Booze and Growing Up, or, You Mean Adults Drink This Stuff?

Whiskey, Titanic

Enjoy your battery acid, grown-up.

I remember the very first time I tried a sip of beer: it was cold, out of the bottle, my father’s brand. I was young, and as with most young boys had a vague idolization of everything my father did as the epitome of adulthood. Beer, I thought, was certainly a part of adulthood, and I was a big boy. I deserved to drink the big boy drinks. After enough pestering, and with a knowing eyeroll, my father offered me a sip.

I may have spat it on the ground. Beer sucked.

Grown-ups drink this? I thought. Well, grown-ups are dumb. And weird. Do they just not know that chocolate milk, a far superior beverage option, exists and is widely available? We even had a carton or two in the fridge, and I thought about suggesting the alternative to my father, who must have just been misinformed. You don’t need to drink this swill, my face read. Your suffering is over. We can get you something better.

As such, when I became a teenager and began dipping my toe into the glorious world of underaged drinking, I steered clear of beer. Years had done nothing but calcify the memory in my mind, fossilizing the flavour of beer as essentially bottled repulsion, a coagulation of yeast, urine, and bilge water, with some alcohol thrown in for good measure. It seemed absurd that people drank it, especially as I drank the saccharine beverages of youth, sweetened and carbonated and reworked until you couldn’t taste any of the alcohol in it anyway.

You have to like it

The brown bottle makes it manlier.

But as I rapidly approached university, I was confronted with the social mores of drinking: the beverages I drifted towards were girly. They came in clear bottles, and had swanky names. You could not buy them in a case, nevermind the patriotic, stalwart 2-4. They tasted like maybe a unicorn would drink them, or the heiress to an oil baron. If you ordered one at a bar, the bartender would pause and give you a look for a second, like, “Maybe you want to reconsider this? People can see you, boy.”

I was growing up. I had plans on being a Canadian man for some time, and Canadian manness stereotypically tends to include beer. Staring down the barrel of Canadian male adulthood (no matter how nascent and gin-soaked it might have been in university), I needed to prepare myself. I needed to learn to like beer.

The process, I thought certainly, would be arduous. I would need to train: I would put on montage music, and begin the gradual process of slowly drinking more and more beer until my tastebuds acclimated. Until my teeth developed tiny, enamelled biceps. Until my throat was cast-iron, until I could taste nothing and could pound any gutter brew that was put before me. Maybe there would be sweatbands.

Of course, training yourself to like an alcohol basically means just regularly getting drunk, and university certainly provided ample opportunity for that.

The more Xs, the more adult.

It was slow, at first. To this day I still cannot drink my father’s brand of beer, for the stain it left on my fragile, juvenile memory. I sought, at first, the beers of the populace, of the douchey, of the university proletariat. I drank Heinekens and Stellas, Budweisers and everything Molson produced. It was tolerable, and got the job done, and people saw those bottles in my hand and thought of me as a Beer Drinker.

In time I began to delve into other beers, into micro-brews, into ales and lagers and stouts. I started to like beer. Was it Stockholm Syndrome? Was it a matter of my tastebuds just giving up? Did my brain just shortfuse and allow my desires to take over my sensory impulses? Whatever it was, suddenly beer was great. Beer was a companion. A cherished friend. We could tell each other about our day.

University sailed by, and suddenly I was in teacher’s college. I was working my way towards becoming a professional. A real adult. Someone who looked after the youth of others, and brought them, squalling and fidgeting, slightly more towards their own shuttering independence.

One beaker of sake

Sake is classy. Though less so out of a beaker.

I had grown to like beer, to cherish it, but at the same time it seemed so… pedestrian. So unrefined. So unprofessional. Could I really be a teacher and crush a beer can to my forehead on the weekends? What kind of serious educator pounds a brew? Could a pedagogue be a pedagogue and still rock a kegstand?

Wine was the answer. Wine was for classy bastards. A teacher could drink wine, because European sophisticates could drink wine. People drank wine on the banks of the Seine. They drank wine while discussing world politics and classical music. They drank wine at the opera, probably, while staring through tiny, tiny binoculars and monocles.

Of course, wine also tasted like garbage.

My first experience with wine, as a child, had been much like that with beer. I had an aunt and uncle who I generally considered to be Classy (with an uppercase C), who both enjoyed wine and usually had bottles of it at all the family parties. It was another symbol of adulthood, but it was delicate and fancy where beer was base. I begged for a sip, a snifter, a shot: however it was that adults drank it. Knowingly, again, an adult gave me a tiny swig and watched as I clutched my tiny, bewildered throat.

It was even worse than beer! It was sour and foul, and not even carbonated in any way. Adults claimed that grapes were somehow involved in its production, but surely grapes would not betray me like this. Grapes tasted nice.

