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Merwin: Fine Wine & Warm Beer

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June 22, 2009

Merwin: Fine Wine & Warm Beer

By John Merwin

So here’s a bit in praise of snobbery when it comes to fishing. I don’t mean the kind of in-your-face uptown tweed that some fly fishermen, in particular, unfortunately seem to affect. It’s just that a down-and-dirty approach to fishing seems itself to have become overblown lately. Hey, I’ve spent my share of nights in years past sleeping under a sheet of polyethylene next to a trout river and washing down a can of Dinty Moore stew with warm beer. That was okay. But it doesn’t mean I’d necessarily choose that route if I had other options.

I got thinking about this a while ago when I was at a very chi-chi trout-fishing lodge in Wyoming. Various guests gathered around an outdoor fire after fishing. The guy next to me had laid out in front of him a glass of fine single-malt Scotch, an obviously expensive cigar, a Dunhill lighter (I checked), and a cigar cutter. “Holy smokes,” I said to him. “You look like something out of Cigar Afficianado magazine.”

He smiled. “So what’s wrong with that?”

In retrospect, I have to say there was nothing wrong at all. He wasn’t pushing any superiority or otherwise being a nuisance. He was just enjoying what he happened to have and liked. So would I rather have a great bottle of wine after fishing than a warm beer? Of course I would. Do I always? Of course not. And in any case, I’m certainly not going to stupidly declare myself a better person or angler just by virtue of better food or drink. At the same time, though, I can’t push the reverse-snobbery thing to the point at which everything good becomes somehow bad. If you’ve got it, great. If not, that‘s okay, too.

Comments (22)

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from buckhunter wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I like cheap beer because I can share with the ones around me without a second thought and I like cheap cigars because I can drop it in the water while fishing and not have to dive in a rescue it.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

If the fisherman has the wit to put his (or her) bottles in the stream one presumes they have nearby for piscatorial endeavors, the Malt beverages need never be warm...
I too have spent nights under polyethelene, but never when I had access to better or the time to contrive something. One must be in physical condition to fish the back country and if you can't sleep, how can you fish? As far as the plastic sheet thing goes there are better alternatives and there is some point to going ultra light, after all how much do you really want to lug on your back, saving ounces saves pounds.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Yes, no reason to berate people who can afford the finer things in life. They have done what is necessary (hopefully, legitimately), often sacrificing greatly, to be able to do this. This is an opportunity afforded to us in this country.

A fine aged burgundy, foi gras, and truffles are truly wonderful. Like it or not, the quality of things is usually, though not always, commensurate with price. I do appreciate expensive fly rods and reels and high grade doubles with hand-engraving and oiled stocks. Might not be able to afford them right now, but I do appreciate them.

Some experiences also come with a price tag - a guided Alaskan hunt or a Patagonia fishing charter. But the quality of an experience often is not related to price. For awhile I was spoiled with a bit of the finer things in life - constant travel on an expense account was just part of my life. Gave a lot of that up to start a business. Lately, during hunting and fishing seasons, I have been spoiled by a warm bed and shower and good food and drink at a friend's cabin, modest as it is. This weekend, for the Michigan big bug hatches, I am camping by the river, cooking over a fire and coals, and drinking good ole Budweiser from bottles packed in a cooler (I'd cool them in the river but fear they would be too inviting to others). I am really looking forward to this. Some of my finest experiences were around a campfire eating hot dogs and baked beans and drinking cheap beer and pop with family and friends. Those experiences are priceless.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jersey pig wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

personally i prefer cheap beer on surf fishing trips, a left over from my youth. however after a long day pushing hedgerows or walking tote roads with the dog out front i do like a nice single malt (the glenlivet preferably). however at the hunting club after a day of driving deer whatever necter that flows from the tap is fine with me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I can smoke a Cuban or a Swisher Sweet... drink warm beer or homemade Blackberry Wine or Gobble Gobble.

