Grain to Glass: Pick your poison: an Ivies beer for everyone
The publication of this article takes place at the height of drinking at Bowdoin, the Friday of Ivies. For a column that is rarely topical, I’m excited to be writing for an audience that might see my biweekly contributions as, for once, relevant.
Surely you have heard the adage “you are what you eat.” It is an adage because it is true. Today, Bowdoin students will define themselves on the basis of what they’ve decided to imbibe during this year’s festival of Lites. Since we all enjoy the anthropological game that is observing each other during Ivies, let this article serve as a handy resource.
What does your Ivies beer say about you?
Bud Light/Natural Light: You are boring. Your life is boring. You have made a predictable choice; as mainstream a beer as possible in the universe of cheap, watery lagers. You have made no effort to assert any sort of preference or style in your selection. You intend to play a lot of drinking games. Enjoy your naked lap.
Miller Lite: Miller Lite’s nostalgic marketing—which revives its simplistic white cans with serif, navy text from the 1960’s—suggests that you want to resist your normcore identity. You are not aware of this enough to have purchased PBR, but you still felt some latent hesitation as you contemplated predictable Bud. This hesitation stems from the same place as the satisfaction that you had when you attached a carabineer to your Nalgene despite that fact that you have never been camping and probably never will.
Miller High Life: The champagne of industrial lager beer. It denotes some semblance of taste and consideration despite the drinkable equivalent to half-assing an essay in Times New Roman. (Some people use Cambria and those people are horrible.)
Rolling Rock: Cool bottles.
Bud Light Lime: You abhor the taste of alcohol and enjoy the taste of limeade because you are a child. It is unclear why you are at Ivies, or at Bowdoin at all. Objectively speaking, there is no possible way that you are over the age of twelve. Go find an adult to take you home.
Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR): You live in Reed House and/or are part of the Outing Club. You own a polaroid camera. You are so excited for the new Mumford album. (Real fans call them Mumford).
Molson: Why? So random. You are the person in your grade that everyone will be shocked to learn exists when your name is called at graduation.
Blue Moon/Shock Top: You’ve scorned the plebeian swillers of macrobrews from atop your high horse since you discovered a six pack of Shock Top in your parents garage refrigerator. You think this is craft which means you do not read my column which means you are horrible.Craft beer: You spend way too much money on Ivies and steal all your opinions from the New Yorker.
Forties: You appreciate the economy of this foul-tasting barf water, which means you have no respect for your body but respect for the cause. That you opted for it over the economy of a fruity mixed drink says volumes about your character.
Non-domestic cheap lagers: You’re not fooling anyone that you have good taste in beer because they come in glass bottles. The one exception is Stella, in which case you are classy and I’m intimidated by you.
Human urine: See Bud/Natty.
Any beer in a beer helmet: Was it easy finding new housing after they shut down Crack?
Any beer in a camelback: Mike Woodruff is going to be very angry with you on Monday.
Grain to Glass: The human element: What makes a craft beer?
Have you seen the sex scene in “Blade Runner?” In the moments before Harrison Ford kisses his co-star Sean Young against a window pane, there are a series of close-up shots of Young’s face. The intimacy of the camera—the way it notices her soft cheeks, her strands of flyaway hair—humanizes her, induces a kind of empathy and attraction in the viewer that simulates Ford’s, and that hopefully overcomes the knowledge that she is an android. She is, in those moments, “human”, in the adjectival form.
That’s good filmmaking. It makes you want to sleep with a robot, or, at the very least, confuses your understanding of what a robot is.
Sometimes, I have a similar confusion about what makes a craft beer “craft.” On Tuesday, it was National Beer Day, and I saw that Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery had posted a Forbes article titled “The 13 Best Craft Beers in America.” The 13 craft beers were chosen by Matt Canning (the beer concierge at Hotel Vermont) and among them is Goose Island’s Bourbon Country Stout. “‘The standard for all barrel aged stouts,’ Canning wrote. ‘Chocolate, caramel, and smoke on the nose—and rich oak from the barrels on the finish.’”
But does Bourbon County Stout deserve a place on Canning’s list? Based on his description of the flavor, it seems so. However, in March of 2011, the macro-brewing company Anheuser-Busch purchased Goose Island, and thus, by the definition put forth by the Brewer’s Association, which states that a craft brewery must be small and independent, Goose Island is technically no longer a craft brewery.
Can a non-craft brewery make craft beer? While it may be owned by the industrial brewers, Goose Island consistently produces delicious beer. Goose Island’s inclusion among the list makes the implicit argument that craft beer is about taste, and taste alone.
Goose Island’s CEO and founder John Hall stands by that argument. “‘Goose Island is a craft beer, period,’” he stated to time magazine in an August of 2013 article that questioned the status of Goose Island’s craft identity. The article explains that smaller, independently owned craft breweries initiated the questioning because they saw Goose Island as a threat to the meaning of the word “craft”.
“‘The so-called definition of craft beer has evolved over the years,’” Hall continued. ‘“Both the brewery size and ingredients have been changed. I believe the beer drinkers are the ones who truly decide what is a craft beer or isn’t.’”When time went to the Brewer’s Association for comment, Julia Herz, the Brewers Association’s craft beer program director, agreed with Hall, saying that the Brewer’s Association does not have a hard and fast definition for what craft beer is (unlike the outline it has for what a craft brewery is). Like Hall, she leaves it up to beer drinkers to make the decision.
I’m a beer drinker. But I hope you aren’t looking for an answer from me, because I don’t have one. Yes, I think a lot about what it means to be craft beer, and yes, taste is certainly something that I consider highly important—haven’t you noticed my comical propensity for hyper-specific flavor reviews? (Haven’t you made fun of them?)
But I’m also a romantic who likes to meet her brewer. I’ve been made fun of for that, too. This is part of my consideration when I think about that scene in “Blade Runner,” when I think about Bourbon Country Stout as a kind of android beer: ostensibly and empirically faithful to a certain definition, but still, lacking something essential and untraceable.
I guess that would be the “human-ness” of the beer, which, I suppose, signifies that feeling of satisfaction you get from drinking something that was made nearby, made by hand, made by people that you can put a face to, that have a story.
And yes, “craft” is conflated often with “local,” and I know that is incorrect. I remember drinking Brooklyn Lager at a pub in London and thinking that it tasted delicious, even a thousand miles from where it came from. Stone Brewery is one my favorite breweries and it is located in Southern California, and they make 213,277 barrels of beer a year (for reference, that is nearly as much as the state of Maine produces annually).
