One Friday around 5 p.m. in the spring of 2000, I dropped in at the Institute for Southern Studies, a Durham nonprofit with which I’ve maintained an association since 1997. My friend, Kim, then serving as a research director, broke out a six pack of Molson and offered me a bottle, which I gratefully accepted.
I was astounded when Kim volunteered that she was limiting herself to one beer per week. Maybe it seemed strange to me because starting in high school I internalized an ethos articulated by a metal dude on my school bus who raised the question: “What’s the point of drinking if you’re not going to get drunk?”
After high school, my drinking largely followed the cheap-and-plentiful pattern, encouraged by a friend a couple years older who would ply me with a fresh can of cold Bud before I’d finished the last one. Later, in college, I thought people who bought Newcastle Brown Ale were pretentious, although I embraced some regional swills like Genesee and Pearl, and developed a Guinness stout fetish. On the whole, my tastes were not terribly discerning — a shortcoming abetted by an unhealthy proclivity towards binge drinking.
Lately, I’ve come around to Kim’s idea. Honestly, my motivation is more financial than anything else: The past three years have included some radical lifestyle changes, beginning with the birth of my daughter and continuing through the decision to help launch Triad City Beat, and then about a year later, to buy a house with my wife. Our income is significantly more limited than before, and just keeping up with mortgage, utilities and groceries takes far more planning than I could have ever imagined. I had to find a way to reduce my spending, and beer was the most obvious luxury item to cut. Likewise, my free time has virtually disappeared between trying to up my game as a journalist and carve out time to be involved in my daughter’s life, so drinking is not so much on my agenda.
I still love booze, and beer in particular. Distilling the experience of drinking down to one, or maybe two drinks per week I’ve found only enhances my appreciation for the brew and makes me relish the occasion all the more.
Last week, I booked a 5 p.m. Friday meeting at the Green Bean at the request of an organizer I know in Greensboro. I mistook it for a social call, although I later discovered his main intention was to pitch me on a story. It struck me that drinking a good beer would be the perfect cap to a long work week, and although my friend stuck with coffee, I don’t think he minded me unwinding during our meeting.
I picked out a can of Fullsteam Cack-A-Lacky, the Durham brewery’s ginger pale ale. It was the perfect, civilized drink — crisp with a sharp gingery taste, leaving a clean palate. As most drinkers know, alcohol consumption is a game of diminishing returns, and the next drink is rarely more enjoyable than the last one. So after finishing my beer and saying goodbye to my friend, I was pretty happy to just leave it there.