I still want to be your friend ...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

The last fine Cuban I smoked was on the bridge wing of our destroyer as we steamed out of the Persian Gulf on my last deployment prior to retirement. The Captain and I enjoyed the moment relecting on a successful deployment; one which we accomplished every task and were bringing every one of our sailors home not too much the worse for wear. A little leathery and sun burned maybe, but all in one piece. I think we had more than a couple of single malts in Melbourne, Australia some weeks later. Haven't had an occasion worthy of a cigar since.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Some of my best memories involve warm beer & others include a good wine or some other fancy stuff. It's all good, especially if the company is good & you're someplace you want to be. Pretty much anything you bring fishing or to a hunting camp is good by me.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Chivas Regal and Old Crow are all welcome at my camp.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I buy cheaper beer so I can afford more ice. Can't do warm beer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KingFisher907 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I dont drink or smoke or cuss...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KingFisher907 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

dam* it, I left my smokes at the bar...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KingFisher907 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

snobbery aside, sometimes the finer things are, well, fine...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I can go for a cigar and some beer, but I just can't do warm beer, I like mine cold... so instead of the "finer" things in life, I usually just go for some Skoal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Some things are good cos they r good, some things are good cos of the company while enjoying them, other things are good cos of the adventure that went with them.. in the end its all memories, so why not make them good ones?? I have good memories of sharing cheap beer with friends, and other of enjoying cuban cigars with family.. Snobbery doesnt exist really, cos we all like good food, nice clothes etc. But in a hunting fishing situation its not such things that should be more important than the hunting/fishing in itself and what companionship we have while doing it..

That said the really fine things for me is the one i make myself and share with my friends.. (even if its double distilled, double coalclensed moonshine with unknown proofrating and natural herbs for flavour, burn in the belly and the taste never leaves my friends mind ever!) And no ammount of money can buy that cos I made it:P

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gungle George wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Drank cheap beer, smoked cheap stogies and used old fishing tackle, slept in the back of an old Ford station wagon and shot the same old 870 that I bought new in '63 for $39 most of my life.
After working my ass off I retired at 54 a few years ago with more money than I'll ever spend. Shoot nice guns now, 30' RV, new 21' bass boat and some $600 rod & reel outfits. Good cigars and single malt are the order of the day.
And I can honestly say I had more fun back in the day. I miss the adventures of the old days. And, no, money doesn't buy happiness!

Cheers,

George

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I'd Love a nice higher-end Bottle of wine with my backstraps, or a fine sipping whisky, and don't fault those who regularly partake in the finer things. I, on the other hand, am more of a bargain shopper. Watching the sale rack or newspaper fliers for the occassional decent buy. A $25.oo bottle of Pinot Noir tastes better to me when i get it for $12.oo. As far as beer goes, I like it cold, and macro-brewed, thanks, but there has been many an occassion I have toasted with my camp mates either after a day on the stream or a long drag from the deep woods, warm beer being all that was available, hit the spot just the same. It is what you make of it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Amen to all of the above!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

When I was in my twenties working for the Canadian Wildlife service carrying an 80+ lb pack and sleeping in a back pack tent, rolling my own butts etc, I was a happy camper. I loved that life. My body isn't quite as happy with that lifestyle as it used to be. I will never forget the first hot shower in over a month up in Inuvik though. The water is a tad cold in that neck of the woods. I'm still a cheap guy. I try to use only as much comfort as I need. Ugly Sticks catch fish. Just because the other guys on the river spent more on their waders than I spent for my truck I'm just glad to be living in this great country and this great age. Very few people in history have had the opportunities that a regular guy has here. If you indulge in the finer things in life, fine by me. Just make run for us ratty looking types. We love hunting and fishing just as much as you do.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I'll throw a couple cans of Ranier Hamms or olympia in the back pocket on my vest while I'm on the water sometimes, but when I get off the water you better believe there's always a growler of some hop monster in the cooler in my truck!! as for sleeping under polethelyne- why bother it's not gonna get dark, just stay up and keep fishing.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I always go for quality over quantity on consumable items, if I have sufficient understanding of the product I am purchasing. I don't drink a lot of wine so I don't have a good understanding of the product. I like beer and ales and I'd rather drink microbrewed or my own creations. Good stuff tastes good even warm, the Brits do so on purpose! I dislike industrial beer and would have to have a real thirst on before I'd drink Bud (even cold!). There are political reasons too, especially with Coors, If I don't like the causes the brewery funds, I am not going to buy the beer and have money I spend channeled into politics I disagree with.
Most microbreweries are too busy making and selling ale to get involved in any politics that doesn't involve brewing, Not so the "industrial" breweries, that are about marketshare than quality product. As far as Bud goes, if you want beer made with rice, buy Kirin.
"Lite" beer is an abomination unto the Beer God. Besides it looks and tastes like urine, hence the joke that you can not buy it , you can only rent it, because it looks exactly the same before or after drinking it.
Take my word for it, if you start brewing your own, you'll never look back (if you do it right and have your equpiment sterile)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Another disciple of Charlie Papazian, I see.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from apowers1031 wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