And yes, I keep saying “and yes.” It’s the sound a person makes when she wants to be both a certain kind of consumer and a certain kind of connoisseur.
Grain to Glass: Pai Men Miyake’s creative beer list inspires
I stood before a big chalkboard on the wall opposite the foyer of the restaurant—the menu—like it was a great painting. My eyes descended the list, clinging to each item like a rung on a ladder; in reaching the bottom, the menu had become a stack of tough decisions. This menu had been cultivated to appeal to a diverse range of palates. Among the staples were surprises, more uncommon finds that suggested the restaurant’s desire to provide its patrons with novelty as well as quality. But despite the range and variety, the items on the menu were united in their commitment to a sense of place: the Portland beer scene.
The menu, or draught list, at Pai Men Miyake—where I found myself coming for dinner and drinks this past Friday—embodies Portland’s enthusiasm for craft beer in its selection of local Maine beers as well as international crafts from countries like Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and California (yes, I include California, whose brewing prowess makes it a kind of beer “country”). Portland is a beer drinker’s Epcot in its stylistic and geographic diversity, and Pai Men, though a Japanese restaurant, embraces the spirit of Portland’s diversity.
So yes, decisions, decisions. Luckily, I didn’t have to make many, as I brought along with me a troop of tasters: three other senior ladies who had consented to tackling the taps with me. We also had Ben with us, a sophomore and our designated driver, but also a self-described “serious eater.” You can read his column on page seven to see for yourself. While I stood slacked-jawed before the draught list, he stood with his nose in the air, commenting on how good the place smelled. The place smelled like yummy soup.
Besides the perfunctory addition of Sapporo (a cheap, ubiquitous Japanese lager), the tap list was clearly assembled with the interest of a beer drinker in mind. My advice to beer drinkers who are headed to Pai Men (and beer drinkers, you ought to be headed there) is to follow the implicit suggestion of the restaurant and choose the beer that seems most exciting to you. The conspicuously robust and thoughtful tap list suggests that Pai Men wants to honor its identity as a restaurant in Portland, Maine as much as a purveyor of delicious Japanese fare. The disjunction between Pai Men’s cuisine and its beer offerings (a tension encapsulated in the restaurant’s similarly unique moniker “Japanese pub”) should relieve restaurant patrons of the task in trying to discern “right answers” when it comes to pairing the food and drink.
That said, it isn’t a bad idea to keep in mind some of the principles of pairing beer and food.Usually, when we think of sophisticated food and alcohol pairings, we think of wine. But beer is an excellent companion with food, and its numerous styles means there are endless combinations to play a round with. The most basic rule of thumb when pairing beer with food is matching strength with strength. If you order a subtly-spiced witbier and proceed to chow down on a bowl of spicy curry, the curry will surely overtake the delicate complexity of the beer. The same is true for the reverse: a strong and smoky rauchbier will cancel out the delicacy of sashimi. Order what you like—there is no right or wrong choice—but try not to create too much competition for your taste buds.
If you are concerned with creating a happy marriage between your food and your beer, keep the following in mind: what do you want the effect of our pairing to entail, flavor wise? With beer, there are major “effect” categories when it comes to pairing: complementary (roasty stouts and savory meats); juxtaposition (a dry and cleansing pale ale with a fattier dish); and, for lack of a better word, the creation of a new flavor from the union of two distinct flavors (who knew that the combination of imperial stout and oysters resulted in a delicious in-between sensation?).Pai Men’s tap list encourages creativity, so run wild with it. I did. Our waitress came over and asked Margaret what she wanted to drink. I responded, “We’ll take a Bissell Brother’s Swish, a Bunker Bunkerator, a Liquid Riot Tripel, and, hmmm, okay let’s go with the Rauchbier.”Young Benjamin ordered a lemonade and scribbled something about mayo and scallops. For what would not be the first time that night, Emily noted that the music was good (a refrain that took the place of reviewing the food). “Stop asking me what my beer tastes like,” she said after we ordered a second round. “Eat your miso,” she said.
“Can I try your miso?” asked Ben.
“Oriana, can I try Margaret’s stout with your pork bun?” I asked Oriana.
Since our meal on Friday, the tap list has already rotated, and what delightful (and failed) combinations I discovered over the course of dinner—how the Rauchbier’s smoked malts overwhelmed the food, yet alone, tasted like a drinkable barbeque; how the sweetness in the Bunkerator Bock harmonized with the savory brussel sprouts—are not much help to you. While the tap list may constantly change, the commitment to excellent and interesting beer is consistent, making Pai Men Miyake as much a drinker’s paradise as a haven for Japanese comfort food. Everything is a safe bet, so my advice is to experiment.
Grain to Glass: Ebenezer’s unique offering: quality beers
The local bars in Brunswick each have something they’re good for. Joshua’s is a good place to end (or begin) a night out. Sea Dog is a good place to bring your folks and your roommates on Family Weekend. Ebenezer’s Brewpub, just about a mile from campus on Route One, is good for beer.
Ebenezer’s Brewpub is the home of Lively Brewing, a Maine brewery started by Chris Lively. Lively is also the owner of the original, world-famous Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine. A neat piece of trivia: the original Ebenezer’s was rated “the best beer bar in the world” by veritable beer authorities such as Draft Magazine and BeerAdvocate (the latter awarded the title five years in a row). For a bar in middle of nowhere, Maine, that’s an accolade almost as surprising as it is impressive.
The praise for the original Ebenezer’s is due to its incredible selection of beer. The pub boasts a whopping thirty-five taps dedicated to Belgian beers, but what has perhaps earned them their reputation is its impressive collection of cellared beers: Ebenezer’s houses over seven hundred bottles of aged beer, many of which are rare and highly coveted by beer connoisseurs.
Yes, it might surprise you to learn that certain beers can be cellared. Not all beers take to aging (hoppy beers especially are best right after they are brewed, when the hops are still fresh and aromatic), but the ones that do often mature into boozier, complex versions of themselves. Beers that are suitable for cellaring—typically beers with heartier constitution and higher alcohol content, such as imperial stouts or barleywines—are of course ready to be enjoyed when they hit the market, but cellaring is a fun way for beer geeks to experiment with the different flavorful evolutions a beer can undergo over time.
Ebenezer’s Brewpub has a more narrow and specific selection: here in Brunswick, the pub only offers its own beer—beer brewed under the Lively name. The Brewpub usually has between eight and ten beers available, and the list grows and rotates over the course of time to showcase new brews. The changing selection means that a trip to Ebenezer’s is a chance to experience the brewer’s different experiments and refinements. And you can pretty much count on the fact that you’re drinking it fresh.
