Sunday April 5th 2020
My last day in my 30s. Wow. Honestly, I cannot quite fathom how quickly this has happened – not quite my whole life flashing before my eyes, but there is certainly an element of surreal confusion that somehow I’m not still at school or university, or struggling through my first job or breaking up with yet another loser boyfriend. That somehow I’ve made it here, to some semblance of adulthood, and to a life that I chose, that I actually want, and that I get to live and enjoy and appreciate on my own terms. All this sounds kind of ironic when right now, obviously, none of us are living life on our own terms, or choosing what we do, but being in isolation is, right now at least, throwing sharp relief onto how much I have to be happy about and grateful for as I turn the big 40. The waiting, the counting down, the measuring out time and fighting through it til it passes that we are all experiencing reminds me so vividly of less salubrious times in my life, when things were so terrible that all I could do was wait for them to be over and hope that what came after would be just a little bit better. Life in isolation is a picnic compared to all that, and remembering how far I have come makes 40 feel less like an end and more like an achievement. Alright folks, I’m ready.
Shiner Brewer’s Pride Balcones Barrel-Aged Bock
I do love a Bock, and Sunday was a night of breakin out the fancy Bocks (including Schlenkerla’s delicious Smoked Doppelbock and a luscious Kulmbacher Eisbock) to see out the last remaining hours of my third decade. The sweet malty warmth of a good Bock makes it almost the beer equivalent of gin – ie you can drink it at any time of day and keep it down however hung over you are. Not, perhaps, the attitude many folks would recommend starting their 40s with, but one thing I’m enjoying about getting older is learning to live with other people’s disapproval. Anyway, back to the beer. Texas is a great place to live if you love Bock. Shiner are the masters of the perfect crushable session Bock, and you can buy it cheaply pretty much anywhere. This makes life very easy. Of course Shiner is available in over 40 states (and a few places in the UK), but we have it fresh from the source, and right now I am kicking myself that we kept putting off visiting said source and now we have to wait til everything opens again. Nothing like a pandemic to make you get your priorities in order.
Shiner Bock is, indeed, a Texas institution, and completely worthy of that title. Another Texas institution is Balcones Whiskey. Based in Waco, TX, Balcones make, in my humble but reasonably informed opinion, some of the best damn bourbon in the whole world. The very first time I tried Balcones (at a whiskey show in London) I fell completely in love, and when we visited the distillery JB pretty much had to carry me out of there as I was ready to move in permanently. I could go on about all the different Balcones drams and what I love about each one of them but y’all are here to read about beer, so I’ll just say that if you like bourbon, get you some Balcones. This collab between two Texan titans of booze obviously had me hopping up and down with excitement before it was even open, and I am so happy that it completely lived up to my ridiculously high expectations. The rich, full, sweet n meaty Doppelbock is beautifully infused with a potent mix of Balcones whisky and bourbon, leaving it punchy and aromatic but still remarkably light. I could not believe that this beer has a 9% ABV. This is, quite literally, a marriage made in Texan heaven – I am getting a 6-pack when we next venture to the store and I would highly recommend that you do the same if you are able. Sage advice from a 40-year-old.