FloridaHunter1226 right on.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

The last fine Cuban I smoked was on the bridge wing of our destroyer as we steamed out of the Persian Gulf on my last deployment prior to retirement. The Captain and I enjoyed the moment relecting on a successful deployment; one which we accomplished every task and were bringing every one of our sailors home not too much the worse for wear. A little leathery and sun burned maybe, but all in one piece. I think we had more than a couple of single malts in Melbourne, Australia some weeks later. Haven't had an occasion worthy of a cigar since.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I like cheap beer because I can share with the ones around me without a second thought and I like cheap cigars because I can drop it in the water while fishing and not have to dive in a rescue it.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Yes, no reason to berate people who can afford the finer things in life. They have done what is necessary (hopefully, legitimately), often sacrificing greatly, to be able to do this. This is an opportunity afforded to us in this country.

A fine aged burgundy, foi gras, and truffles are truly wonderful. Like it or not, the quality of things is usually, though not always, commensurate with price. I do appreciate expensive fly rods and reels and high grade doubles with hand-engraving and oiled stocks. Might not be able to afford them right now, but I do appreciate them.

Some experiences also come with a price tag - a guided Alaskan hunt or a Patagonia fishing charter. But the quality of an experience often is not related to price. For awhile I was spoiled with a bit of the finer things in life - constant travel on an expense account was just part of my life. Gave a lot of that up to start a business. Lately, during hunting and fishing seasons, I have been spoiled by a warm bed and shower and good food and drink at a friend's cabin, modest as it is. This weekend, for the Michigan big bug hatches, I am camping by the river, cooking over a fire and coals, and drinking good ole Budweiser from bottles packed in a cooler (I'd cool them in the river but fear they would be too inviting to others). I am really looking forward to this. Some of my finest experiences were around a campfire eating hot dogs and baked beans and drinking cheap beer and pop with family and friends. Those experiences are priceless.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Some of my best memories involve warm beer & others include a good wine or some other fancy stuff. It's all good, especially if the company is good & you're someplace you want to be. Pretty much anything you bring fishing or to a hunting camp is good by me.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from KingFisher907 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

snobbery aside, sometimes the finer things are, well, fine...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Some things are good cos they r good, some things are good cos of the company while enjoying them, other things are good cos of the adventure that went with them.. in the end its all memories, so why not make them good ones?? I have good memories of sharing cheap beer with friends, and other of enjoying cuban cigars with family.. Snobbery doesnt exist really, cos we all like good food, nice clothes etc. But in a hunting fishing situation its not such things that should be more important than the hunting/fishing in itself and what companionship we have while doing it..

That said the really fine things for me is the one i make myself and share with my friends.. (even if its double distilled, double coalclensed moonshine with unknown proofrating and natural herbs for flavour, burn in the belly and the taste never leaves my friends mind ever!) And no ammount of money can buy that cos I made it:P

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gungle George wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Drank cheap beer, smoked cheap stogies and used old fishing tackle, slept in the back of an old Ford station wagon and shot the same old 870 that I bought new in '63 for $39 most of my life.
After working my ass off I retired at 54 a few years ago with more money than I'll ever spend. Shoot nice guns now, 30' RV, new 21' bass boat and some $600 rod & reel outfits. Good cigars and single malt are the order of the day.
And I can honestly say I had more fun back in the day. I miss the adventures of the old days. And, no, money doesn't buy happiness!

