For the first time in years, I decided to grill. I was cooking spicy brats and plain dogs, onion soup hamburgers, chicken fajita seasoned wings, and garlic rubbed T-bone steaks in the back yard – or what’s left of it next to my wife’s garden – on two grills, my simple kettle with briquets and my wife’s propane contraption, when, during a lull of everything sizzling, I ran inside to get a beer. In my distraction of continually envisioning the progress of each meat above the coals, I grabbed the little shaker of pepper instead of salt and shook it into the can. I immediately realized the mistake, but my griller’s instinct told me that I didn’t have time to correct my error, to open another can, because the brats and dogs needed a quarter turn. So I hurried out and made the adjustments, and further attended to the other highlights of that afternoon’s get-together of family: talking about grilling techniques, O2 filters, and me impatiently listening to lengthy tales of baseball. When I finally took a sip of my beer, I found that it was good. Ground black pepper is excellent in beer! Who knew?
I started putting salt in beer back in my days down south, when a method of delaying inebriation and curtailing a headache is adding protein in the form of salted peanuts to your longneck. They floated, of course, so you couldn’t take a swig without getting a few legumes along the way. Chew or spit them out, it was up to you, but the salt remained. And so I add a shake of salt to my latter day suds, not all the time, but usually, and now I add a frequent dash of pepper.
I typed on my phone about it, and of course Pepper Beer is old. I was disappointed; I thought I had discovered it. Turns out there are many versions of hottish beer, using black pepper as well as several kinds of hot peppers. I am astonished by the variety. I’m not going to try any of them. If I want to experiment, I’ll do so on my own without wasting money on a six-pack. I have many cupboard options. A half-dash of cinnamon or nutmeg or cloves, but not in combination. Celery salt might be interesting, as well as a half-drop of soy sauce. How about salty fish sauce? (No, no, not doing that. Forget that.) A gentle tap of cayenne might be exciting. Hey, I’ll add cumin and chili powder and invent Chili-Without-Beans Beer. (Might have to use a bit of beef broth for that.)
It is my creative writing opinion that beer was invented when some ancient cook unexpectedly had to leave his home and clay pot of grain soup and didn’t get back for a few days. Being very hungry, he gulped it down, fell flat on his back, and from then on started preparing a special, separate pot of gruel on a regular basis. No doubt the same thing happened many times over many years in many places all around the world. Makes me wonder, did cave people make something like beer? That would explain the extraordinary artwork on the walls.
I often call beer Hops and Barley Soda Pop, or Liquid Aspirin-Liquid Bread. But really it’s just fizzied alcohol. Oh, I can tell the difference between Miller Lite and Guinness, but those are extremes. And there are brewers, like Samuel Adams, who flavor their beers with seasonal spices and names. They’re okay, but I don’t want my beer to taste like pumpkin pie. That’s a sacred flavor reserved for 8-to-9-inch pans and perhaps waffle-style ice-cream cones.
Ancient Egyptian workers were often paid with beer, which back then was like liquid bread, and a lot more. One recipe includes mandrakes, olive oil, and dates. Their beer was sweet, and with only about 2 percent alcohol it could be guzzled with every meal, or used as a meal by itself. I’m sure if Willie Wonka started a brewery, he would invent a beer that tastes like, and has the nutrients of, many foods. I imagine a four-sided bottle with progressive flavors of salad, soup, meat, and sweets. He’d probably make a six-sided bottle that also included an after-dinner cigar and brandy, for the adults in the family.
I am intrigued by the idea of sweet beer. I might try adding a quick squeeze of honey, turning my Lite into something like Mead. Adding a bit of berry juice would simulate, although poorly I’m sure, Berry Mead. Or I’ll simply invent the Sugar Shaker. (Please don’t tell me it’s already available!) I’ll get a new salt shaker and fill it with sugar, add a label so no one confuses the two, and use it whenever I’m in the mood for a dessert beer.
Or maybe none of the above. For now, I’m going to stick with my plain salt and/or pepper beer.