Lively Brewing (as I’ll refer to the brewing end of the operation) has a noticeable preference for Belgian beers, and they populate the menu, with fun names like “Brother Broseph” and “the Beaut.” I’m careful to generalize about my experience, given the changeable nature of the menu so there are bound to be hits and misses. I’ve preferred the brewery’s Belgian-inspired Saisons and Abbey Ales over its hoppier attempts. This is possibly with the exception of the Belgian Witbier, which underwhelmed.
The pale ales and IPAs hadn’t quite found the right balance, and packed a citrus rind-y punch without much compliment from the malt. In all fairness, however, I prefer IPAs and pale ales that aim at a more tropical or dank hop profile.My favorite beers at Ebenezer’s so far have been the dark beers. I’ve sampled three so far (note: doing research for this column is more fun than doing research for my classes), each a different style, and in body, nose, flavor, and complexity, each had proven to be the best beer of the night.
Now, it usually isn’t a good idea to group beers by their color, as color isn’t a trustworthy indication of flavor or style. But I’ll still venture this evaluation given that it’s remained true over a range of styles: I’ve had a Dubbel, a rye, and an American Porter that were each distinct in flavor, but united in their supremacy over the rest of the menu. If you’re planning to head over to the Brewpub soon, I recommend a glass of the Lively Rye, a smooth, medium-bodied beer with a boozy sweetness that conjures up notes of dried fruit, and ends with a dry, almost tart finish.
Grain to Glass: Selling inferior beer a tall order for macro-breweries
I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but less than 24 hours after it was over several of my friends emailed me the link to a Budweiser commercial that aired during the game. The advertisement is a cocky and desperate attempt to take on the increasing popularity of craft beer, wherein Bud seeks to promote its own mediocre product by way of hurling childish, immature accusations at the craft beer industry.
Edited to a song that I assume is called “Macho Song!”, the commercial alternates between shots of Bud Light and craft beer, while flashes of bold text help to draw a comparison between Bud drinkers and craft drinkers—which, in Bud’s evaluation, is the difference between true beer drinkers and pompous snobs. “Budweiser: it’s not brewed to be fussed over,” the ad proclaims. “It’s brewed for a crisp, smooth finish.”
Conspicuously absent from the commercial is a final shot of Budweiser’s top executives pointing at the camera and yelling, “You need some ice for that burn?”
Now, excuse me while I “fuss over” this advertisement.
What is most fascinating to me about this ad is that it identifies the culture of craft beer as a major threat to macro-brewed beer—not the beer itself.
Notably, the ad mocks and demeans the kinds of ritual and behavior associated with drinking craft beer: smelling, sipping and discussing the flavor of the brew— what Budweiser terms the “dissecting” of a beer.
Aggressively, but not perhaps not surprisingly, Budweiser points a finger at hipsters for starting all the fuss. The ad introduces craft beer with a shot of a guy with chunky glasses dipping his bushy moustache into a foamy stout.
Because, as all know, hipsters are judgmental snobs who start pointless fads in order to make you feel bad about yourself. Hipsters, and therefore, craft beer drinkers, are the worst, and certainly nothing like the honest and unaffected folks who drink Bud.
“The people who drink our beer are the people who like to drink beer,” says the ad. Those other losers are drinking the hipster Kool-Aid.
While the cheap finger-pointing and macho appeals to the (male) consumer’s ego are obnoxious and, frankly, a little bit sad, Budweiser (and other macro-breweries) is not entirely off-base. The Atlantic published an article last November that attempted to explain the popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) over Budweiser. PBR has an enormous appeal among hipsters, despite the fact that, like Bud, it is a cheap (and cheap-tasting) macro-brewed lager.
The article goes on to quote a Quartz report that discovered the following: “After observing [PBR’s] unexpected popularity in Portland, Oregon” ”—hipster mecca—“back in 2001, the company concluded that people were buying the beer because it wasn’t aggressively being pitched to them.”
“For a brand as large as Budweiser,” The Atlantic article goes on, “not advertising at all probably won’t cut it as a strategy. But cynically pandering to Millennials…isn’t going to cut it, either.”
In the context of these findings, Budweiser’s claim that it is “proudly a macro-beer” is less of a rallying cry, and more of a defensive, embittered whine. But what other options do they have? What’s going to cut it?
Another way that macro-breweries have attempted to combat the rise of craft beer is not by advertising, but by infiltrating the craft beer market with actual beer. The two major examples of this phenomenon are Blue Moon and ShockTop.
These beers are brewed by macro-breweries—MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, respectively. The idea is to brew a different style of beer (Blue Moon and ShockTop are both wheat beers, not lagers) that is slightly higher quality, and market it like a craft beer. In this sense, Blue Moon and ShockTop are less like breweries and more like sub-brands of larger companies who are trying to appeal to diverse markets.
MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have met relative success in convincing the lay consumer that their decoys are craft. For one, you can’t find any obvious sign of their parent corporations on the packaging. And, I have to admit, they do taste better—at least enough to notice a difference over a cheap, watery lager.
But their plan backfired. While the idea was to reclaim the market by introducing a better tasting beer, Blue Moon and ShockTop became gateway beers into the craft market. The difference consumers detected in the improved “crafty beers” (as Blue Moon and ShockTop are now called) led consumers to seek out real craft beer—which, unsurprisingly, tastes even better. It seems as though the people who like to drink beer—because they like the taste of beer—are drinking craft.
So while the process of dissecting craft beer is a little geeky and a little goofy—my friend recently noted that her Berliner Weisse had a pleasant “urine taste”—it’s ultimately in the effort of seeking a more challenging relationship with something we love and enjoy.
To use a literary analogy, Budweiser’s logic that its beer’s euphemistic “crispness” is preferable because it lacks complexity and goes down easy is equivalent to condemning the stylistic experimentalism in Finnegan’s Wake in favor of the clarity of the prose in Twilight.
When I first saw Bud’s Super Bowl ad, I tweeted it with the caption: “This is the greatest commercial I have ever seen.” Perhaps it was to fight hyperbole with hyperbole, or mockery with more mockery.
But mostly, it’s because in one infuriating minute the ad ironically defies itself by depicting the complex reality of beer in America today—the marketing, the production, the perceptions, the rivalries—proving that these days, in America, nobody, not even Budweiser, can help but to fuss over beer.
