.The other day, I was riding to a party at my boss' house with my colleagues, Eric and Emil.
“Maybe we should stop and pick up some beer,” I said. In one sense, I wanted to be a polite guest. In another more accurate sense, we were running late and I was afraid the beer would be gone.
"Good idea. What should we get?" Emil asked.
Little did he know, that simple question would spark an hours-long discussion on the meteorological, climatalogical and anthropological issues to consider when selecting a beer.
Late spring, you see, is perhaps the most difficult time of year to pick the right drink.
I’ve been a fan of Shiner Ruby Redbird ever since I moved to Texas. It tastes like a lot of things: grapefruit, ginger, a quiet night on the prairie, faded memories that harken back to a simpler time. But not beer. And I enjoy the spectacle.
Each year about this time, I look forward to the first Ruby Redbird of the summer. I pick out a time when it’s unseasonably warm, preferably a day when the high temperature reaches 95 degrees. I’m not going to dig in on the exact temperature, though. Maybe it’s not quite as hot, but I’ve spent a significant amount of time working outside. Or maybe it’s very humid, one of those nights where it still feels warm even a couple hours after sunset.
In any case, the first Ruby Redbird of the season is an event.
“Let’s get something else, then,” Emil suggested, probably because he was tired of listening to me argue with myself on the issue. “It sounds like the anticipation of the first Ruby Redbird is just as important as the beer itself. You should wait.”
He’s right, but it goes deeper than that.
It was warm on this particular afternoon, but only about 80 degrees. It was an incredibly refreshing day. You don’t want to be drinking a refreshing beer when you’re already refreshed. What good does that do?
The last thing you want to do is force the day and the beer to compete with each other in terms of refreshment (I believe that’s from Leviticus). You must respect and adapt to the conditions laid in front of you.
For example, I have a few friends who will drink cider all year round.
I know what you’re thinking: “Why would anyone want to be associated with someone who walks around drinking cider on May 18?!”
It's not that I don't enjoy a good cider, but where are you going to find a decent apple in May? Not Washington State or Vermont, that's for sure, and those are the only apples that are worth anything.
Just because you can order cider doesn't mean it's appropriate.
You can buy paint all year, too, but I don’t see any of these people lining up for a nice glass of paint.
To help the cider drinkers (feel free to start using “cider drinkers” to refer to someone who is stubborn or slow to adapt to changing conditions), I’ve compiled this seasonal breakdown of the proper drink to maximize the degree to which your body and soul are invigorated:
January-February: If you’re going to have a cider, it should be pear.
March-May: This is a good time to break into the IPAs while you wait for the appropriate conditions for the first Ruby Redbird. If you don’t like an IPA, a lot of the local breweries are putting out saisons now. Spring is a time of rejuvenation. Try something new that also fits these guidelines exactly!
June-August: This is the time to stock up on the one beer that you feel would be able to slake your thirst if you walked out of your house and immediately burst into flames. Whatever it is, it’s still not a cider.
On a related note, you should also avoid eating stews or oatmeal during this period (Soups are also wholly inappropriate if the temperature is above 100 degrees. Gazpacho is acceptable, but only if you‘re of eastern European descent. Never mind that it’s a Spanish dish. It seems like something they’d consume in one of the bleaker countries.).
September-October: Ciders can start making their way back into the rotation. In September, their consumption should be limited to days that could be described as “crisp” or “brisk.” The same applies to stew and oatmeal. A good rule of thumb when deciding whether to order a cider is to ask yourself if you had oatmeal for breakfast. If so, then it's prime-time for cider!
November-December: Ciders can be joined by stouts and the heavier lagers. Starting the weekend before Thanksgiving, go ahead and get in the holiday spirit by breaking into the nogs. Enjoy it with some stew!
In conclusion, I think we just got some bourbon for the party.