Steve Lamond has stepped up to host this month's edition of The Session and posed the following to us all under the title "Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer":
I'd like to know your beery guilty secrets. Did you have a particularly embarrassing first beer (in the same way that some people purchase an atrocious song as their first record) or perhaps there's still a beer you return to even though you know you shouldn't? Or maybe you don't subscribe to the baloney about feeling guilty about beers and drink anything anyway? You're also welcome to write about bad drinking experiences you've had as a result of your own indulgence or times when you've been completely wrong about a beer but not yet confessed to anyone that you've changed your mind.
Beer guilt. A friend describes that as part of the hangover, the wriggling creeping feeling on your skin that smacks of wasted money, regret for words said which should never have been said, embarrassment at suggestions which would have been better left in the imagination. Not that I know any of that. I have very fond recollections of the timely, well-placed vom - like that of the pal who seemed to make the event seem charming, saying things like "excuse me for one minute" as he unloaded right there in the line up to get in some club well after midnight, not a speck hitting dress or shoe. The moment still reminds me of that great thought of Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book Utopia at page 113 of this edition:
The pleasure of the bodye they devide into ii. partes. The first is when delectation is sensibly felt and perceaved. Whiche many times chaunceth by the renewing and refreshing of those partes, whiche oure naturall heate drieth up. This commeth by meate and drynke. And sometymes whyles those thynges be expulsed, and voyded, wherof is in the body ouer great abundaunce. This pleasure is felt, when we do our natural easement, or when we be doyng the acte of generation, or when the ytchinge of any part is eased with rubbyng or scratchynge...
But there are higher pleasures and higher orders of guilt that are laid upon them. Without defining all the hierarchies involved, suffice it to say that one such pleasure of mine is beer made with corn. I might be lonely in this love but, with respect, I find the defamation of one plant over another in the minds of beer nerds more than odd. I find it close minded. Fortunately, there are a few great brewers who, like me, stand up for corn. Whether it's Spotted Cow by Wisconcin's New Glarus or Utica Club by New York's F.X. Matt, corn can be made a pleasure through skill. Yet, read the reviews. You know they are out there. "Boiled corn" is down there is "cardboard" at the depths of descriptors. Should I feel guilt for this? I will not.
Think about it. We can be "should nots" we beer fans. Believing that there are reasons to never try something, that such pleasures are below us. Isn't it better to sometimes have the regret of "shouldn't have"? Better to have taken on the Utica Club in fine style and then learn, perhaps, regret. Too low you will say to yourself... but remember this. Remember how Evelyn Waugh describes the end to an upper class drinking session in 1923 at Oxford near the beginning of Brideshead Revisited:
It was not unusual for dinner parties to end in that way; there was in fact a recognized tariff on such occasions for the comfort of the scout; we were all learning, by trial and error, to carry our wine. There was also a kind of insane and endearing orderliness about Sebastian’s choice, in his extremity, of an open window. But, when all is said, it remained an unpropitious meeting. His friends bore him to the gate and, in a few minutes, his host, an amiable Etonian of my year, returned to apologize. He, too, was tipsy and his explanations were repetitive and, towards the end, tearful. “The wines were too various,” he said; “it was neither the quality nor the quantity that was at fault. It was the mixture. Grasp that and you have the root of the matter. To understand all is to forgive all.”
Which is the higher and which the lower? That is my question to you.