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"What Kind of Beer Tastes Like Pulling a Hair Out of Your Mouth?" by Colleen O'Connor

I know so little about beer, other than that I adore it and most likely drink too much of it. My taste in beer hasn’t evolved much since the days I slugged it out of Red Dog bottles in my old boyfriend’s mother’s backyard. What I remember most about those beers isn’t the taste, or even my first experiences with that warm, woozy-headedness that comes from drinking a few in a short time, slamming them down before I had to meet my curfew—what I remember most is the sayings that came on the undersides of each beer cap. They were cheesy, mostly—dog-related puns or images of an angry bulldog with some silly tagline like this dog doesn’t fetch—but I always read them before I tossed them into that backyard bonfire. There’s one in particular I remember very clearly, one that struck me before I tossed it aside and tended to the beer in my hand. It read, quite simply, why are you reading this?

And why was I? Simply put, I read it because I had learned to read the underside of Red Dog bottle caps, to look for the cheesy slogan or saying that other beers didn’t provide. But there’s more to it than that—I also read it because I enjoyed reading it, enjoyed the way the witty quip or hokey pun reminded me that I wasn’t only drinking a beer, I was drinking a Red Dog. I enjoyed how that changed (enhanced?) the experience.

Though that’s just branding. What I’m really getting at is the fact that I think language and beer do intrinsically go together. How many of my greatest conversations have happened over cans or bottles, at backyard bonfires or bellied up to a long bar? How many nights have I spent agonizing over a current writing project on a back porch, searching for the perfect word or phrase or title with my partner or a close friend, pausing in between whines to gulp another sip of the beer in front of me?

I considered all this the other night this as I sat in Switchback’s Executive Director Whitney Holmes’ apartment, hashing out beer pairings with our resident beer expert and event guru Mercy Van Marter. Our books are rich and lively; they’re complicated and gorgeous. I sincerely believe that Switchback Books has published some of the most exciting and challenging poetry out there, poetry that I feel intimately connected to. But as we read the poems out loud and discussed them, suddenly a line, one I hadn’t really dwelled on before, would jump out at one of us, and a huge grin would stretch across Mercy’s face and she’d jump up and run to the kitchen to grab another bottle for us to taste—Here! She’d say, I’ve got the perfect thing! And we’d each take a sip and the words were, in that moment, different. They resonated differently, and I considered them differently, and as I tasted the thoughtfully-selected beer and considered those thoughtfully-selected words I learned something new not only about the Switchback poetry I love so much, but also about the beer I know so little about.

This is what I think our event, A Taste of Switchback: Beer and Poetry Pairings, will bring to its attendees. Whether you know our poets’ work, poetry in general, are a beer aficionado, or are just curious, this event is almost sure to provide a moment where the words or the beer or both will surprise you. And who doesn’t want that sort of jolt every now and then?

Want to figure out what kind of beer tastes like pulling a hair out of your mouth? Come to Taste of Switchback! Purchasing your tickets in advance saves you $5.00! And, space is limited, so don't wait to buy your tickets at the door. Purchase tickets now via PayPal. Event Details

When: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM Where: Forte Framing and Gallery 2301 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL Tickets: $20 advance / $25 door Tickets include the following:

  • Unlimited craft beer

  • Poems from Switchback Books authors

  • Tasting notes from Switchback's resident cicerone

  • Souveneir glass

  • Entry for Raffle Prizes

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