Video: Behind the scenes: Special Collections
A look at what's in The George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, how it's maintained and what it's used for
Grain to Glass: Maine beers offer quality, classic underdog story
While I was home for Thanksgiving in New York last November, I met up with a couple of Bowdoin alums at a craft beer bar on West 45th Street. The place looked like a trendy cellar—slender, dimly lit, and a few steps down from the sidewalk outside.
And perhaps cellar is the right word, because while the bar had a few taps, this was really a bottle shop.
The real selection resided in a long wall of coolers containing an enormous array of bottles representing some of the finest beers available. Jostling between several groups of stylish, bearded people, I made way from the fridges and hunted for one of my favorite IPAs from the West Coast.
Returning to our table—a varnished plank straddling two upturned oak barrels—I was surprised by my friend’s selection: an elegant, slender brown bottle, with a simple, unmistakable white label. She’d found Zoe, an amber ale from a small craft brewery, Maine Beer Company (MBC), located twenty minutes from Bowdoin’s campus in Freeport.
The design of the bottle, clean and unassuming, suggested it might have been out of place among craft ales (it looked almost like a wine bottle). But that assessment was soon belied by the flavorful contents within. MBC wasn’t out of place—it was distinctive.
It’s a brewery with the unassuming charm of a local business and the prowess to compete in the big leagues. I wasn’t surprised to find MBC among such a fine company of beers because their beer is excellent. I was simply surprised to find it so far from its home in Maine.
MBC is a real “started-from-the-bottom” story. Begun as a hobby then founded in a garage, it eventually grew from nano-brewery to microbrewery to the brewery that produces beers so popular that it can’t meet its demand—good luck finding bottles of their IPA Lunch.
As an indication of MBC’s success, prominent beer writer Joshua Bernstein uses its flagship brew, Peeper Ale, as a paradigmatic example of the American Pale Ale style in his bestselling coffee table book on beer tasting. Truly, their story is so quintessential and inspiring that you can find it on their website, presented in a digital chapter-book format. Read it to your kids—or someone’s kids.
But although MBC’s reputation began to extend well beyond mid-coast Maine with a demand to match it, it chose to stay small. When I asked an employee about expansion over a beer last October, she implied that the owners were happy with what they’d built. They didn’t feel the need to expand.
What MBC does feel the need to do is the right thing—this doesn’t just mean drinking beer. “Do what’s right” is the brewery’s slogan, or more aptly put, the brewery’s mission statement. One percent of their gross sales are donated to environmental non-profits and each beer contains a paragraph on its label describing the non-profit towards which its sales contribute.
All craft beers wear a noticeably higher price tag than their mass-marketed compatriots, but at least with MBC you can feel like the few extra dollars are truly well spent.
Now, reader, do what’s right and drink MBC’s beers.
I may be exposing a bias, but I think its hoppier offerings are where the brewery excels. As a general note, MBC beers are not assertively bitter—even those which showcase their hops at the front of the palate. I love MBC because I can rely on interesting, delicious hop profiles when I’m not in the mood for an astringent beer. I recommend MBC pale ales and IPAs to those of you who typically aren’t fond of IPAs or those who are interested in working their palate up to more daring, hoppier experiences.
In his book, Bernstein describes Peeper Ale as a “sunny” beer. Maybe this is a nod to its hazy, yellow appearance, but more likely it characterizes the effervescent, citrusy tang. Peeper Ale finishes dry, with lingering buttery-malt sweetness. Mo is an equally delicious, slightly hoppier, piney pale ale. I can’t decide which I like better.
Lunch is MBC’s most popular beer. Drinking it for the first time, I remember feeling surprised by the complexity of unexpected, even unconventional hop flavors that gave way to an almost graham cracker-y finish. The name is not a suggested replacement for the meal itself, although you have my permission.
Zoe is the outlier of my recommendations in that it’s an amber ale. However, as MBC has termed it a “hoppy amber”. Zoe is a great beer for those in the mood for malty, heartier and darker beer with some hoppy distinction.
You can try most of these and more down at the brewery in Freeport, and I suggest that you do. It’s totally unlike the bar in midtown—the place seems designed to resemble its beer labels, with clean, white, understated walls and an elegant bar to the side. You really do feel like you’re drinking the beer at its home.
Grain to Glass: Thanksgiving beer pairings for the whole family
The famous English theorist Alan Sinfield determined that all hegemonic ideologies sow the seeds of their own undoing. Sinfield must have surmised this after attending many holiday parties.
The holidays depend as much on their strict cultural traditions as they do on the annual mistakes that disrupt them—the dropped Thanksgiving turkey, the fallen-over Christmas tree. It’s built into the idea of the holiday that the holiday must go a little awry.
So allow to me continue in the time-honored tradition of reinforcing these cultural narratives, if only to ensure the survival of weird stories to share when it’s all over. Here are some beer pairings for the stereotypical characters that ought to be at your Thanksgiving celebration. Even this stupid narrative conceit is hopefully upended by the irony that hey, since when do we drink beer at Thanksgiving?
Your parents: I don’t care if your mother is a fun-loving progressive that let you have wine at dinner during your senior year in high school. When she’s standing over the turkey and wielding a large kitchen knife, you’ll be happy that you’re on your best behavior. That’s why you should pair your parents with a super low-ABV Lambic beer. Lambics are Belgian style, spontaneously fermented sour beers, meaning that the beer is fermented over a long period of time with specially cultivated “wild” yeast strains.
Wild yeast—which begets the category of “wild beers”—imparts funky, unpredictable, but typically sour flavors, and yields a refreshingly tart and rarely boozy final product. What’s particular about Lambics, however, is the addition of fruit to the fermentation tanks, giving these full-bodied, smooth sipping beers an unmistakable fruit-juicy character. I recommend picking up a bottle of the Belgian Lindemans Framboise (2.5 percent ABV), if only because Lambics are uncommon, and I’ve seen this brand around my local Whole Foods. Try their option brewed with peaches.
The stately grandfather: The first time I got buzzed, my very own stately grandfather was over for dinner and I shook a lobster claw at him at the dinner table. His reprimand has left serious emotional scars, and I’ve been desperately trying to rebuild a reputation for decency ever since. I imagine the same is true for my entire readership.
This Thanksgiving, I’m pairing my stately grandfather with a Belgian Tripel. Tripels are pale, strong beers (with ABV usually near 10 percent) that incorporate complex floral and citrus flavors with a sweet, yeasty malt backbone. This might sound similar to other Belgians beers, but the Tripel is distinct in its degree of bitterness.