Cheers,

George

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I always go for quality over quantity on consumable items, if I have sufficient understanding of the product I am purchasing. I don't drink a lot of wine so I don't have a good understanding of the product. I like beer and ales and I'd rather drink microbrewed or my own creations. Good stuff tastes good even warm, the Brits do so on purpose! I dislike industrial beer and would have to have a real thirst on before I'd drink Bud (even cold!). There are political reasons too, especially with Coors, If I don't like the causes the brewery funds, I am not going to buy the beer and have money I spend channeled into politics I disagree with.
Most microbreweries are too busy making and selling ale to get involved in any politics that doesn't involve brewing, Not so the "industrial" breweries, that are about marketshare than quality product. As far as Bud goes, if you want beer made with rice, buy Kirin.
"Lite" beer is an abomination unto the Beer God. Besides it looks and tastes like urine, hence the joke that you can not buy it , you can only rent it, because it looks exactly the same before or after drinking it.
Take my word for it, if you start brewing your own, you'll never look back (if you do it right and have your equpiment sterile)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

If the fisherman has the wit to put his (or her) bottles in the stream one presumes they have nearby for piscatorial endeavors, the Malt beverages need never be warm...
I too have spent nights under polyethelene, but never when I had access to better or the time to contrive something. One must be in physical condition to fish the back country and if you can't sleep, how can you fish? As far as the plastic sheet thing goes there are better alternatives and there is some point to going ultra light, after all how much do you really want to lug on your back, saving ounces saves pounds.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jersey pig wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

personally i prefer cheap beer on surf fishing trips, a left over from my youth. however after a long day pushing hedgerows or walking tote roads with the dog out front i do like a nice single malt (the glenlivet preferably). however at the hunting club after a day of driving deer whatever necter that flows from the tap is fine with me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I can smoke a Cuban or a Swisher Sweet... drink warm beer or homemade Blackberry Wine or Gobble Gobble.

I still want to be your friend ...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Chivas Regal and Old Crow are all welcome at my camp.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I buy cheaper beer so I can afford more ice. Can't do warm beer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KingFisher907 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I dont drink or smoke or cuss...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KingFisher907 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

dam* it, I left my smokes at the bar...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I can go for a cigar and some beer, but I just can't do warm beer, I like mine cold... so instead of the "finer" things in life, I usually just go for some Skoal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I'd Love a nice higher-end Bottle of wine with my backstraps, or a fine sipping whisky, and don't fault those who regularly partake in the finer things. I, on the other hand, am more of a bargain shopper. Watching the sale rack or newspaper fliers for the occassional decent buy. A $25.oo bottle of Pinot Noir tastes better to me when i get it for $12.oo. As far as beer goes, I like it cold, and macro-brewed, thanks, but there has been many an occassion I have toasted with my camp mates either after a day on the stream or a long drag from the deep woods, warm beer being all that was available, hit the spot just the same. It is what you make of it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Amen to all of the above!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

When I was in my twenties working for the Canadian Wildlife service carrying an 80+ lb pack and sleeping in a back pack tent, rolling my own butts etc, I was a happy camper. I loved that life. My body isn't quite as happy with that lifestyle as it used to be. I will never forget the first hot shower in over a month up in Inuvik though. The water is a tad cold in that neck of the woods. I'm still a cheap guy. I try to use only as much comfort as I need. Ugly Sticks catch fish. Just because the other guys on the river spent more on their waders than I spent for my truck I'm just glad to be living in this great country and this great age. Very few people in history have had the opportunities that a regular guy has here. If you indulge in the finer things in life, fine by me. Just make run for us ratty looking types. We love hunting and fishing just as much as you do.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I'll throw a couple cans of Ranier Hamms or olympia in the back pocket on my vest while I'm on the water sometimes, but when I get off the water you better believe there's always a growler of some hop monster in the cooler in my truck!! as for sleeping under polethelyne- why bother it's not gonna get dark, just stay up and keep fishing.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Another disciple of Charlie Papazian, I see.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from apowers1031 wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

FloridaHunter1226 right on.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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