*Disclaimer—this editorial was written under the influence of AWP
In the 1970s and early 80s American beer pretty much sucked. The craft brewing that has sprung up around the country was still trapped in basements and garages. My dad, who had lived in Belgium as a young man, often drank the cheap, diluted crap that our major breweries cranked out (and still do, of course). But he preferred better.
When he was feeling flush, or the day promised discerning company, he would buy some of the foreign beer available to American consumers. Becks, St. Pauli Girl, Dos Equis. The gold and silver foil of those imports flashed in the refrigerator light. They promised to deliver the artistry of old world patience and care. They seemed to make good on that promise.
Today I am a writer, editor, musician, and librarian. Since only one of those gigs offers actual dollars with any regularity, my family lives fairly cheaply. We live in an affordable (cold and cloudy) part of the country. I drive a used Civic. But when it comes to small-time consumables like coffee and beer, I take my old man’s lead and live large. Kona, baby. I can sample the world’s finest beers for a dollar or two more per bottle. No one on Earth, no matter how rich, can drink better beer. Beer levels the playing field. Beer is socialist.
I’m writing this on the plane home from Boston and the AWP conference. For three and a half days, I enjoyed meeting contributors to Atticus, hearing awesome writers read their work, and knocking back a formidable volume of Stella Artois with cherished friends. We flashed in the light of shared struggle and achievement. We mingled with the kings and queens of our profession. We loved large.
Now, crammed into a tiny seat at the back of the plane, alternately too hot and too cold, I feel exhausted and triumphant and nostalgic and slightly nauseated. The beverage cart inches down the isle in my direction and I know I should get some ginger ale. But I wonder what might be glinting down there in those brushed steel drawers.
Brendan Walsh’s poem, “A Good Beer” blends exotic diction, images of South Korea, and an excellent feel for the line to describe a quest for quality ale. Walsh’s rhythmic, narrative quatrains lull the reader toward comfort before forking into the bittersweet duality of anticipation and experience. “A Good Beer,” goes down with the smooth complexity of a Belgian draught.
Eponymous Snail by Micah Chatterton is a surreal romp in which Salvador Dali follows the narrator—or is it the other way around?—through streets and bars and slippery conversation. The sentences of this compelling flash piece snap with Dali’s famous abstract precision. In the opening image, the great surrealist drinks a martini with a snail for a garnish, which Chatterton describes with typical flair: “The snail’s eyes crust and retract in the clouded pool of the glass. He seems lost in the spectacle of invertebrate death, the soft, wet silence of it.”
In Evan Bryson’s “No More Anniversaries,” we’re alternately tempted towards sympathy and disgust for the aptly-named Mr. Bender. In the end, perhaps the pity felt for him by his fellow airline passenger is the most fitting reaction to a character so painfully human–one who feels the need to disguise his McCormick’s as Bombay Sapphire to impress his whores.
Photo by Andrius Vanagas