By Osayi Endolyn
This past summer, I spent nine weeks in the south of France. I spent nine gorgeous, sun-filled weeks in Lacoste, a tiny corner of Provence. There, I was greeted by a medieval hilltop village overlooking lavender fields, lush vineyards and winding narrow roads. Somewhere, there must be an official list of things that doting, French-loving Americans are supposed to do when traveling to this acclaimed part of the world. My guess is the list includes getting fat from eating egregious servings of baguettes with equal parts unsalted butter, taking part in the belief that croissants are a distinct food group and perfecting the daytime buzz. All the locals I met were hardworking individuals. But if you read between the lines, I found it was socially acceptable to drink anytime as long as you had your morning coffee.
Because it was summertime, rosé ran like water — at two euros per glass or 10 euros for a carafe, any beer lover would have temporarily fallen for the coral-colored beverage culled from the land below. Emphasis on temporarily. Now, nothing was wrong with the wine. The rosés I had did just what they were supposed to do — chipper and young, they flirted with the palette, bouncing from tangy to sweet. And yet, as human beings are wont to do, I found myself searching for greener grass. One evening at the local bar, I scanned the brew options. They were slim: Heineken or Kronenbourg. Pale lager or pale lager.
I got by. My grandmother has a name for people who leave home looking for what they left behind: stupid. I knew better than to go to Provence looking for a major craft beer scene. I didn’t expect it, and I wasn’t disappointed when it was indeed absent. That didn’t help my homesickness, however. I didn’t know you could miss a beer. My heart went out for St. Bernardus Abt 12. I really missed it. I longed for it.
The irony of yearning to return to the states from France to order a Belgium-made beer is not lost on me. But since when did cravings have anything to do with logic?
I missed the experience of the St. Bernardus Abt 12. The way the bartender looks at you when you order it, a not-so-subtle nod of approval. The look is a mutual understanding — you’ve evolved past the infantile interpretation that all dark beers are bitter and stormy. You know that the rich, shadowy brown has an unexpected sweet aroma hinting at the spicy notes that will soon follow. Rushes of figs, raisins and molasses, tumble forth one after the other, but somehow all at once. And then it lingers. Slight caramel, more spice. Full, but not heavy. Effortless, and yet incredibly complex. And there was none to be had in Lacoste or anywhere near it.
So, as they say, I did as the Romans do. I ordered demi-pêche, Kronenbourg with a shot of peach-flavored sweetener. When I tired of that, I tried the French brew with sirop de citron, essentially French lemonade and lager. And I drank a lot of rosé. Wonderful treats to sip underneath satin skies, in one of the most visually stunning places in the world.
And when I touched down in Atlanta, I found myself a seat where I could get a glass of that St. Bernardus Abt 12. A skinny man in thick-framed glasses slid it over to me. The white, frothy head gave me beer freckles, what I like to call those sparks of carbonation jumping towards your cheeks before the first sip. Everything played out just the way it was supposed to. I had my favorite beer. And I was home.
The glass of St. Bernardus Abt 12 pictured here hails from Octane on the Westside, however you can find it throughout Atlanta.