Everyone remembers their first beer, right? For many of us, our first beer is hailed as a right of passage and a clear benchmark on the path to adulthood. I was thinking about all of the “first beer” stories I’ve heard in my day and I remembered that nearly every one was entertaining and/or gave me some valuable insight into who the person telling the story was. So, I figured, what the hell? I might as well tell mine to the entire town.
It was a crisp January evening in Bethel, Connecticut, and I was gathered with every member of my dad’s side of the family at my aunt’s house. I stress “every member” because that is quite the feat. To give you an idea of how many people were in attendance, I’ll just say that my dad’s family is very Irish and very Catholic. The mood was a combination of cheer and melancholy, each taking a turn depending on the minute and the conversation. The patriarch of the Moriarty family, Grandpa Mo, had just passed on and his funeral had just ended.
In a little less than an hour, the booze was flowing freely through my family’s veins. (Like I said: Irish Catholic) There were empty Jameson bottles littering the counter tops in the kitchen and assorted beer containers and plastic cups of wine covering the other surfaces throughout the house. I was hanging out with my core group of cousins whose ages ranged from 13 to 17. At this point, we weren’t quite adults, but we liked to think we were, and the more we looked around us, the more we realized we could get away with a considerable amount of shenanigans. We gathered in the basement and began conspiring.
The plan: My cousin Tom would distract my Uncle John with the right question that would guarantee a long-winded response. Then, that would give one of us enough time to bolt into his bedroom and steal one of the fancy cigars he bought for the funeral reception. We all walked upstairs in a pack, with my cousin Tom leading the charge. We huddled four feet behind Tom as he started to ask his question. On any other night, we would’ve been a smattering of red flags ripe for reprimand. But, tonight, everyone was hammered and no one noticed.
Just then, I felt a hand land on my shoulder and heard, “Sean Moriarty.” It was my dad. “Oh shit,” I thought, “the jig is up.” He asked me to go outside with him and I prepared to lie my ass off about Operation Dominican Fire. My cousins gave me a look that said “Dead man walkin’” and I followed my dad out the door.
When we got outside, I noticed that my dad had a can of Guinness and two cups. He poured half into one cup, and half in the other. “I figured tonight was as good as any for you to have your first beer,” he said. All of a sudden my fear turned to relief, excitement, and pride. “Tonight,” I thought “I become a man.”
We talked about the day and how we were holding up, but the details of the conversation didn’t really stick with me. What I remember most was how close I felt to my dad at that moment. Being 13, with puberty hitting me like a freight train, I had been in an ever-escalating battle to distance myself from my parents. But, on that day, on that porch, I never wanted the conversation to end.
Once the cups were empty, we went back inside. My dad joined my step-mom, aunts and uncles and I ran off to find my cousins. Sure enough, they were huddled outside the basement door, marveling at the fancy cigar in my cousin Tom’s hand. I was less jazzed now because I had just tasted real adulthood in the form of delicious, dry, Irish stout. I took a few puffs anyway and, surprisingly, I really liked the taste. But it was peanuts compared to being on the porch drinking Guinness with my old man.
Sean Moriarty is a former manager and bartender at Steamworks Brewing Co. from 2007-2017 and currently manages their digital marketing.