Not unlike my grandfather, the Tripel’s characteristic bite reminds me at the front of every sip that I should sip my drink slowly and respectably over the course of the night. The Allagash Tripel is by far my favorite on the market: it moves through stages of spice, candied citrus and buttery malt, amounting to a beer so complex you’ll need to have several to account for its entire spectrum of flavors.
The crazy uncle: You would think that this unprincipled, unshaven stereotype ought to be crushing Buds all night long.
On principle, I cannot recommend a Bud Light. Not even in the noble pursuit of perpetuating stereotypes. Not even to my worst enemy. And so I suggest that you purchase a six-pack of West Coast IPA.
IPAs push the limits of what’s palatable, but we love them anyway. One sip of this mouth-puckering, ultra-bitter brew will put the same look on your face as one of your crazy uncle’s dirty jokes, so why not kill two birds with one stone?
I suggest Baxter Brewing’s exceedingly bitter Stowaway IPA (6.9 percent) and Sierra Nevada’s palate-torquing Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2 percent)—for their astringency and because you can find them, fittingly, in cans.
The fun aunt: Nobody rocks the pixie cut and technicolor scarf like your fun aunt. Her name is probably Deb. Her boozy alter-ego deserves a similarly merry character, so peruse aisles of your local liquor store (tip: specialty wine stores are often the best places to find a good craft beer selection) and see which of your favorite breweries are offering a holiday spiced ale.
This style varies in its offerings, but spiced ales usually attempt to encapsulate the holidays with festive seasonal flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger—maybe even some hot peppers.
The brooding, antisocial sibling: He claims that nobody understands him, but his cigarette-burned Joy Division T-shirt gives him away: he’s undeniably a stout. Plunge into the dark abyss of your humanity with the taste of roasted malt, smoke and ash. Forge in the smithy of your soul with the help of dark chocolate and bitter espresso.
Either way, the depth and range of flavor going on in this popular and delicious style will make your eyeliner run, it’s that good.
North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (9 percent) is perhaps the paragon of dark, brooding brews, and luckily, you can pick up a six pack at Local on Maine Street. Two dependable backups are Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Allagash Black, both 7.5 percent ABV.
Grain to Glass: India pale ale: more than a craft beer poster-child
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone turn down a craft beer because they “don’t like IPAs”, I could buy a six-pack right now. That IPAs (India pale ales) represent the palate of all craft beers is a misconception, of course: craft beer comprises all artisanal quality ales and lagers. But to respond to the misconceivers, I will say: I’d probably use my nickels to buy some IPA.
IPAs have become the poster-child for American craft beer. How come? It departs from the typical flavor profile of the ubiquitous lager in the same way that craft beer departs from the ubiquitous mass-market beer. Of course, all craft brews represent a “breakaway” of sorts, but the flavors in an IPA have made it an icon.
IPAs are particularly dramatic. They are provocative brews, often toeing the boundaries of what is palatably safe with mouth-puckering bitterness, astringency and big, boozy flavors. Thus, style-wise, lagers and IPAs are in diametric opposition: IPAs are hoppy beers, where lagers are malty. Like craft beer, IPAs are an alternative to the mainstream (hipsters, it’s time to ditch your PBR), but it’s their particular taste that makes them especially symbolic.
But let’s get real, the misconception is also reinforced by the immense popularity of IPAs among craft beer drinkers. When I first started drinking beer, all I wanted was IPAs. I fell hard. I was besotted by boldness, bitterness and bite. I loved hops: how different strains and combinations brought unfamiliar, complex flavors to beer that I hadn’t tasted before. Readers, I started calling myself…a hophead.
Yes, I know, this is getting personal. I’m fine with it, however, because I’m not alone. American brewers love IPAs. Most American breweries brew at least one as a kind of staple, and many of the most popular craft breweries in the country are devoted to brewing big, hoppy beers. In fact, the American affinity for IPA (especially on the West Coast, where the majority of hops are grown) is so strong that Americans have reclaimed and redefined the style on the international stage.
The IPA actually originated in Britain. The story goes that the Brits in the metropole wanted to transport barrels of pale ale to their colonies in India, but the beer would spoil before it arrived. Their solution to this problem was to increase the amount of hops added to the boil, since hops are a preservative as well as a flavoring agent. The result: a super hoppy version of the familiar British pale ale.
Of course, what we now recognize as a British IPA wouldn’t taste anything like the astringent that likely arrived in India way back when, but it was likely what inspired the idea for hop-forward, more alcoholic pale ales. But American brewers pushed the style slightly further—after all, it’s an American tradition to break away from the British. We might even attribute the popularity and reputed “boldness” of the IPA to what Americans have done to renovate the style in recent years. These changes have been so influential that they’ve made their way back to England; I recall bending elbows at a few pubs that recommended English-brewed IPAs that were clearly modeled off the American approach. One brewer I spoke with affirmed the American influence, explaining that while the Brits can take credit for the IPA’s origin, Americans are now leading the way.
While the American “East Coast IPA” is closer in flavor profile to its British counterpart, there are plenty of hoppy, innovative IPAs brewed in Maine. The Portland brewery Bissell Brothers makes an IPA called “The Substance” (6.6 percent) that currently vies for my favorite on the market. Super hoppy, but not overpoweringly bitter, this beer actually soars towards its finish when it reaches its buttery malt base and achieves a perfect balance. You can get this beer on tap at Frontier, or buy it in a 16oz four-pack of cans.
I’ll save the Freeport-based Maine Beer Company (MBC) reviews for their own featured column, but I’d be remiss not to mention “Lunch” (7 percent). MBC loves hops, but its beers are not overly bitter and the gentle and complex interplay between hops and an almost cookie-like malt is probably why Lunch is the brewery’s most popular beer. Lastly, check out Portland’s Rising Tide’s Zephyr, if only because it’s fall, and this beer evokes the pre-winter chill with apples, citrus and pine needles. A perfect Maine beer, if I ever imagined one.
Flavorful pumpkin ales embody the traditions of Autumn in Maine
On Sunday, the high was 77 degrees. The sun was high in the blue-bird sky; specks in the air were illuminated by sunbeams; people splayed out on the Quad as if they’d been dropped from an airplane; and walking by, I thought to myself, no, it’s autumn, dammit.I love the sunshine. Really, I do. But now’s not the time. It is October, and it wouldn’t be so without flannel cover-ups and corduroy things, steaming cups of something fragrant, or the pleasant crunch of leaves underfoot.
