Laht-ing it up

Walla Walla countrysideThis second year here in Walla Walla has seen the visits of several friends and family, including Susanne’s parents, my Mom, my sister and her two daughters, my friend Michael, and now our friend Jody. They have tasted from the chalice of the town of many waters, and they have enjoyed it thoroughly. Especially Jody. Nobody we’ve brought here has been as excited about the wine sellers and vineyards as Jody.

Jody is also a fan of the German tradition of the glass beer boot. There really is nothing like repeating a favorite event from one’s college days to bring back the nostalgia for that time, so when Susanne and I stumbled across a boot for sale in Victoria, British Columbia, we of course purchased it, telling ourselves it would make a perfect graduation gift for our friend. The catch was that she would need to trek across the country to get it from us. We figured we would see her last summer, but then she was too embroiled in finishing her dissertation. And as I hear it, that needs to happen before this graduation thingamabob.

Jody walked with her fellow Ph.D. recipients in DC last week, and the ink scarcely had a chance to dry before she was on the prerequisite three flights to get here. We had the boot set up in the dining room, waiting patiently and lovingly for its new owner. She hugged it like a toddler loves a teddy bear. And we told her we’d venture out to the Laht Neppur brewery in Waitsburg, about 20 minutes away to the east. We hoped the Irish beer would be okay in the German boot, not that it bothered us personally, as we are not purists.

The next day we, with another professor from Susanne’s college, made the journey, and unlike other trips to this town, we did not see any anti-abortion protesters. Slackers. The weather gets a little nice and they all drop their political mischief. Well fine, I don’t need them anyhow.

I’d called ahead to see if the brewery would be okay filling up a two liter boot for us, and they actually sounded thrilled. As we walked in the door, boot in hand, a couple of people from behind the bar clapped excitedly, as if I’d just told a kindergarten class we were about to have birthday cake. At least that’s how I recall responding to such news when I was 5. We needed to taste a few of the dozen or so kinds of beer they make to see what should fill the boot. I mean, drinking this thing is a commitment, one wants to really like the beer inside. We opted for a fruity hefeweisen. So now we’re really out there: a German style, Irish made beer in a German boot. I asked them to play a little U2 to keep things balanced. Because a little Bono goes a long way.

Jody told us the rules: once the boot is picked up, it cannot be put back down until it is empty. You can drink as long as you want, but can not stop and start. You must thwack the boot with your finger before and after you drink, and you must pay if you’re the second to last drinker of the boot. So we ordered some pub food and started passing the boot.

The owners were enthralled with our level of interest in drinking their beer, so much so that the brewmaster came out from the back to take pictures of us. The customers were happy for us too; I don’t think there’s been that degree of excitement in a while, but then again, I don’t spend every night in the place, so perhaps I’ve missed the children’s birthday parties.

We drank and drank and scarfed down a pizza that at that moment, seemed like the best pizza in the world. It could have been rancid and freezer-frosted, but in actuality, I think it was rather tasty. Finally, we were getting near to the end of the boot. I looked at what was left in it, something close to a full pint, and took a breath. Jody, the veteran boot drinker of our bunch, was next after me, and I didn’t want her to show me up. I looked around the room and noticed that everyone was noticing me. All of the people at the table but me had doctorates, but I was the big man, and suddenly I felt like I was being measured in terms of masculinity. I didn’t want to weigh in on the Pee Wee Herman end of the scale, I wanted Lou Ferigno. And I hated that I didn’t want to be teased for not finishing this thing, so I tilted the boot back and finished it. Woo hoo! We cheered. Jody snapped a picture. And from the other table, an older man and his wife clapped, but then he totally deflated my ego by saying, almost under his breath but just loud enough for me to discern:

“A real man would have drunk a boot of porter.”

Bam. And then I wondered if this is why men walk around being macho and masculine—because they don’t want someone to say that they’re not. I didn’t see that guy drinking a boot. And why should I care what he thinks about my manliness? And who is a real man, anyway? I stuck in the back of my mind that I should set a different priority in those moments, not that this would have changed my behavior. For I would have killed the boot in any case, but I didn’t need to kill it because strangers might tease me if I didn’t.

We went ahead and ordered another boot, figuring that four of us could handle a liter of beer each. It was clearly the end of the semester for the two college professors, who could potentially have put their own students to shame with their capacity. And though I hadn’t drunk that much in a long time, I had a blast, and we enjoyed our indoor picnic table. For though this is wine country, there are definitely a few places for beer drinkers, and we deeply appreciate them.

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One Comment on “Laht-ing it up”

  1. Jody
    May 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    You are the rock star boot killer of Laht Neppur! (Just don’t forget to drink with the toe pointed up.) 😉

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