, and profusely, marked. “Why don’t we try climbing on daddy?” I pulled my legs into an inverted V, turning my knobby knee into Violet’s personal climbing gym. As she practiced standing and not-so gracefully falling, I chug-a-lugged some Lil’ Heaven. Packed with gobs of newfangled hops including Azacca, Calypso, Equinox, and Mosaic, the beer smelled like spring break in the tropics and tasted like a fresh-cut bowl of fruit—mangos, apricots, grapefruit, oh my. Sammy frolicked. Violet climbed. Daddy drank.
For a while, we were that American rarity: a contented family unit. But the pleasure window for babies and dogs is woefully small, and they quickly grew bored. Sammy whined, craving attention. Violet fake-cried, unhappy that I would not let her escape onto the grass, to the world beyond. Too soon, that day would arrive. Before then, we needed to form a foundation, one solid enough to withstand the eventual father-daughter earthquakes. We needed to bond, damn it.
“Take my can, Violet,” I said, passing her my little piece of heaven that, as if by instinct, she pulled to her mouth. Nature. Nurture. “That’s daddy’s girl,” I said, reaching into the diaper bag to grab another round.
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 and on Instagram @JoshMBernstein.