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On earwax and love

Today is my anniversary. We’ve been married for eight years, which, hot damn. That’s a lot of years.

I was going to post the most recent Risk Legacy recap, and in fact have it 3/4 written, but when we got home from dinner my wife said that I should instead write about how awesome she is. She is, but I don’t think that would quite be relevant.

The wheels started turning, though, and I realized that I actually do have quite a lot to say about her and beer. For those of you who desperately want to know what was in that Risk Legacy packet we opened: sorry. Next week!

Everyone likes beer

Here’s the thing: my wife hates beer. Hates it. This might seem strange, given my passion-turned-profession, but since we actually got married a month before we could legally drink I won’t hold it against her. Neither of us saw this coming.

It’s a commonly, and I would say rightly, held belief in the beer community that when someone says “I don’t like beer” what they mean is “I have not had a beer I like yet.” Someone said to me recently that all beer tastes the same: horrible, to which I replied if all beer tastes the same then he has not tried all beer. There are so many different styles! It’s what I love about beer. A stout, an IPA and a wheat beer have practically nothing in common except their ingredients, and look how different they are! It’s like trying four varieties of Manhattan clam chowder and declaring you don’t like soup. You haven’t even tried New England clam chowder yet!

Enter my wife.

Not everyone likes beer

When I first started out drinking beer, in those days when I was a fresh faced aspiring beer geek who kept confusing Stone for Rogue, I would have her try a sip of every beer I tried. Every beer. I drank a new beer almost every night, so she has had quite a few. Every single one, without fail, she has hated. The porters and pale ales, I’ll give her those. The wheat beers, the summer ales, the fruit beers, those were more surprising. “This one you’ll like” I would say, handing her a glass of something light and refreshing. Every time, the same face. There’s a scale I developed, where the longer it takes her to grimace, stick her tongue out as though she’s either a lizard or trying to force the air to scrub off the flavor, and reach for water, the better — or at least less bad — a beer is.

Then I got into homebrewing and talked about it so much that she absorbed the information. She can carry on an intelligent conversation about beer and brewing despite hating all of it. She supported my move from extract homebrewing to all grain because it meant a move from the stove top to a propane burner outside, and to her brewing made the house smell “like a pet shop.”

The highest praise she ever gave one of my beers was to say it tasted like Molson. She was confused when I didn’t take it as a compliment.

I have given up on her liking beer. Every sip she takes is one less for me, after all, and so especially if I have a really amazing beer I want to make sure I can savor each drop. She has liked exactly one beer, which I’ve mentioned before: Duchesse De Bourgogne.

Some anecdotes

When our son was born she was told by her doctor that beer helped with the production of breast milk. I beamed, vindicated, because see it is good for you. Every day, doctor’s orders, she would have me dutifully bring her a can of Genesee from the fridge (because I won’t hear an unkind word said about Genny: it is what it is, and it does it well). Still unable to stand the taste, she would chug the can. My wife is a cheap date, tipsy after half a wine cooler. Those were fun days.

Earlier, before children, we visited Boston. We were only in town a short time, and I try not to force her into too much beer stuff since she obviously doesn’t and won’t enjoy it, so I limited myself to dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company and a tour of Sam Adams’ pilot brewery (Harpoon had closed by the time we could have gotten there). At the end of the tour we were all given three samples of beer: Boston Lager, their seasonal at the time (Oktoberfest) and a test beer they had made. (If you’re wondering, I was That Guy and asked why they gave us Boston Lager before the Oktoberfest because didn’t the hops blow out your palate, and the tour guide very kindly did not roll her eyes)

Our test batch was a red ale heavily hopped with pacific northwest hops. “Oh!” my wife said. “Uhhhgh!” She looked around for water, but there wasn’t any. Resinous pine was coating her tongue just as it was mine, except she didn’t think it was a good thing. Henceforth, PNW hops (and cascade in particular) have been designated as tasting like earwax, and she will have none of any of it.

And yet, love goes on

It still might seem very strange to people that something I devote so much time, energy and money to is not only not shared but actively disliked by my wife. To them, I say two things:

You don’t have to like the same things. If you share no interests then you’ll have a bad time of things, of course, but honestly? I kind of like having something that’s just mine. That I can go off and do by myself, and not have to deal with anyone else if I don’t want to. Solitude, and independence, are nice.

You don’t have to like everything. My wife has given me a valuable perspective on beer: sometimes a beer, or even all beer, is not for you. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong or have bad taste, it simply means you see things differently. I’ve become a big component of “let people like what they like and don’t be a jerk about it” (if you needed my official stance on “craft vs crafty”), and if the two of us were planning trips to Three Floyds and Russian River then that might be harder to understand. I appreciate the perspective.

In the end, love is blind. It also has no inherent love of hops, apparently.