Beer for the dying

At the beginning of Victoria’s
memorial service,
George, her husband, gave a welcome speech.
The first memory he told us about was of the last few
weeks or months of her life, when every morning she would wake up
and they would share a beer. Even on her last day, he wet her lips
with some beer, and he thought he could see a smile.

This reminded me of the story my uncle told after my Grandmother’s
funeral. He
had visited her the weekend before she died. He’d
asked her if there was anything he could get her or do for her to
make her more comfortable, and she asked him to bring her a beer.
I didn’t think of her as a beer-drinker at all — she drank wine
with dinner, and sometimes a brandy before bed. But apparently
one of the things that shuts down when you’re dying is your
ability to swallow, and beer was what she believed would go down
the easiest.

This makes me sad that I
didn’t work harder to bring Bonnie (who was a beer drinker) beer
when she was dying. I just assumed that it would conflict with
all the other drugs she was taking, and be a problem for all the
tubes. At the period when I was spending a lot of my visiting time giving
her sponges to wet her mouth with, I did bring some coffee, and it
turned out to be a mistake — the diuretic effect of even less than an
ounce of decaf coffee was too much for the tubes she was on.

This is only two anecdotes, but until recently I didn’t really
hear that many anecdotes about the care of the dying, so the
fact that there are two suggests that there might be lots more.
So maybe the institutions and people who deal with the dying all
the time should try to figure out how they could provide the benefits of
beer to all their patients.

What I did on the Pub Crawl

I decided that if you were interested in what I wrote
yesterday, you’d want to know what it was like, so here are some
remarks and some pictures.

We started at the Cambridge
brewing company
, which is an American brewpub with a lot of
interesting beers brewed on site. Like most eating places that
used to be factories, it can be pretty loud when it gets full, but
that wasn’t a problem yesterday at lunch time. I had their
imitation Berliner Weisse, straight, although I concluded as I
have the other times I’ve tried it straight that I like it better
with the woodruff syrup. I also had the Mediterranean platter.
I’d been there for lunch on Thursday, so people asked for my
recommendations, and many of them ordered the Hefeweizen, which
I’ve been buying in growlers and drinking at home all summer, and
a Russian Imperial Stout which was a guest beef from the Stone
Brewery in San Diego.


Then we moved to the Elephant and Castle downtown, where
everyone ordered either Fullers London Porter or Fullers London
Pride. They have similar hop profiles; I was glad I had the
porter because I liked the extra taste of the roasted malts.

[Elephant and Castle]

The next stop was Jacob Wirth’s, which is
known for its selection of German beers and food. But they’ve
recently started having a cask ale on tap, and I believe in
encouraging that, so that’s what I ordered. It was something from
Dogfish Head. It’s a nice setting for drinking, with lots of wood
and old posters and signs. I’d planned to have the cherry
strudel, but I wasn’t hungry yet.

[Jacob Wirth]

After that I got tired of taking pictures, although the next
place, The Other Side, is an interesting space that
could have made a good picture. We were upstairs under the
seemingly improvised
vaulted skylight. I had a red beer with a French name, and a
piece of cherry pie.

Everyone else had the same reaction I did to the idea of
Cornwall’s, and nobody was drinking their beers very fast by now
and most people wanted some food, so we decided to skip the
Cornwall’s stop and go straight to The Publicke
in Brookline. I had something from the Scillie
Brewery in Belgium. When it was time to move on, a few of us
decided we’d be better off having food where we were than at the
next stop, so I had something called The Publicke House Platter,
with bread and cheese and salad and cold cuts, and a Framboise to
go with it.

The food and beer were all good. Of the 10 or 11 people who came, most of them were people I
wanted to talk to. So I enjoyed myself, but it was too bad that
it’s a dwindling institution. We used to get a couple of dozen
people, including people from out of town who liked the idea of
drinking with people who already knew their way around Boston.

Pub Crawl

A short one today, since I’ll be spending all afternoon and
maybe some of the evening at the Boston Wort Processors Pub

I’ve been going on these since 1991, so for me they’re a
recurrent social life, where I see people I might not have seen
since last year, or even for several years.

But if I were moving to a new city, I might try to find an
organization that does pub crawls just to see where people who
drink think the good bars are. Especially for a woman, it’s
easier to check out a new place in the company of other people.

While there’s an occasional disappointment on the list, all the
stops are places where someone has had a good meal or at
least a good pint sometime.

Today I’ll be joining at the beginning, since it’s my local pub a couple of
blocks away. I’ll definitely stay at least through Jacob Wirth’s, which has
really good strudel. I’d like to stay to the end, because I
haven’t yet been to the Roadhouse, which only opened within the
last year, but I may decide that 3 or 4 bars are enough for one
day and check out the Roadhouse some other day.

The 4:30 stop at Cornwall’s is a likely crawl-ender. That was
one of the disappointments I mentioned a few years ago, when
they had some beer of a good brand that was undrinkable because
of improper storage and refused to recognize the fact. People
say they’ve improved since then, but I may remember the taste of
that beer and decide to walk home and take care of the dog.