Sunday Afternoon at the Internationales Berliner Bierfestival (2019)

Yesterday, Erica and I and our friends Gregor Gregorov and L. went to the 23. Internationales Berliner Bierfestival to see what it was all about.

The first thing you do when you go there is you buy a beer mug for €3.50. To fill up the mug it costs anywhere from €2.50-4.00 depending on the kind of beer you get, and there is a mile-long avenue of tents to choose from with beers from all over the world. The first beer I got was a brown ale from Scotland, which I quite liked. In fact, it was probably the best tasting beer I had all day because I made the mistake of choosing beers for their high alcohol percentage rather than for their prospective palette-pleasing qualities. My second was some kind of Kellerbier (cellar beer) which I liked not so much because of the way it tasted (not enough hops), but rather because it was served at a lower temperature than the others, and I was sweating in the afternoon sun. My third beer was Cannabis-ginger flavored. It didn’t get me high. Nor did it’s taste appeal to me. It was too sickly sweet, but I forced it down and afterwards stood in line at a little stand that was advertising Schwarzbier aus Böhmen (Trans: dark beer from Bohemia, i.e., the western part of the Czech Republic). Now when I got in line, I had only mentally absorbed the word Schwarzbier. Then I looked up at the sign again and read Schwarzbier aus Böhmen as Schwarzbier aus Bohnen. Now bohnen, in German, means beans, and suddenly it struck me that I was standing in line for a beer that was made from beans. I supposed it was possible since I’d just had a beer made with Cannabis, but bean beer wasn’t for me. I stepped out of line and said to Erica and the others, “I’m not buying a beer made from beans.” They all laughed.It’s Böhmen, not Bohnen, you idiot! Hahahah-bahah-hahha.” And they razzed me about it for the next half hour or so, bringing it up again and again.“I can see I’m never going to live this down,” I said. They laughed.

But then later something magical happened.

We were sitting at some picnic tables listening to a live cover band and drinking our beers when Gregor scurried off to the Porto-john. A few minutes later, on his way back, Erica spotted him beelining through the crowd, dodging, high-stepping, practically throwing people aside, a mix of fear and desperation in his eyes. He then reached our picnic table and as he was sliding into his seat he revealed the reason for his haste. There were two glorious wet puddles sopping the front of his trousers, due, apparently, to an accident or malfunction of some sort in the Porto-john. We all laughed, and as he hid his lower half under the table he tried to clarify, and philosophize, which only made us laugh more. I probably laughed the longest and the loudest of everyone. I actually feel ashamed about now. It’s not like I haven’t had my own bathroom malfunctions. True, they don’t often happen in public, at international beer festivals, and don’t often inspire me to bolt through a crowd of howling drunks, but I was trying to raise something to a higher pedestal of idiocy than my bean gaffe, and in the end I failed. I turned out to be the day’s crowned fool when the votes were cast.

The moral: humiliation is the greatest teacher of all. I will never again mistake the western part of the Czech Republic for beans.

 

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3 thoughts on “Sunday Afternoon at the Internationales Berliner Bierfestival (2019)

  1. I love this: I’ve heard so many of my friends and co-workers talk about going to these types of festivals (I’ve never been to one myself; for, as you know, I’m terrified of everything), but this is the first I’ve heard the experience relayed with eloquence and a mastery of the language (I know you’ve got the Böhmen-Bohnen debacle as a focal point, but when I say mastery I mean of the flow of the English sentences!) …I like that you recorded and reported on the individual beers, with their names and qualities — & I especially love this beginning:

    The first beer I got was a brown ale from Scotland, which I quite liked. In fact, it was probably the best tasting beer I had all day because I made the mistake of choosing beers for their high alcohol percentage rather than for their prospective palette-pleasing qualities.”

    I laughed hard at this, cuz I would’ve done the same thing: therefore I label this not a “mistake” but a “wise decision”.

    Also I admire (jealously) the skillful way that you craft this suspenseful scene:

    A few minutes later, on his way back, Erica spotted him beelining through the crowd, dodging, high-stepping, practically throwing people aside, a mix of fear and desperation in his eyes. He then reached our picnic table and as he was sliding into his seat he revealed the reason for his haste.”

    I could remain in this state of heightened expectation forever, the instant before the mystery is solved. Of course his reason turns out to be my own greatest fear, which is why I always deny myself the pleasure of these festivals; but the way that you, or at least your narrator reveals his own inner reaction, and how he proves strong enough to admit that “I was trying to raise something to a higher pedestal of idiocy than my bean gaffe” — this does much to strengthen the spirit (for we can remind ourselves that others who witness our own future embarrassments perhaps are not as harsh as their appearance would have us believe), and the reader’s hope for humankind is restored. This introspective admission is the type of self-overhearing that one only finds in the greatest literature — I suspect it’s why some works are embraced by futurity and deemed classics while the less-humane efforts meet the dustbin — and it’s why the best souls among us, even amid all these so-called advancements in technology, still pursue the life of letters.

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