When I was a wee tot, my grandparents owned a tavern. Whenever we visited them, we went to the tavern. It was the center of my grandparents’ lives. Family and friends and strangers who weren’t friends yet met them there. I learned how to play pool in the back room when I was four or five, I learned how to pour a beer (Gads, don’t ask how old I was, I was pretty young…foam is not your friend and only with Guinness beer is foam your friend), and my cousin taught me to write my name there. I danced with Gram to the jukebox. I remember the funky wet smell of the cooler, Friday night fish-fries, and my Grandpa’s killer tavern chilli (yes, two “L”s in chilli. Illinois chilli has two “L”s–ILL–Illinois).
But. The tavern served, well, it served bad beer. I didn’t realize it was bad beer until I was much older. I just figured I didn’t like beer, an attitude that served me well in college. Then I moved to Colorado, home to microbrews.
Tom and I would go out with friends after my concerts to a local brewpub for beer and nachos. Suddenly a whole world opened up to me, a world of delicious beer. Beer that didn’t taste like, um, piss water. Beer with a personality, that I wouldn’t mind taking home with me.
And things were good, for a long time. I met all sorts of local microbrews, brought them home, and made friends.
Then sadness reigned in the House of Chaos: I was diagnosed as insensitive to gluten. And the sky crumbled and my tears poured (not really) and the basement mini fridge full of beer, glorious beer, stayed full.
Until this week.
A friend of Tom’s, also gluten-free, said he had heard of a gluten-free beer. Wha’? Isn’t the whole point of beer to have, well, gluten-y things?
I looked into it. And almost wrote it off when I realized I could buy it at the grocery store, for that meant it was 3.2% beer and really, how good could it be? It’s manufactured by Anheuser-Busch and my first reaction to A-B beer is :insert retching sound here:. But hey, I was on my way to the store, what could I lose? If it was good, swell, if it wasn’t…well…I’d find some sort of use for it. Water my tomato plants or something.
So I bought a six-pack of Redbridge beer. And while Tom and I (mostly Tom) assembled a piece of furniture that night, I popped one open.
I took one sip. I took another. And I let out a yelp of joy.
Holy hell, they did it. I don’t know how they did it, but they did it. A gluten-free beer. A gluten-free beer manufactured in partnership with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. A gluten-free beer that tastes great. I’m still stunned.
So this Independence Day I’ll be enjoying a cool one with my grilled beast. Happily, with a smile on my face and a song in my heart and a beer in my hand.