Brewing Up A Controversy


By Alexander Foot

As fans of this occasional column might know, I am not a big beer lover. This is not due to snobbery or some obscure medical condition. I simply prefer the taste of wine and spirits.

However, some friends of mine have released a new book–300 Years of Beer: An Illustrated History of Brewing in Manitoba. The authors, Bill Wright and Dave Craig, know more about beer than Christ knows about cowboys. And after leafing through their beautiful book on the weekend, I found myself inspired to visit a local beer emporium – The Yellow Dog Tavern on Donald Street.

Well-stocked with regional craft-brewery products, as well as national brands, I felt this was a good place to re-acquaint myself with the oldest of alcoholic beverages. Chief bottle-washer Greg was behind the bar and recommended I start out with a full pint of Half Pints St. James Pale Ale. I suggest if you want to joke about ordering a half pint of Full Pints you try it in a different bar or later at night when bartenders are more forgiving.

The beer was impressive: malty and sweet, with very little carbonation. After a brief discussion about James Salter’s new book (we were more interested in F-86s and less about anal sex) [not that there’s anything wrong about that] we shifted over to Fort Garry Ale. This is a medium dark beer with a hint of malt vinegar, perfect for a windy, cool Manitoba afternoon.

It was then but a short step to Half Pints India Pale Ale. I don’t know that much about the brewing process but it was very bitter in a good hoppy way. This felt like a beer to enjoy after driving a riding mower along the beach from Sandy Hook to Gimli.

At this point, I had reached the end of my beer tether. About to order a scrub-cleaning gin and tonic, Greg waylaid me when he looked up from the new book and asked me if I remembered Uncle Ben’s malt liquor. Suddenly, Marcel Proust’s remembrance of past madeleines wafted through me. I recalled as a sixteen-year-old hiding an illegal, partially drunk, two-four of Uncle Ben’s in a culvert not far from my parent’s farm. Returning the next weekend, after the hottest July on record, with a fifteen-year-old girl to impress, I pulled out two of the cans and toasted her, the god of Bacchus, and the end to the curse of virginity.

The popping of the lid released into my Rambler American the most noxious, libido-killing aroma I have ever encountered. Myrna Flatfoot, sexiest of all Plymouth Brethren girls, collapsed in horror. It was not that she was unused to the smell of skunk; it was the combination of rabidity and anticipation that dropped her like Jane Eyre in a broken parachute.

Sitting in the Yellow Dog on a windy Manitoba afternoon, I realized why I don’t really like beer–it was not a class-distinction, not the taste, not a medical issue–but rather a tin-laden, cork-lined understanding that my ascension to manhood would require a different libation–the drink invented for every lover’s lane, Mateus Rosé.

One Comment

  1. A. Brown
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    IS it that the bartenders are more forgiving later at night or just that as drinkers we care less?

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The Lush Life

Alexander Foot

Alexander Foot was born in Rhodesia, raised in Lithuania and now makes his home in Churchill, Manitoba. He has worked as a chicken-sexer in New York City, an elevator-operator on Baffin Island and a marriage counsellor in Utah.