Norman Maclean certainly didn't write the only book on fly-fishing, but he did write A River Runs Through It, which is undoubtedly the book on the subject. As Mrs. M and I were heading up through Arkansas to cast some woolly boogers into the Little Red River, I needed some spiritual guidance on the sport. Maclean's poetic, quasi-religious text does touch on the subject of beer. Being Presbyterian, he abstained from drinking while fly-fishing. Being a Scot and from Montana, however, he didn't consider beer to be "drinking."
David Coggins, who writes a fair bit about fly-fishing, says that when he's in Montana, he drinks a marvelously mediocre brew called Leinenkugel's; when not on those waters, he defaults to Miller Lite. "I ask you not to think of it as bad beer," he writes, "but think of it as good water."
Which is about two teaspoons off of Mrs. M's philosophical thoughts on Bud Light. Thanksgiving being what it was, there was plenty of that stuff still in the fridge, along with a little Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale, so it all went into the cooler. I've heard Sweetwater is too big to be considered craft — but that's a silly argument. You either like it or you don't. Either way, it's a great, refreshing beer with a light hops bite and you can drink it at fish camp without looking like a poser. Something that you never have to worry about with Bud Light, I have to concede.
Having worked from home since 2007, I've developed a good working relationship with my trusted Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. Unfortunately, this has made me fairly picky about my coffee. I'd managed not to haul the thing up to the cabin, so there I was, facing an unsociable hour on the water without my daily caffeine snort. Again, I hadn't actually curated our beer selection for the weekend; I'd just pushed everything on the bottom shelf of the fridge that looked like a beer into a cooler. Which included, as I stared down, bleary-eyed, a can of Wiseacre's Gotta Get Up to Get Down.
"Say," said I, "that's dark, kinda creamy, sorta roasted, and has a snort of coffee in it. Problem solved!"
While it pains a relatively responsible and mostly law-abiding adult to mention a "breakfast beer" (although why it's any more off-sides than a Bloody Mary is one for the goddess of etiquette), this is the one. I've literally never had Wiseacre's milk stout after about 10 a.m. — and now that I think about it, always near some body of natural water.
All stouts are supposed to be roasty. What separates the milk stout — and makes it a great eye-opener — is the addition of lactose sugar to the brewing process. Because it doesn't ferment (read: turn to alcohol), it adds a creamy sweetness to the beer that makes it hard to go wrong. Gotta Get Up comes in with a 5 percent ABV — which is important psychologically if you're drinking it in lieu of your morning coffee. It is, admittedly, higher in alcohol than my espresso.
My grandmother used to make a wicked New Year's punch that involved five gallons of French vanilla ice cream, a fifth of bourbon, and 12 cups of coffee. It served 40, because Gran was a bit of a New Orleans butterfly back in the day. Gatherings of that size, however, are frowned upon these days, and I don't own a punch bowl big enough. Gotta Get Up to Get Down almost reminded me of the beer version of Gran's New Year's punch. And it comes in much less cumbersome packaging.
As for the fishing? Bucolic, beautiful, almost Zen. While I didn't know it was a competition, Mrs. M was at pains to tell me she won. Which she did. Maybe it was her skill as an angler — or maybe because she didn't join me for coffee. Her family is English; they drink tea.