I began the training once again, years later. I could still enjoy beer, but I needed to be able to enjoy wine, too. I needed to fit in with a certain crowd, should such a certain crowd ever deign to be around me. I felt desperately certain that I would one day be invited to a dinner party, and I knew that sipping the wine and slowly dribbling it down my chin in disgust might not go over well.

You can imagine another training montage here, this time with purple-stained teeth.

Much like with beer, it was a matter of exposure, of breadth, of trying to be open. With adult tastebuds, adult patience, and an adult appreciation of getting wasted, I knew I would get there, but I needed time and variety to really get my brain to understand why people liked these flavours. My tongue needed to grow-up, too.

Now, just to train myself into liking scotch.

16 thoughts on “Booze and Growing Up, or, You Mean Adults Drink This Stuff?

  1. If training yourself to like beer involves sweatbands and a cast-iron throat, presumably set to “Eye of the Tiger”, then I imagine training yourself to appreciate soju would be a video montage of self-flagellation set to the tune of gnashing teeth?

  2. Excellent read! I had to look up at least 3 words, which in from a post about beer was surprising!

    My first taste of beer was different, I actually liked it.

    My advise on scotch… Sip, don’t do shots. Have it on the rocks. You might even consider starting with Bourbon instead, I like Maker’s Mark personally.

  3. You will love scotch once you give it a fair chance.

    Hmm, I never really contemplated the flavor of any alcoholic beverages. I only cared about how they made me feel, and the flavor was pretty irrelevant. I think that’s why it was such an epiphany when I finally made my way to scotch. It’s a totally different drunken experience, clear headed and quite peaceful. Beer is rip-roarin’ and angry; wine, to me, feels like a dulling of the senses. Scotch is the best. The guy above is totally right – drink it slowly, straight, on the rocks. Maybe a little water if necessary.

    Okay, now I want to drink. Damn this post!

    • Flavour was always a big part of it for me, and I think that’s why I’ve come to love beer once I grew up to appreciate that everything didn’t have to be sweet to be awesome. A really bitter stout – hells yeah! Wine for me is not necessarily dulled, so much as… glossy. Floaty. Beer is angry, though, yes.

  4. I actually liked both beer and whiskey the first time i tried them, but then, i didnt start drinking until i was 17. Dont know if maybe that has an effect. However, i have always and continue to find wine impossible.

    • Your tongue might have had the adequate time to grow up!

      You need to engage in some wine training. I’m by no means a wine person yet–I can’t differentiate, or sniff flavours and bouquets, but I at least now know when I like a wine versus when I just hate it.

  5. I far prefer wine and dislike all other kinds of alcohol I’ve tried so far (whiskey and cider are still on the to-do list). It doesn’t help that I don’t drink fizzy drinks, because I find most spirits require something highly syruped to conceal how vile they are.

    • Spirits are something I generally don’t mind, but then I’m a person who relishes tequila.

      Cider is quite nice, although many of them are also somewhat carbonated, so you have to find some that are less fizzy.

  6. I’m eighteen and because I’ve had a pitiful lack of underage drinking experience, I’m having to prepare myself for this. I still have the “chocolate milk is better” mentality. One day, I’ll be brave enough…


  7. [It was even worse than beer! It was sour and foul, and not even carbonated in any way. Adults claimed that grapes were somehow involved in its production, but surely grapes would not betray me like this. Grapes tasted nice.] This made me laugh a lot!

    First of all we’ve all been there!!
    It took me 24 years of my life to find the PERFECT beer which I call raindrops from heaven (
    GUINNESS is the equivalent of a bud orgasm (you’re welcome) Tho you should probably get a taste of this magical beverage right in Dublin otherwise you won’t feel the orgasm. Doesn’t taste the same outside of Ireland 😦

    Wine… ohh wine I’m a wineaholic and I had to taste some pretty bad ones before I learned to love it. There are some great wines in Spain and France but I’m sure in Korea you can find decent ones too. Go for the fruity young wines if you’re not a pro yet 🙂

    Scotch is a whole different issue, we keep our distance… we respect each other but we just don’t like to get involved (because of the mental hungovers we shared in the past).

    PS: I would never recommend tequila! Stay away from tequila!!!


    • I don’t usually like Guinness, but the time I spent in Dublin was basically one where I accepted it as a thing people could enjoy. We also did the tour of the factory and enjoyed our free pint of it, and indeed, it was tasty right on site.

      Fruitier, sweeter wines tend not to do it for me, but without knowing a great deal about wine, I’ll typically just suffer through if I buy something that ends up being crap.

      Tequila is an old, cherished friend. Don’t you talk that way about Tequila.

  8. Yes, scotch! I kept thinking, Whiskey, whiskey—get on with it and turn your mighty powers of observation and hilarity toward whiskey! Beer and wine came pretty easily to me, but I’m working on whiskey now. I’ve made solid progress with bourbon and Irish whiskey. Almost time to come knocking on scotch’s door. I think scotch-drinking is graded in law school.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s