The Suds Chronicles

When a cold one comes in downright handy

By Bill Fields

Some people abstain from alcohol during January, but I don’t think I will be one of them this year.

After getting a COVID-19 breakthrough infection in November and isolating at home for 10 days, one of my first stops upon recovering was for a beer in the tap room of my local — and excellent — craft brewery, Aspetuck Brew Lab. Along with the comfort of seeing familiar faces was the welcome taste of my favorite, Turbidity Lucidity, an American IPA.

The brewery says of TuLu that “this citrusy smooth, crushable IPA is capped off with a double dose of dry-hops and Simcoe and Mosaic lupulin power. Citrus-forward and crisp.” I just know that I like it.

The pleasure of that pint, the first I’d had in two weeks or so because I got sick, started me thinking about my beer life. It started with a sly (or so I thought) sampling of my father’s stash. I was 12, and Dad was in the hospital for a few days. While Mom visited him one evening, I built up the nerve to open one of the Budweisers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. So bitter and unappealing was the taste, I doubt if I consumed 2 ounces of the lager. I poured out the rest and put the empty in the outside trash can. I figured Dad wouldn’t notice there were now four cans in the fridge instead of five.

“I see you’ve been into my beer,” he said upon coming home.

“Didn’t like it,” I replied.

That would change in the ensuing years. I wasn’t much of an underage drinker — Dad being a police officer probably had something to do with that — but sure wouldn’t refuse an occasional beer from a friend when we left the Castle of Dreams disco on Tuesday teen night.

Upon turning 18 in 1977, a couple of friends and I were happy-hour regulars on Fridays at 21 Club on West New Hampshire Avenue in downtown Southern Pines. A cool, dimly lit place on a hot summer evening with $1.50 pitchers of Bud to pour into frosted mugs just about defined high living at that point in our lives.

Quantity trumped quality when it came to beer consumption during college in Chapel Hill, whether at Troll’s, Harrison’s or He’s Not Here. Only the place with the great name has survived the decades, but I’ll always remember a Friday afternoon journalism “class” at Harrison’s with the visiting journalist Tom Wicker. The North Carolina native, UNC graduate and New York Timesman held court for three Heinekens and lots of stories before excusing himself to attend another engagement.

I painfully had (way) more than three beers on a Saturday evening in 1985 in Cincinnati, prior to photographing the final round of the LPGA Championship the next day. Nancy Lopez won the tournament by a whopping eight strokes. My victory was making it through the hot afternoon despite a lethal hangover. It was a valuable lesson for the rest of my years on the golf tournament photography trail: all things in moderation, particularly on Saturday night.

I’ve had beers in the den of Curtis Strange, the first person I knew to have a keg in his home (being on the Michelob staff had its advantages, and there was no doubt he believed in the product). I drank a Rolling Rock on Arnold Palmer’s jet and went to a chicken-and-beer place (it’s a thing) with my South Korean hosts on a business trip there. Working at the Tokyo Olympics last year, our activities were restricted because of the pandemic. Fortunately, there was a 7-Eleven in our hotel complex that wasn’t off limits. A 7-Eleven in Japan is stocked with many items, including different kinds of beer, which wasn’t a bad thing to have on hand while watching Olympic rowing or table tennis at night on the Japanese channels.

That Yebisu tasted much better than the Budweiser I had 50 years earlier.  PS

Southern Pines native Bill Fields, who writes about golf and other things, moved north in 1986 but hasn’t lost his accent.


Photograph by Bill Fields

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