Hot Day, Cold Beer

This is wishful thinking, of course. Here in Chicago we get grim, hot humid summers, but they start around July 4th. (Memorial Day mostly requires a sweatshirt, windbreaker or wool turtleneck — or some kind of layering combo.) It’s the middle of February so I’m going to have to stick with decent ales and legwarmers for the foreseeable future..

I wait until the sun’s over the yardarm religiously, making exceptions for the few and far between elegant restaurant lunches. When my friend Liz took us  out to lunch with her sister Meghan at Blackbird last fall a bottle of prosecco and three of Henriot champagne disappeared like kegs at a frat party. (Have I thanked you enough for that fab lunch, Liz?)

But drinking during the day isn’t my thing, with one fizzy exception: a cold, cheap beer on a hot day. It’s an occasion of joy, medicinal and hedonistic at the same time. The set up has to be perfect.

My hair and my clothing must be plastered, sweat-stuck, to my skin. If I’ve been clever enough to wear a sunscreen, rivers of perspiration have washed it away, and the pale Hibernian skin on my nose will peel tomorrow. An afternoon in the bleachers , a county fair — they’re obvious opportunities. But for the full appreciation of the experience, that brewski must be earned. Here are a few times situations where you might want to have a six pack of PBR handy.

In a moment of insanity, on a 97 degree day with no air conditioning, you decide to wallpaper the smallest stillist room in the house, the downstairs powder room. You watch your marriage begin to crumble during those four hours. The smarter half of the couple suggests leaving the border for another day.

Thunderstorms are approaching, and you want to lay that brick patio now.

You’ve almost dislocated your back pushing a half-ton rototiller the length of both sides of your house, to create a daffodil border and a n herb garden. The mercury is 98 in the shade. If your fingernails are dirty and your cheek is topsoil smudged, you’re golden.

I’m sure you can come up with a few ideas of your own. But there’s a ritual here, and it should be followed as closely as the bells and smells of a High Anglican church during Easter week.

The beer must be canned, not bottled. It must be cheap Lite beer. You don’t want to be tempted to sip, and that thin near-hopless slips down easy. Go for Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bud Light, or that dreadful-looking Michelob Ultra that Lance Armstrong is pushing in Olympics ads.

Don’t stop for a shower. Grab a can from the fridge, rub it across your forehead, along your neck, and into the neck of your Tshirt. Go back outside and pop the cap. Throw your head back and chug — you shouldn’t come up for air more than three times. Let that thin-flavored, fizzy lifesaving fluid wet your lips, dribble down your chin and give you a cold beer brain-freeze. I find a second can an anti-climax myself, but if you’ve been pouring asphalt in Death Valley, be my guest.

Well, anticipation makes everything sweeter. Just four more months!



Filed under Drink, Five bucks or fewer, The Great Outdoors

4 responses to “Hot Day, Cold Beer

  1. Never learned to like the taste. But I DO love the literature.

    “And that’s how it came to pass that on the second-to-last day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the plate factory roof in the spring of forty-nine wound up sitting in a row at ten o’clock in the morning drinking icy cold, Bohemia-style beer, courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank State Prison.

    We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the lords of all creation. As for Andy – he spent that break hunkered in the shade, a strange little smile on his face, watching us drink his beer. “

  2. Coming back to add: I saw a beer-drinkin’ contest once, at a Mud Pull. Yep, that’s what I said.

    It was not one of those pee-diddle lil’ ole things where frat boys or the bowling team after-hours orders two pitchers, and two guys swallow for dear life.

    Oh, NNNNNOOOO! This was a no-holds barred, hands down, til-I-die beer chug. There were one-can events, and three can, and even one a those half-gallon doozies.

    These were guys who drank beer from bottles—Evenflo—as infants. And just looking at the contours of today’s beer cans, I don’t think the game would be possible.

    These guys held a church key in one hand, turned the can upside down for a quick whissssssh with the key through the bottom, then positioned the can right-side-up with their lips firmly attached to the opening.

    At the “GO” flag, they reached up like lightning, whisppppped open the tab top, and swallowed the whole thing in two drafts. No comin’ up for air in this contest—you could lose the bet, and maybe your truck.

    The REAL hard-cores used old-fashioned flat-tops, and when it came time to open the top, they had to do it over their mouths with the church key, with the can liable to jump in and break a tooth or two.

    Good times.

    PS I lak tha wye yew wriiiiiit.

  3. I’m a big Pabst fan. Okay, maybe not “big” but I like it. And they have it at all the hipster bars now, priced for $2.50 a cup when everything else is at least $6.00. So that’s an added bonus.

  4. Kim

    Like Rachel, I never aquired a taste, but I always wanted to. How I envied that long, deep pull at a can of beer on a hot day. My daddy would just pour a half a can down his throat, hardly seeming to even swallow. Same with coffee – I love the smell and the ritual of the making and the swirl of cream going into the dark coffee, almost pooling on the top and finally the stirring it into a creamy cocoa colored delicious looking treat. But…it tastes awful to me!

    My parents lived in Chicago for a few years in the early ’80s and it is somehow both the coldest and the hottest place I’ve ever been. The first summer thunderstorm we lived through sent my mother and I running through the house from our respective beds thinking that the world was ending. It was the most awesome sound I’ve ever heard/felt!

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