In all my days of drinking, the times that I spent zoomed in on one beverage seem like the days that are hardest to forget:
The day my roommate and I drank three bottles of Cab Franc doing research for a Four Leaves Winery recipe
The New Year’s Day celebrated by my debaucherous crew and I, parked at the bar at El Rancho, drinking a never-ending supply of Miller High Life from brunch till dark
The All Hallow’s Day spent skinny dipping and drinking from a keg of Euphoria at the Oxbow beach along the Animas.
But for the most part, my memories of drinking don’t often revolve around the actual booze I’m drinking. More often it’s the people, the setting, and the sounds.
When I was close to the end of a long shift at Ska, when I knew a cold beer was waiting for me in the tap room, I’d always put on “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down,” by the Toasters. It was the perfect end to a shift at a brewery that loved ska so much they made it their name. And who were the bastards grinding me down? Of course, it was the interminable list of tanks we had to clean in the cellar.
In graduate school my colleagues and I played pool every Thursday night at My Brother’s Place (RIP), a divey pool hall near downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico. The graduate students in the art department would also go, and it was a race to the juke box. Inevitably, the art students would get there first and load the box with quarters for the whole night. It was as bad as you can imagine. I’ve blacked most of that out, but I managed to build a strong positive association with the Foo Fighters and drinking and shooting pool. To this day, I still get the smell of gin and chalk in my nostrils when I hear “Everlong,” and the lyrics themselves conjure the sense memories: “Hello, I’ve waited here for you.”
Before grad school, when I was finishing undergrad and going through one of the roughest times of my life, what many would call “a dark night of the soul,” I fell in love with gin and music in a general and specific sense. I realized that I didn’t know the difference between the Beatles and the Monkeys and I sought to rectify this and many other of my perceived cultural shortcomings. I spent countless summer nights sitting on my porch reading Kerouac and Palaniuk and Zizek and used the number of limes in my glass to count the number of gin and tonics I had drank. I tried to balance the musical selection with new and old and tried to just experience all kinds of new music. There was one song that I stumbled upon, “Las Cruces Jail,” by The Two Gallants. “Yeah,” I thought. “Las Cruces is a jail.” As cliché as all that is, that song is still a really good song to listen to while you drink a lot of booze and yell at stuff.
These days I rarely hear a new song that makes me want to dive into some rabble-rousing. The last time I heard a song that made me want to get a crew of people together and drink a bunch of beer and yell at each other in a bar was probably years ago. I know Kendrick Lamar gets me pumped up to drink a lot of booze, and there really is a lot of great drinking hip-hop music, but nothing is quite like rock ’n’ roll and the Black Keys may never release a new album, so what are we going to do? I guess we just keep crackin’ cold ones with our buds, and hopefully something good will come on the radio, huh?
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.