‘A Lovely Golden Glow . . .’

I’m a beer nerd.

The squib on the blog page “About Your Host” says, “And I still like a good dark beer.” That’s true, but over the past twenty years, I’ve come to love others as well: ambers, pale ales, red ales, and more.

It was during my long-ago travels in Europe that I came to like beers other than the basic yellow lager most Americans were drinking at the time. When I came home, I drank some dark beer in bars that had it on tap, but it wasn’t available a lot of places, and if it was available in liquor stores, it was more expensive than your basic brands, so as I went through college and just beyond, I drank a lot of the American lager.

As circumstances changed throughout my life, beer came and went from my refrigerator. I quit drinking for a while in the Eighties and early Nineties for various reasons, and then again in the late Nineties when a doctor told me to avoid yeast for a year, so it’s only in the past two decades that I’ve been able to indulge myself in beer styles and brands from around the world.

So, why this today? Because I’ve been pondering returning to a long-abandoned project: my journal from my time in Europe during the 1973-74 academic year. I worked on it regularly for maybe a year almost twenty years ago, then stopped (probably about the time I started this blog). My method was to type up verbatim each day’s journal entry and then clarify and expand the entry as well as comment on how those events seem to the adult me.

And I’ve been poking through the six-plus months I have completed – that sounds like I’m close to ending it, but I was on the road all of March and most of April; those two months are likely to be the longest chapters in the project, and I’m only up to March 7 – and thinking about resuming things. And as I poked around this morning, I checked out the entry for December 8, 1973, a Saturday I spent in Brussels forty-eight years ago today. Here’s a portion of my commentary on that day’s entry:

I did not do Belgium well. I did sip enough beer, however, to judge it among the best I ever had. Now, the best beer I had during my entire time in Europe was the Danish Tuborg Rød I’ve already mentioned.  But Belgian brews were very good.  I didn’t drink a lot, but I had a good sample, including the beer I had [December 8] with the fellow from Montreal. We sat in one of the cafés on the Grand Place, next to a window so fogged over that the lights of the square outside – glinting off the gilt facades of the buildings across the way – were diffused into a lovely golden glow as the afternoon faded away. I don’t think I ever had a bad beer in Belgium – and Belgium is the only nation I can say that about – but that one, a dark beer I drank in the warmth of the café as the December evening began, is the one I remember the most fondly.

It took years for that seed to sprout, but I think on that day, the beer nerd in me began to form.

So, what else happened that day in Brussels? Well, one of the things I liked to do in each major city I visited was – along with visiting historic sites and museums – to take some time to wander through the grocery stores and the downtown arcades, seeing at least a little bit of what life was like for the folks who lived there.

And while I wandered through a glitzy and very modern arcade not far from the restaurant where I would drink a beer that afternoon, I went past a record store and learned from a window display that Ringo Starr had a new album out, the album simply titled Ringo from which came the hits “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen.”

I tucked the information away, and a little more than a year after I came home, I came across the album in a used record shop, and it’s long been one of my favorites.

So, to mark all that from forty-eight years ago today, here’s my favorite album track from the Ringo album, “Step Lightly.” (And I’ll likely also mark those long-ago events late this afternoon with a dark beer from the selection in the new mini-fridge that sits not far from where I write.)

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