I mean it when I say that it wouldn’t be October without those things. And one of these nights—maybe it’s already happened—the temperature will dip into the 30s and I, for one, will find a certain kind of excitement in that. It’s not that I like the cold, but that I like scarves. And I’ll know that it’s almost October, and another thing I love, Halloween, is coming soon.There’s joy in doing the same thing at the same time every year. The things themselves offer their own bits of happiness—scarves, for instance, or apple cider—but the cycle itself is also the joy.
There’s the anticipation of re-welcoming things back into your life that never get old. I say re-welcoming because honestly, how many times have we done this by now?
They stay the same, every year, and that sameness establishes a comfortable security as you get older. I say this all in preparation to ask a simple question: Why else do I love pumpkin beer?Because pumpkin beer is an emblem of the season, and I love emblems, and seasons. I know that on the autumnal beverage front, the Pumpkin Spice Latte hogs the limelight.
To this I say, shoo, Pumpkin Spice Latte. Make room for something closer to the source, whose taste isn’t a confectionary, superficial nod to the season, but an actual product of it: pumpkin beer, brewed with actual pumpkins, tasting of both sweet-spiciness and earthiness, deriving its charm and flavor from the actual stuff of fall.
Truth be told, pumpkin ales are not among my all-time favorite beers. But I’m always excited by them because its one of the only styles that feels truly connected to a time of year. Sure, refreshing Hefeweizens dominate the hot summer months and it’s hard not to associate belly-warming barleywines with the wintertime. But pumpkin beers are more than just seasonal favorites. They are a salute to the fall. Even the labels suggest as much: the fierce jack-o-lantern grimacing from the bottle of Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is more of a salute to fall (which I’m conflating with Halloween here) than the theme-lacking pilsner Dogfish released last December.
Now, it was my initial project to try all the pumpkin beers I could get my hands on and recommend my favorite. Then I found out the liver-quaking scale of that task. With the amount of breweries that put out a fall pumpkin beer, neither my health nor my wallet could afford the effort.
However, I can point you to a few options, most of which you can find at Hannaford or at Bootleggers in Topsham.
Pumpkin beers usually fall on a spectrum of pie (sweet and spiced) to squash (more vegetable tasting, almost a bitter earthiness). My personal preference is a balance of the two, but definitely skewing toward the pie flavors. For me, it’s the cloves and the allspice and the cinnamon that conjure up the festive connotations of fall, and I want them in my beer.For this reason, I like the Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head (available in 12 ounce bottles at Bootleggers). Brightly spiced, full-bodied, and dissolving into brown-sugar sweetness and a malt-base like pie crust, this beer manages the pumpkin-to-pie flavor ratio nicely. It is much better than another popular pumpkin beer on the market, which is nonetheless another of my favorites: Southern Tier’s Pumking. An “Imperial” Ale because of its super high alcohol content (clocking in at 8.6% percent), Pumking is much less sweet, and the bitter, squashier qualities are carried forward by its booziness.
The nose on this beer definitely gets five stars out of five: pie crust, vanilla and duh, pumpkin. You get this beer in a big 22 ounce bottle at Bootleggers.There are so many others to choose from, but I should mention the Bowdoin favorite that is Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead (you can find this on tap at Joshua’s, as well as in your roommates’ fridge, probably).
I hate to say this, given that Shipyard is the only Maine beer I’ll bring up in this article, but I find Pumpkinhead, despite its yummy sweetness, to be lacking in any solid malt foundation, as well as super watery. I recommend that you partake only as a Bowdoin tradition—which, if my argument has meant anything until now, is as good a reason as any to drink a beer.Food and drink are and have always been social—beer especially. So enjoy fall, and its boozy, pumpkin offerings. I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that pumpkin beer is not the only autumn staple on the beer market. I also invite you to take part in the other fall rituals celebrated by your local brewers. Oktoberfest beers—nicknamed for German beer festival, but which are actually called “marzen” beers, for the month when these lagers are brewed—are also flooding the shelves.
I’m not a huge fan, but Peak Organic—a Portland brewery—makes a hoppy Oktoberfest that’s worth trying. Fall is also the hop harvest season, so you can find many breweries paying tribute to fresh hops. For example, Sam Adams has a Hopology Collection (two IPAs and an IPL) that you can get at Bootlegger’s right now, but I’m mostly looking forward to the Sierra Nevada Hoptimum whole- leaf imperial IPA that I’ve got sitting in my fridge.And I haven’t even mentioned cider. I guess you’ll have to do the homework on that front, readers. Cheers.
Video: Q&A with 2015 and 2018 class council presidential candidates
Oxbow brewery: The hidden gem of coastal Maine
About 45 minutes up the coast, in bucolic Newcastle, Maine, sits Oxbow Brewery. Nestled off a wooded road with only a sign bearing the Oxbow logo—an owl encircled in an oblong “O”—to signify that anything lies beyond the dense trees, you’re likely to pass by the brewery’s entrance.
You almost have to know what you’re looking for. You can plug the address into your GPS, drive up the coast, and park your car in the lot (well, in packed-dirt spaces beside a woodshed), but the uncertainty as to whether or not the place really exists only really dissipates when you approach the bar and see that, yes, there’s beer being sold.
Perhaps this is why Oxbow brands itself as making “loud beer from a quiet place.” You might not expect that a small, unassuming old farmhouse like Oxbow is in the habit of making funky, innovative and wild creations. And yet they totally are.
Scoring a wopping 98/100 on BeerAdvocate.com Oxbow makes world class farmhouse ales that showcase a range of flavor and complexity, and demonstrate the American spirit of invention and creativity.
Oxbow refers to itself as an “American Farmhouse Brewery”. While this is ostensibly a nod to the fact that the brewery is literally situated in an old, retrofitted farmhouse, it really refers to the style of beer it brews.
Farmhouse beers are most closely associated with Belgian-style beers—also known as “Saisons,”—which are currently benifiting from a major revival among beer-makers and drinkers.
After nearly going extinct, the Belgian brewery Brasserie Dupont almost singlehandedly revived the style with its internationally coveted “Saison Dupont.” (Definitely buy it if you find it on a shelf somewhere. It’s worth the extra few dollars and you get a big fancy bottle.)As its near extinction would suggest, Saison is an old timey, traditional style of beer. Farmhouse beers originated when farmers began brewing them in the winter months so that they’d have some sudsy libations available during the summer months.
