Beer! It all started with beer. Specifically, Coors Banquet in cans. In the early 1960s, we opened them with a “church key,” a hand opener that punched a triangular hole on one side of the top edge, then the opposite edge for glug-free drinking or for pouring. Most youngsters took an instant dislike to the taste of beer, if not hating it outright. It was the bad-tasting “medicine” you took to get high. I loved both the smell and taste. In Oklahoma back then, beer was only 3.2% alcohol, and it took quite a few to become tipsy. I became an expert.

From age 16, I consumed my fill until leaving home, enjoying every moment, except perhaps the following morning. My choice of brands became an oddity once I’d tried several brands. Stag Beer was a European-style lager with a more intense hoppy flavor, offending the palate of many, considering it too bitter. With the rise of craft beers, that bitter flavor has gained widespread popularity.

Somewhere around 2006, I began home-brewing my beer. I tried my hand at crafting many different styles, from very hop-forward to more malty (sweeter) types and every style in between. That included a wide range of colorful brews, light-colored to almost black, such as stouts and porters. Each style had flavors generally too intense for the Bud or Coors Lite crowd. I never drank after my younger years with the intent of becoming impaired in any manner. I drank simply for the beverage’s relaxing enjoyment and taste. I take pride in what I craft, whether it’s a brew, food, or some useful contraption.

Ah, the wine stage! In my early 20s, I went through a phase of adding more to my roster of drinks. I started with the cheap stuff – Annie Green Springs, Ripple, and MD 20/20, until a friend introduced me to a German wine – Blue Nun Liebfraumilch. This semi-sweet wine had an intense flavor that suited my palette, far less sugary than those others. Fortunately, I had a job that paid well enough to afford it at that time, but eventually, my fortunes changed, ending my wine days.

Whiskey? My testing of hard liquor started early, soon after beer. Technically, it was bourbon, Weller’s 90 proof, my friend Lester’s favorite. He had the money and contacts to buy it. It was challenging to get when the drinking age was 21, only sold in liquor stores. On occasion, we dabbled in vodka, sloe gin, or whatever else was available. Later, when I went to school in eastern Oklahoma, I sipped each day pint of lime vodka. How disgusting is that? When I joined the Navy, overseas ports on my tour offered various mixed drinks, along with the terrible “33 Beer” in Vietnam. After my discharge, I rarely drank for many years. Sometime in my 30s, I discovered Jack Daniels whiskey, and it has been Jack or beer ever since, and always in moderation.

For the last decade or so, a quart of Jack Daniels lasts me a year or more. A six-pack of beer lasts a month, if not longer. Drinking has been an “off and on” thing all my life. Beginning with a way to get high as a teen, continuing later as social drinking, and then losing interest to no small degree. That’s my drinking problem! I’m getting old and forgetting to drink at all!

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