Dad, Can I Try a Sip of Your Beer?
Read that headline again.
I vaguely remember asking my dad that very question. If I had to guess, I was in the third grade. My dad wasn’t a regular beer drinker, but he certainly enjoyed a cold Bud after a few hours of mowing the lawn under the blazing Nebraska summer sun. One day I mustered up the courage to ask him. He looked at me, considered the possible outcomes (not the least of which: my mom yelling, “What the hell are you doing, giving him a beer?”) and passed the can. I took a sniff, then a sip and promptly decided that beer was gross, and that I’d never drink the stuff again.
Ah, the oaths we take in our youth. That particular one fell by the wayside during my senior year of high school. As I grew up, so did my palette, and like so many of us I reached the point where I appreciated good beer. Mouthfeel, aroma, alcohol content, and, of course, the amazing flavors and complexity that so many of today’s brews offer–these were certainly not considerations in college. (Not only was my dad not a regular beer drinker, he was a Bud man through and through.; If anything his beer of choice was a step up from the swill I drank in my early 20s. Ice-cold Burgie, anyone?)
So I shouldn’t have been taken aback when my son at age 7 asked me the same question.
But I was.
I drink in front of my kids. I enjoy a good beer with dinner; more often then not, I’m the one cooking dinner, so I enjoy a good beer while preparing it as well. When I was a kid, my dad was an infrequent beer drinker. Those Budweisers were reserved for the hottest of days. I grew up with parents who weren’t social drinkers. There was never wine with dinner or beer during a football game. They weren’t teetotalers, yet at the same time my folks were a bit uncomfortable with drinking while kids were present. As a parent, I’m convinced that our kids are more likely to abuse alcohol if we teach them that drinking is “bad” or “wrong” or “something that people shouldn’t do.”
And as odd as it may sound, I’ve actually bonded with my kid over beer. No, not in the classical sense, but like most 7-year-old boys, he’s insatiably curious, and more often than not, when he sees me enjoying a pint, the questions come at a rapid clip: “What’s that beer taste like? Who made it? What’s in it?” Basic questions, to be sure, but they’ve served as a springboard to conversations about science, geography, even history. Thanks to beer, he now knows about the ancient Egyptians, Trappist monks, the East India Trading Co. and the real Samuel Adams.
His question came, then, on the heels of yet another “What’s that beer taste like?” To that, he received the standard response–“Like beer.” He furrowed his brow, screwing up his courage, and then: “Can I try it?”
I thought about it for a second. What harm could it do? Just a sip, right? Maybe that’ll be that and he’ll stop asking. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t like it–then again, the kid loves sushi and devours cold octopus tentacles with the same gusto as he does French fries.
My mind briefly flashed to the scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation–Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold gives his son Rusty what he thinks is the kid’s first beer, and Rusty promptly downs it in a few experienced gulps. I decided a couple of things about my son–that he was too young, and that I’d like his first beer with his old man to be one that he remembered. “Not now,” I replied. “When you’re older.” I look forward to that day.
And–apologies to my dad–that beer won’t be a Budweiser.
Jason Avant is the founder and managing editor of DadCentric.com