In terms of character, Farmhouse ales are mighty beers with a lot of body and flavor, designed to last through the winter and still be refreshing when opened.
While most Saisons exhibit yeasty and spicy qualities and a smooth, medium bodied mouth-feel, they also have a traditionally loose style, often taking on a range of characteristics. They can accommodate lots of intentional variations on the part of the brewers, which makes them well-suited to experimentation and creativity.
Perhaps this is why American brewers like Oxbow have taken advantage of the style. This kind of stylistic flexibility that aligns itself perfectly with the very American propensity to innovate within traditional parameters, with a penchant for big, ambitious beers. Or, to use Oxbow’s language, loud beers.
Oxbow makes one flagship beer year-round—The Farmhouse Pale Ale— and luckily, it’s relatively easy to find on tap in the mid-coast region. Farmhouse Pale Ale is of the breweries tastiest offerings and probably one of its more conservative ales (its flavor is closest to that of a traditional Saison). The beer pours a cloudy beeswax color, with a yeasty, earthy nose. Take a big sip, and it’s toast with marmalade: big bready flavors with a cutting, citrusy tartness. Sure, have it for breakfast.
Oxbow also has two perennial rockstars available right now: Loretta and Grizacca. Loretta is a subtly earthy, mildly citric, lighter drinking beer.
But my favorite is definitely Grizacca. Tongue-squeezingly tart, this beer showcases big amounts of grapefruit, lemon and floral notes on top of a solid caramel malt base. You can definitely taste the American hoppiness in this one, although it doesn’t compromise its Belgian roots. Belgian IPA lovers will go crazy for it.
Oxbow also does a series of one-offs. They call it the “Freestyle Series”. When I visited the brewery, I had the piney and grapefruit-y East Coast IPA (‘Freestyle No. 26’) which had some distinctive mandarin orange notes that set it apart from its peers.
Also available right now are two barrel aged beers, available for purchase at the brewery: Oxtoberfest and the Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale. These beers have been aged in barrels with brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain that lends a pleasant, mellow tartness. Now isn’t the time to wander into wild beer territory, so just take my word for it: these two beers are awesome.
As I said, we are fortunate that the Farmhouse Pale Ale is pretty common around these parts. Frontier has it on tap, as well as a rotating tap dedicated other Oxbow seasonals. But for some of the others, I suggest you make your way up to Oxbow and explore for yourself.
Midway through your pint, you might find yourself having a conversation with the girlfriend of the person who brewed the beer you’re drinking, like I did. Or, you might overhear a conversation between an older couple and the bartender about how they track Grizacca all over the state, and drove forty miles to finally visit the brewery itself.
At the risk of sounding sentimental, these intimate, spontaneous moments are very much a part of the promise that local craft beer makes. It is the promise of good beer, but more generally, the promise of an experience.
Reclaiming American beer: Buying into the craft brewing revolution
It’s my senior year and my friend and I are living off campus in a small, old house on Potter Street. The floors are wobbly, the wallpaper is busy, outdated and peeling in places, and some of our bedrooms are clearly retrofitted living rooms and studies. My bed, for instance, takes the place of an old baby grand, and when I fall asleep at night, my feet should be resting on a piano bench.
Many of these realizations make me smile, but none so much as the inheritance of an washing machine. It’s an old Maytag washing machine, old enough that it tap-dances while it washes. However, the reason it caught my eye actually has nothing to do with washing machines, with clothes, cleaning, or any of that: it has to do with beer—a good story about beer.
Here’s the long and short of it: back in the sixties, Fritz Maytag, heir to the Maytag washing machine fortune, was persuaded by a friend to visit the old Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, California is one of the remaining craft breweries, because it was on the brink of shutting down. It couldn’t compete in a market dominated by macro-brewed adjunct lagers (the Miller Lites of the time).
Fritz’s friend knew Fritz (who loved a good beer, one with—you know—flavor) would fall in love with the charm of the place and offer to buy it. He was right.
The revamping of the Anchor Brewery and Fritz Maytag’s love and investment in the idea of local, micro-brewed, craft beer began what today is known at the craft beer revolution (for more on Maytag as a craft beer pioneer and the story of Anchor, check out Steve Hindy’s terrific book “The Craft Beer Revolution”).
I love craft beer, and now I love my washing machine. I look forward to a day in the United States when I don’t have to qualify beer with the word “craft,” where quality isn’t the marked case. I love beer because it is like my old house on Potter Street: with its age comes heritage and stories; a diversity of looks, feels, and quirks; something that brings joy to people.
Sadly, when referencing beer, that description sometimes comes as a surprise to Americans; here, many of us conflate the word “beer” with boring, uniformly tasting mass-marketed light beer. Historically, America hasn’t done beer right.
Remember Prohibition? Right, not good for breweries, as you can imagine. When Prohibition caused the majority of small-scale local breweries to close, the few to survive became the sole providers and influencers of the American palate, and business people that they were, created a cheap product that catered to the lowest common denominator among the beer drinking population.
As college students we’re all familiar with it: the flavorless, fizzy yellow stuff, so ubiquitous that it predisposed the average American palate to tasteless, watery lagers for decades to come. Craft beers didn’t exist much, and when they did, people weren’t used to their taste and didn’t buy them.
But there is good news. While microbrews are still fighting an uphill battle, we Americans are finally coming around. The Fritz Maytags of the world slowly but surely revived a culture of good tasting artisanal beer.
Now, the craft beer industry is growing at an alarming rate. The amount of craft breweries doubled in the last two years, now reaching over three thousand and with more in the pipeline. People are beginning to appreciate beer as something with more flavor and integrity than the Silver Bullets of the world might suggest.
People are now cooking with beer, pairing food with beer, cellaring beer, and discussing beer with the respect and dignity historically accorded to wines and distilled alcohols. Frankly, it deserves it: as an alcoholic beverage, beer is friendly and democratic, offering itself as a variety of tasty flavors and styles, and remaining relatively cheap, (a world-class beer can cost $6 a pint; what do you think world-class wine costs?)
Best of all, a lot of this is happening here in Maine. Hopefully at some point you’ve helped yourself to an Allagash, made by one of the more reputed Belgian breweries in the States. And Allagash, located in our neighboring Portland, is only one of the great places to get local beer close to campus.
I’m not a beer expert—I’ve have not drank nearly enough—and you can tell my mom that. But what I hope to do is take you along for the ride as I drink my way through the craft, art, and history of brewing, with an emphasis on the local and craft beer around us. I will draw from my own experience drinking beer, as well as many books, articles, and news on the topic.
