Liquid Bread

By Beacon Staff

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.”

We can’t know for certain who was the wise one who first put beer and fishing together. I’d like take credit for it if I could, but my dad beat me to it. I could host a photo exhibit of nothing but snapshots of me, my brothers, a stringer of fish, and my grinning dad with a cold one in hand and it would take the assembled connoisseurs a couple of glasses of chardonnay to work through every piece on display.

I’m guessing mine is not the only family that could fill the Hockaday with fishing-with-beer photos.

Dad always followed no-beer-before-noon guidelines, except on our early-summer sojourns up to the mountains to fish for trout in Big Bear Lake. If the fishing was slow, Dad would usually crack his first cold one at about 9 a.m. in an effort to “change our luck.” If the fishing was good, 9 a.m. was about as good as time as any to start celebrating.

Dad could sometimes get a little defensive about his adult beverage of choice. Like a lot of guys back in the 1970s — a bleak period microbrew aficionados recognize as the dark ages of beer — Dad grew fond of a new beverage brewed high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. But Dad was a union man, and Coors was notoriously antiunion. He took a lot of heat from the boys at work for his bourgeois, anti-worker tastes. After a brief flirtation with Oly, he finally conformed and started drinking Buds like the rest of the guys in the shop.

Fishing beverages have come along way. Microbrews began to emerge in the early 1980s as tastes and laws governing such matters began to change. By the end of that decade things had changed dramatically on the beer front. I was still in college in Southern California then when I heard my first report about the quality of fishing beverages in Montana. A classmate, who had swung through western Montana on a summer break road trip, on her return announced that Missoula had three breweries.

I knew then where my future lay. Three breweries and three or four fine trout rivers, all converging on a nice little college town in the Rockies. I missed the mark slightly, landing in the Bitterroot rather than Missoula, but life is rarely exact.

Dad’s watered-down swill has been replaced by some quality craft beverages brewed regionally, often sporting fishing-themed names: “Double Haul IPA,” “Trout Slayer,” “Apache Trout Stout.” There’s been some clever labels glued to beer bottles over the last couple decades, some a little too clever. In fact, I’m not sure the beer-naming business didn’t reach its zenith some years ago with “Moose Drool” (best beer name ever, though I’m not a fan of brown ales). The cute names were fun, but it has grown a little stale. I think we’ll soon enter a post-modern era where the finest of craft brews will get bland names such as “Joe’s Pale Ale,” offered with a frothy head of irony of course.

The most important recent development in the world of fishing beverages has been the use of cans to contain microbrews. Dad’s stuff was always so packaged, but for most of the craft brew era it was assumed that serious beer comes in brown bottles. Beer snobs sneered at the canned stuff. But cans offer anglers a host of advantages. Aluminum transfers cold from ice to the beer more quickly and it completely blocks taste-killing light. Plus, once the beer is consumed, the container crushes down to a small, nearly weightless package.
Most importantly, a can won’t break leaving raft – or foot-slicing shards – along rivers.

Of course all good things are best in moderation. Beer may be an essential component of any fishing trip but we can all quickly remind ourselves of times we’ve seen or heard of drunken boaters getting themselves or others in a lot of trouble.
Don’t be one of those guys.

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