Due to the lingering plague, as well as a violent grab-bag of hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, my topsiders have been drying out for over a year. At long last, though, a regatta in Fairhope, Alabama, got to its date without either running afoul of an outbreak, a hurricane, or the sort of Mach 8 winds that hurl logs, sailboats, and other debris through the air where they are really not supposed to be.
- Marcel De Grijs | Dreamstime.com
Before you start sneering — sailing is a fairly COVID-friendly sport, with plenty of fresh air and Vitamin D-brewing sunlight. The whole point of the exercise is to get as far away from the other boats as possible — ideally a lot further than six feet. Add some beer to stave off pellagra, and it can be downright healthy.
Lunch, however, is another matter. After a hurricane season churned up the local waters something ugly, I suspected that ordering the oysters might be ill-advised. Still, 2020 hasn't killed me yet, so I went all Charlie Sheen/Tiger Blood and ordered the little stinkers anyway. As a preventative, I had a Causeway IPA from Fairhope Brewing Company. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it; it's one of those refreshing IPAs that is hoppy but with nothing to prove.
One of my lunch companions disagreed: He hates IPAs on the grounds that they taste like IPAs. Which I suppose they do. I found out later that he was geeked up on a lively psychoactive. For my money, Causeway IPA goes well with oysters, but it's possible it doesn't play well with psychedelic mushrooms.
Lunches down here are long and lingering, and competitive sailing is not. It's not a relaxing sport — I can't remember the last time I didn't leave the boat with a few bruises. This isn't the time for lingering contemplation over an artisanal brew. This is time for an action beer, whether you win or not. I mean a good, refreshing cooler beer that you never have to think about, just enjoy. It's hot; you've got some sporting wounds and are wearing wet shorts. You want a Heineken.
It's a Dutch lager and one of those great mass-market beers that used to be considered premium but, in a craft beer world, tends to sail under the radar (see what I did there?). In a beer universe of very powerful tastes, it is light but still holds its own. It's not novel, it's just exactly what it's supposed to be. Holland, like Germany and Belgium, never joined in the accountant-led American race to the bottom of the beer market by coming up with cheaper and cheaper ways to churn the stuff out. As a result, Dutch and German mass-market beers, the good ones at any rate, were never awful in the first place. They taste exactly like they tasted back when they were considered premium.
For those of us of a certain age, though, Heineken is known for the high margin of error for "skunky" beer. This didn't have anything to do with quality control in the brewing, rather it was thanks to those green bottles that didn't filter out light as well as the brown ones. While the bottles are still green, they are now treated and have essentially become high-quality sunglasses for the beer, filtering light as well as the brown bottles do. Personally, I've always liked the taste of beer in glass bottles over cans. Brewers keep telling me that cans taste as good as bottles these days. Maybe. They also say that cans keep out 100 percent of the harmful light — which is hard to argue.
If you are on a boat, however, you're drinking your action beer out of a can anyway. And if your blood is really up, it truly is better to crush a can on your skull than a bottle.