Airport Rules! Covid Has Turned Travelers into Day Drinkers 

Back when the lockdown was really in lockdown, I saw a tweet announcing that Quarantine Drinking Rules = Airport Drinking Rules. Which makes sense. After this year's alcohol intake, we all feel like we've crunched a few time zones.

These days, however, the airlines are struggling with everyone avoiding those "COVID cabins" in the sky. The travel I'd normally put in for the release of Haint Punch is causing me to Zoom more than fly. This isn't a problem with the East Coast, but the people in Los Angeles take it as a matter of pride not to take unwieldy time zones into consideration. I always make it a point to have a beer in the shot just to let them all know I'm taking a damn meeting during cocktail hour. If you field a call from Egypt, remember that that time zone is so wide of the mark it's more constructive to just get back on a plane.

click to enlarge Murff takes a meeting.
  • Murff takes a meeting.

I almost miss sitting in the Amsterdam airport at 8:30 a.m., drinking a Carlsberg when your body thinks that it's last night in New York. Airport drinking isn't for the faint of heart, and it's not something you want to do daily, unless you are entering a Hunter S. Thompson's liver look-alike contest. This is drinking with a purpose: to maintain a certain state of mind while avoiding another. Sure, there are those awkward moments when you make eye-contact with some perfectly lovely Dutch lady over her coffee and you can hear her thinking, "Oh ... he's one of them." She won't say it of course, and you wouldn't know if she did. Dutch sounds like a Swede trying to speak German.

In Europe, Carlsberg and Heineken are the universal airport beers. Stateside, Heineken is also pretty ubiquitous. It's a well-made pale lager out of the Netherlands that is drinkable, refreshing, and has more presence than the mass-market American beers trying to imitate it. At 5 percent ABV, it's also a little higher in alcohol. Granted, Heineken used to be known for the odd "skunky" beer, but they've fixed that problem. The issue wasn't quality control or even the beer itself, but those green bottles which were less effective than the brown ones at keeping out harmful sunlight.

If you want to drink local, even on the road, American airports are great showcases of homegrown beer wherever (and whenever) you happen to land. If you ask, the barkeep will point you to a beer you've probably never heard of and try to sell you a 24-ounce glass of the stuff. This is because airlines seem to like their passengers sleepy and fairly floppy. If you don't feel like a 24-ounce beer gamble over breakfast, there is always Sweetwater.

Maybe it's the Atlanta connection, but Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale seems to be America's go-to airport craft beer. And why not? It's a West Coast style, dry-hopped ale — more interesting than the standard lager, but light enough to keep drinking without getting that bitter aftertaste. Depending on where you're headed to (sales calls, class reunion, holiday with family crazies) or coming from (war zones, vacation, a night of designer drugs with L.A. sorts who can't do time-zone math), this sort of thing is important. You have to maintain.

In the mid-'90s, Sweetwater jumped ahead of the craft beer boom by bringing the West Coast "micros," as they were then called, to Atlanta. Is Sweetwater local? No. But it is regional and they are still privately owned. They have become one of the top brewers in the country without hitching up with one of the macro brands. And that matters.

As if air travel hadn't gotten surreal enough this year, I understand that the airlines are now doing home takeout, so would-be travelers can experience reheated, rubbery food fresh out of the microwave in their own home. If you're going to do that, at least pair it with a gigantic beer. For breakfast.

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