The beard is coming in a slightly different shade than I remember. I may have started out to look like Papa Hemingway, but after the last two months I've been starting to feel more like Col. Kurtz. The city may be opening up a little, but that stint in our collective closet under the stairs has left its mark on us. It didn't strike me how much we've changed over the course of the quarantine until I was leaving the grocery store the other day. A young lady, probably a college student, was about to drop her sack while wrestling with the car door. She called for her friend who was climbing in the passenger seat but, alas, she was soul-deep into some virtual drama on her phone and didn't hear.
I went full Galahad and popped over, opening the door for her while simultaneously steadying her bag without letting go of mine. She thanked me sheepishly, and I went on my way. Which was when I caught sight of myself in the reflection of the back window: sunglasses, wild, uncut hair curling out from under a baseball cap, and I hadn't yet pulled the red bandana down from over the rest of my face. Back in the olden days (read: March), suddenly appearing behind a lady looking like that with a bandit mask would have earned me eardrums pierced by a girly shriek and eyes full of mace in the bargain. I'd have deserved it, too. The new normal isn't exactly normal.
What I had in my bag was a six-pack of Ghost River Brewing Co.'s Zippin Pippin IPA. I was going to pick out a far more exotic brew to review, but this was something of a comfort response; my first craft beer love was IPA. More than that, the name Zippin Pippin takes me back to a time when I had little to no concept of personal space and went around breathing on people with impunity. Perhaps these are rose-tinted memories. Even back then, I remember standing in line for my favorite roller coaster and socially distancing myself from the kid who'd shown up wearing nothing but his Spider-Man Underoos and a pair of knock-off Converse sneakers.
I got home and told Mrs. M about the encounter, and she helpfully pointed out that the baseball hat in question was from Sewanee, which is just shy of ominous. "But it's really faded," said I with a hint of sinister darkness.
"Because you wear it sailing!" she said. "Where's the menace in that?"Now how would she have known that?
No one here is interested in exactly how I lost that particular point to Mrs. M.
At any rate, Zippin Pippin is a good year-round beer — a little more amber-copper in color than what you might expect, but a fine, solid IPA. There is something almost piney in the scent, with a good citrus zing to it. It is hoppy, but without something to prove. Having said that, what bitterness it has tends to linger on the palate. Something lovely for the hop-heads, but come Fourth of July, should you find yourself standing around in the 98-degree heat for five hours, it might make you want to shave your tongue. With an ABV of 6.9 percent, after a few hours, you might do it.
Like its namesake, Zippin Pippin is a classic — the comfort of the familiar with enough of a wallop to get us through this weird "are we or aren't we" phase of the quarantine. And we're going to need it, because re-entry is going to be tough. I mean that for all of us, not just those of us currently stress-testing the structural integrity of our pants.
As a birthday present, a friend of mine was given a highball glass with the company logo on it by his boss — you know, for a Zoom meeting cocktail.