I’ve been a home brewer since at least 1996, so it was pretty much guaranteed that any woman I spent any length of time with was going to get sucked into my hobby. My ex was no exception, and we merrily progressed from taste-alike beers made from kits to all-grain concoctions that were SO much more flavorful and bold.
Our friends Bill and Cheshire were getting married, and we decided a nice gift would be mead, the honey wine the Vikings drank (and, incidentally, the reason why newlyweds go on a honeymoon). Ours was flavored with fresh strawberries, which if you’re a beer/fermentation geek means we made them a melomel. This is beside the point.
What is not beside the point, although it is a little technical, is that mead goes through about three stages of fermentation (that is, from honey water inoculated with yeast to delicious alcoholic beverage), each stage requiring transfer to a new vessel. The secondary and tertiary stages of fermentation, by the way, are mostly meant to clarify and purify the final product: the mead is actually ready to drink after primary fermentation is complete.
My honey and I (HAHAHA see what I did there?) had completed the first transfer, and found ourselves left with about a gallon of strawberry mead. It was as delicious as it was pretty to look at. The strawberries not only added a beautiful pink hue, but a lovely boof in the back of your sinuses when you took a sip. Despite the thick syrupiness of the primary raw ingredient, mead is actually a very light bodied beverage. So light that you can forget you’re drinking something that’s a lot more like wine (12% ABV) than beer (6% ABV). Which is what we did. “Cheers to you! And cheers to us! And cheers to Bill and Cheshire!” we cried as we downed pint glasses –pint glasses– of mead. “This is delicious!” “Pour me some more!” Round and round we went.
To this day, I’m STILL not sure what the fight was about, and neither of us knows who started it. What little I remember is that suddenly a disagreement about (wedding plans? personal habits? life goals? something entirely different?) escalated, and the two of us were engaged in a bitter screaming match. Recriminations. Accusations. Retractions. Retracted retractions. And somewhere in there, really angry sex (I think)?
The next morning I woke up with one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever experienced. The missus was in even worse shape. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, rubbing her temples and blocking the sun from her eyes.
“Sorry for what?” I asked, as exploding bowling balls crashed around inside my head.
“I’m sorry for starting the fight last night.”
I absorbed that for a moment. “That’s weird,” I said. “Because I was about to apologize for starting the fight.”
“You started th–? No, no you didn’t. I’m…I’m pretty sure it was me. Ugh. Do we have any Advil or anything?”
“Yeah, I’ll get it,” I said stumbling to the bathroom. I think I threw up, or maybe she did: I’ve blocked a lot of that hangover out of my mind. The bottom line is that we were never able to figure out who exactly set off the fireworks, but that the mead was DEFINITELY to blame. We began referring to the stuff as “Liquid Divorce”.
As things turned out, a few months later we went through a very ugly breakup, and our friends never got their mead. Instead, it sat in a glass fermenter in my living room from 2012 until 2016, when I moved to Nashville. Then, the big glass jug of slowly fermenting honey wine was relocated to my dad’s garage, where it continued to condition.
I suppose I could have done some due diligence and found another place to store the stuff, but during my most recent visit to Philly when my dad told me he wanted the it gone, I decided to to dump it. But when I did, I made sure to pour myself a glass, which is what you were looking at when you started this article.
It was delicious, smooth and light as air, with a little kiss -just a peck really- of heat, reminiscent of brandy. I had a another sip, and savored the honey bouquet, the pleasantly medicinal whiff of strawberry liquor, how it felt on my palate and sinuses as much as on my tongue.
And then I realized I was suddenly getting angry about…
…well, about something. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but boy was I ready to tell some so-and-so what-was-what. I reached for my glass, took another sip, and scowled, my temper spiked again. Glowering, formless, self-pitying resentment.
I put the glass down. Bill and Cheshire had dodged a bullet.
This shit really WAS liquid divorce.