I hope to put a spotlight on an underdog industry fighting to reintroduce America to the world’s favorite beverage, and to celebrate what has always been at the core of beer making: innovation, history and taste.
Of course, taste is subjective, and you’re entitled to your own opinion, but it’s my hope that with enough imbibing, you’ll be able to trust me enough to accept a recommendation here and there. After all, it’s a beer—how bad could it be?
Video: Final say: Steven Cerf, Peter Coviello and Jarrett Young '05
Cerf, Coviello and Young share some final thoughts about their time at the College.
George Lincoln Skolfield, Jr. Professor of German Steven Cerf, Professor of English Peter Coviello, and Assisstan Dean of Student Affairs Jarrett Young '05 will be leaving the College at the end of the academic year. The Orient sat down with them to hear some of their final thoughts about their time at the College.
Video: Behind the scenes: Thorne Bake Shop
A multimedia look at early morning routines, recipe selection, and the logistics of large-scale baking.
Best Four years: California dreamin': how a Bowdoin education prepared me for Hollywood
I’ve never had a dream job. I enjoy many things: books, travel, science, people—but my interests never conspired with a direction, never manifested themselves as an aspiration or career goal. My brothers were the opposite. Quinn wanted to be a Red Sox player and Ben wanted to be a rock star. Sure, as time passed, they adjusted their ambitions according to their capabilities, but their efforts still maintained a focus: Quinn is captain of the baseball team and can give you the height and weight of every professional athlete since the Nixon administration. Ben probably knows the chemical formula of the elixir they use to keep Keith Richards alive.
This past summer, I lived and worked in Hollywood, California. Most people go west to follow their dreams, but I went searching for one. Bowdoin’s curriculum does you a favor by exposing you to different disciplines and areas of study, but I wasn’t doing myself any favors by using “well-roundedness” as an excuse to procrastinate choosing what I wanted to do when I got older. Put to no good use, a liberal arts degree is a certificate in indecision.
I didn’t decide to go to Hollywood by spinning a globe and sticking my finger on a random place (although in the Hollywood version of my life, that’s what would have happened). The less dramatic truth was that I was sitting on my sofa last winter break, trying to find something to do over the summer, and all I could think was: I want to make stories and I want to work with others. I thought, “hey, isn’t that what they do on TV? Would I maybe enjoy working in entertainment? Can all the hours I spent watching The Office finally be justified as a meaningful use of my time?”
Best Four years: Engaging with real world from inside the bubble
We’re familiar with the concept of the Bowdoin Bubble—Bowdoin isn’t just a school or community, but is its own universe. A closed, contained system, Bowdoin works hard to supply everything we need without us having to step off campus. We know where to eat, where to sleep and certainly where to drink. Bowdoin is a culture as much as an institution, thick with its own esoteric codes, rituals and customs.
When we return home, we have to translate our experiences in order to communicate. How many of us have generalized the dreamlike and debauched holiday that is Ivies to a less-enthused “Spring Weekend”? Described our proctors as “half-RA, half-dad”? Called Spring Gala, simply, “Prom at College”?
Bowdoin is its own world—and part of that is keeping the actual world out. We forget the Bowdoin Bubble also describes the sheltering effects of this campus. The smallest trips down the road merit the excitement of travel—who here as gone to Wild Oats or Little Dog because they “just needed to get away”? It feels like you should need a passport for a trip to Portland.
Best Four years: Sophomore slump stems from our loss of freshman securities
Let’s talk about the sophomore slump.
It sounds like a spinal conditionor dance move at worst. Despite being the most prevalent association attached to sophomore year, I’ve never stumbled across a definition for the term. Sophomore slump is a catch-all term, something expansive to which we attribute all our sad, sorry sophomore feelings—it accumulates meaning by way of its vagueness. That girl sleeping with her eyes open in Smith Union? Sophomore slump. That existential feeling of emptiness when you walk into a mid-February College House party? Slump-related. Declaring your major? Slumpy.
Sophomores: welcome to the worst, best year of your life.
Best Four years: Family debate sparks understanding of liberal arts’ benefits
In the three days that I was home over Spring Break, I made the rounds. Besides spending quality time with the parents (dinner, “Argo”), there was my grandma, sister, niece, nephew, and finally, my grandpa.
My grandpa is not always an easy man to spend time with. He runs a dog sitting business and, at any given moment, has up to thirteen drooling guests chasing him around his house. Visiting grandpa means that you will leave with a second coat: one made of dog hair. Grandpa tends to be very opinionated, and lectures without much patience for disagreement. As sweet and well-meaning as he is, his company is often barbed with frequent criticisms.
When I was younger, I often dismissed what I considered to be an unceasing spew of convictions. But recently, I’ve realized that most of what he says is pretty intelligent, or at least well argued and well articulated. And although I may not always agree with him, I’ve come to appreciate his provocations. And at our lunch together over break, Grandpa proposed an idea that I spent quite a deal of time mulling over as I made the trip back up to school.
Discussing our futures: With age comes great apprehension
Like most people, I occasionally schmooze. Like most people, I don’t enjoy it. Being a college student, my small talk has bounced around from coursework, to extracurriculars, to the snow, and almost always: “What do you want to do?”
This is a familiar iteration of the classic icebreaker “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with the end chopped off, because I guess I’m grown up now. And though this question seems inoffensive and casual, answering truthfully requires time.
It isn’t easy to dream aloud these days. I find myself more honest about my aspirations in cover letters than I am with my friends. What we want to be—our “dream job”—is a sensitive topic, because it allows others to measure how much we’ve succeeded—or failed—in life. Consequently, I find it uncommon for people to discuss their hopeful futures without a degree of reticence.
Benjamin-Buttoning Bowdoin: playing in the snow helps balance students' workloads
The “work hard, play hard” ethic characterizes many of my Bowdoin experiences, and most of my Bowdoin friends. Balance is implicit to our happiness, and so we counter the rigor of our schoolwork with fierce bouts of enjoyment. If you aren’t sure what I mean, compare a student studying organic chemistry to a spectator at the Bowdoin-Colby hockey game—chances are, they have the same heart rate.
“Home” for the Holidays
Leaving aside the functional usages of the word, isn’t a home defined by its assignment to a single place? A place of genesis, of solace, of family, or even in another person, the home is evidence of itself. It is separate from all other places on the basis that it is unlike all other places. Its specialness seems inseparable from its singularity, and it cannot be pieced apart, divided and distributed.