- Ran a half-marathon in New Hampshire.
- Did a beer run to Maine afterward.
I’m going to write about the beer run, which tells you everything you need to know about the half-marathon.
(Well, OK, at some point I’ll probably write about the half-marathon too, if only to post pictures of my traditional post-race hotdish. But for now the beer run is the item of interest.)
I happened to be running in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is on the Maine border. In fact, at one point in the race, if you looked across the harbor you were running next to, Maine was on the other side of the water.
(Which led me to think of Mainiacs across the water, which led me to think of “Madman Across the Water,” which was pretty much the high point of the race.)
Anyhow, since I was already a short spit from Maine, I decided to head over there after the race and do some beer speculating — specifically, a search for Geary’s Pale Ale, a beer with a place in my personal pantheon.
Almost 25 years ago, when I was nearing the end of my run at the Boston University student newspaper, I found myself in charge of the arts section’s yearly beer tasting.
The paper would swap advertising to a major local booze store in return for an equal amount of beer. And then the arts section would orchestrate a riotous beer tasting involving staffers and friends, which would be the cover story in the last arts section of the semester.
(My beer tasting drew a small crowd, and I discovered to my delight that I could provide everyone a tasting quantity while using up only two beers from each sixer. After the formal tasting was over, a bunch of us hung around and got legless on the other four beers from each sixpack. This is not mere boasting; it will become relevant in a moment.)
1995 was relatively early days for the craft beer movement. Small breweries weren’t totally unknown, but there was a certain sense of novelty when you saw them on the shelf. And, for novelty’s sake, one of the sixpacks I chose for the tasting was Geary’s Pale Ale, from Portland, Maine, with a big lobster on the black-and-gold label.
My memory says that the first time I tasted Geary’s, it had an odd piney flavor to which I was not accustomed, and I thought it had gone bad.
The second time (my memory says) I began to warm up to it.
And in the post-tasting beer-scrum, I began (my memory says) to seek out the remaining lobster-bottles in the big trash can full of ice because I came to enjoy the pininess. It was (my memory says) my introduction to aggressive hops.
So today, I meandered up Route 1 in Maine until I found a Hannaford supermarket in the town of York. And there I purchased my first sixer of Geary’s Pale in a long, long time — guessing at least 15 years.
It still comes in bottles with a big lobster…
… but that seems to be about as far as today’s reality aligns with my memory.
For one thing, today’s Geary’s Pale does not strike me as particularly pale. It’s pretty significantly amber, as you can see. And for another, it’s quite mellow and malty; it has pretty much zero in the way of piney hops.
(I could have been imagining the pine thing in 1995 — beer from Maine, tastes like pine, seems like an obvious line to draw — but I don’t think I was. I didn’t know beer could taste like pine until I tried Geary’s. Or so my memory says.)
I should be clear here that today’s Geary’s Pale Ale is a perfectly drinkable beer, and I will have no trouble emptying the other five lobster-bottles. It’s just totally not what I remembered it to be.
I’ve read the occasional article about Geary’s in the intervening years, and I believe the brewery has changed management. Like their New England peers at Samuel Adams, they’ve apparently lost significant ground to the half-million flashier, smaller breweries that have come along since the ’80s and ’90s.
So it’s possible, maybe, that the recipe for the beer changed at some point.
Or, it’s also possible that my memory — traditionally one of my stronger attributes, by and large — is warped and bent like a faulty Shrinky Dink. Could it be that some other beer was the piney beer?
(I guess, if there are any memories in my bank whose veracity I should question, memories that involve mass quantities of beer are among them.)
Maybe I’ll go try another one. Yeah, that seems like the best solution…