I'm on a train as I type this, heading home. I'm on my way from home too, in a manner of speaking. I left my parents' home about an hour ago to go back to my own house. It's always a little sad to leave, and even more so today; I write this on Thanksgiving, having enjoyed a great family meal but sadly having to depart soon afterwards. While they nap on couches surrounded by dogs and pie, I'm in a cafe car. I do have a whole table to myself, so that's something. Another human interaction successfully avoided!
I'm actually not having a beer on the train this time around. Normally, I would, but I just had a Left Hand nitro stout and a Double Jack along with a relatively standard amount of turkey and other foodstuffs. I was oddly tempted to claim that the amount of turkey I had was "ungodly" or "highly inappropriate," but that'd be false. Truth is, I eat like a bird most of the time, though I assume birds drink less beer (though beer consumption would certainly explain some of the oddities of pigeon behavior). The other reason that I'm passing on a beer on the train is that I have a Victory HopDevil waiting for me at my house, a fact which I'll return to in a moment.
Beer, travel, and location are connected subjects. People take entire vacations focused on beer. There are festivals where those of us that like beer can all venture forth to go like beer together. Most of all, though, I think traveling just makes one want a beer. You need look no further than this very site for evidence.
Our very first post on BarelyBeer was about enjoying a beer on the train home from work. We've had writers talk about anticipating (not drinking) a beer on the drive home. We've even had writers talk about having a beer on an Amtrak train, perhaps on the same route I'm riding tonight.
Why does this keep coming up? As far as I'm aware, there's no evidence that hops improve at 70 miles per hour. I would estimate that 99.9% of all beers are not consumed on moving vehicles. There are no beers that are only available on a particular train route, though if there were I'm sure it'd be a crowded train (note to self: start competing train service which serves exclusive beers. Flawless business plan).
I think it's more that people tend to associate smells and tastes with certain places, so a beer can remind us of home, of a vacation, of a group of people, even of a way we felt one particular day. We can have a favorite beer from our hometown when we're away to remind us of home. Conversely, we can have a beer we enjoyed while traveling to remember what the trip was like. I can't consciously recall much of what I did at Rehoboth beach at a young age, but if you give me a Pacific Cooler Capri Sun I'll remember what it felt like to be there. That drink tastes like sun and sand and remote control helicopters and wakeboarding. The food I just ate at Thanksgiving dinner will never fail to make me feel like I'm at home, surrounded by people, warmth, and of course, pie.
(I know pie keeps coming up. My mom makes a better pie than yours. I used to request pie, rather than cake, for my birthday. Pie is a thing that I think about fairly often. Let's move on from this absurdly extended parenthetical.)
I said we'd come back to the HopDevil -- that's a beer I will forever associate with my college (Haverford, just outside Philadelphia). It wasn't the first beer I had at college, nor the best, but it was the first one that stood out from the others. If you haven't had it, know that it is generally good and at the very least unique; it's got a spicy hop kick to it that I'd never fail to recognize. I many times made a point of stocking my fridge with HopDevil before leaving Philadelphia for a while, because when I got back, I could crack one and my brain would instantly remember where I was.
These associations don't have to be so significant as a childhood home or a beloved college, of course. That first BarelyBeer story about a beer on the train ride home wasn't about a beer that Mike associated with a place he cared deeply about--it was just a beer that made that particular train ride a bit more pleasant. Still, I imagine that the next time he had that beer, he thought of that train ride. Some associations are minor, and that's just fine.
To some people, it might seem odd to think of a beer being tied to a particular place. That's alright -- just because I do that with beer doesn't mean you have to. It could be a beer, or a local food specialty, or whatever. It could be a pie (I have a piece of that pie in my backpack right now. I could be eating it. Is it weird to just pull out a piece of pie on a train? Even if it is, I don't know how long that will stop me).
The point is that it's good to have these associations, little triggers that remind your taste buds or your nose that you're here, in this particular place, having this particular beer/food/whatever. It's so easy to travel now that I think it's also easier to lose your tether to a particular spot. We don't saddle up the oxen for a four-month trip when we want to get to California anymore -- we can just fly over for the weekend. With such unprecedented mobility, it feels all the more important that I can have a beer and remember the feeling of being in a certain place, even if that place is nothing more exciting than my house.
Here's hoping that you all had the chance to remember what being home for the holidays feels like this past weekend. Perhaps more importantly, here's hoping you got yourself some pie.
Appearance: Deep orange-red with tan head which fades swiftly but leaves strong lacing. When I first learned what "lacing" was I thought this beer lacked good lacing, but then I realized that reason for that was that the glasses in my college apartment kitchen were only "clean" for a generous definition of the word "clean." 4.5/5
Aroma: Sweet and a bit citrusy, maltier than your typical IPA. I spilled one in the corner of a dorm room one time, and despite a brief and non-committed effort to clean it up it smelled like that for the next month. It was kind of nice, in a "I hope no one knows where that smell is coming from" kind of way. 4/5
Taste: Herbal, crisp, and spicy, very different from the smell. In fact, I've rarely had beers that had such a difference between the taste and the aroma. 4.5/5
Mouthfeel: Dry, resinous, pretty heavy on the carbonation. Bitter finish. 4/5
Overall: This is a beer that produces divergent opinions. According to our leaderboards, it's solid but unspectacular. It's one of my favorite IPAs, but others seem to really dislike it--I'm guessing the spicy hop flavor works for some people but not others. Definitely a unique one. 4.25/5
You can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexanderFossi.