Parenting is, by far, one of the most trying yet most rewarding vocations one can hold. Whether we are embarking on the journey with our first child, finding our groove with our third, or settling into time-tested routines with our fifth (or more), we know this road has its ups and downs, its sunshine and storm clouds.
Sadly, it seems we often gloss over the good and dwell on those difficult, bump-ridden, frustrating times, focusing on ways to cope and get through the struggles with some semblance of sanity. We find comfort in knowing we aren’t the only ones who have dealt with a tantrum-y toddler in the store, a diaper blowout after having forgotten to restock the diaper bag (yeesh), or a child who simply won’t sleep. We find solace in the camaraderie the hard times provide in this parenting community.
We also often offer encouragement and support to one another as we would to anyone else—with booze. It’s no surprise, then, that the desire for a nightly glass of wine has become as much a stereotype of mothers as yoga pants and morning coffee. That drink to unwind or de-stress has become ubiquitous for parents to the point that no one likely bats an eye at the mother expressing a desire for a glass at 9 a.m. or posting an article pairing wine with crappy child behavior in her social feed.
Yet we often reserve that drink for those trying times we’re about to pull our hair out. But, just as I contend we should strive to share more than just our struggles and connect more over our mutual joys, I hold that our pint or glass need not be reserved for those more difficult moments. And we beer lovers need not feel left out by the pervasive focus on wine.
Here are nine parenting moments—fun, challenging, or a combination thereof—and the perfect beers to pour during each.
1. Bringing Home Baby
After 40ish long weeks of abstaining from our beloved brews—whether for us wives or the poor fellas who were asked to abstain for the sake of solidarity (a rule I am, as a pregnant wife, firmly against, by the way)—that first post-pregnancy beer is a major decision, ranking right up there with how to spell the child’s name and whether to circumcise, breastfeed, or co-sleep.
This is a time to celebrate the birth of your little one and the end of your dry spell. If you’re like me and have been craving a particular beer for the past several months, then your decision has been made for you. I, in fact, have my heart set on a Hot Streak IPA from Black Tooth Brewing after baby four arrives. But if you’re lacking any specific craving, just remember this is not the time to reach for anything new and untested. This is the time to go with the tried and true brew that will have you sighing with satisfaction, not shrugging with boredom, so stick to what you know and love.
Bottom Line: Go for the beer you’ve been craving throughout the pregnancy, or your absolute any-time-no-matter-the-season-never-to-disappoint favorite brew.
2. Late-Night Exhaustion
Your little one may be rocking a reversed schedule and partying when you’d rather be snoozing, or the poor kid struggling with colic/teething/sleep regression/any-number-of-unknown-reasons. Regardless of the reason for your death-warmed-over zombified phase, that late-night beer selection should be something you enjoy (obviously), but one that won’t cause more tears when it is eventually wasted.
You may think you’d never waste a beer, but that time may come. Our third baby had a knack for falling fast asleep as soon as I had cooked up some food, popped in a movie, and settled onto the couch, leaving me with the tough choice of staying up or ditching it all to rush back to bed for what little sleep she’d allow me.
If your kiddo suddenly conks out during a late-night romp and you find your window for potential Zs quickly fleeting, you want a beer you won’t shed tears over if it must go unfinished. This will differ by each person’s taste. While I might mourn a wasted IPA, someone else would gladly pour it out for me. Nor would I be thrilled to toss out half of a more expensive bottle. So again, I’m not recommending a particular style here, but rather one that fits your budget and emotions accordingly.
Bottom line: Reach for any affordably priced beer that goes down easy, but won’t break your heart if it goes down the drain.
3. Peaceful Playtime
It may be a family get-together, a small neighborhood play date, or just a simple afternoon in the backyard, but our kids do have their moments when playtime is peaceful and pleasant. Even with the occasional shrill squeal or brief tussle over a particular toy, these moments allow for us parents to sit back, relax, and relish the serenity. It’s also a great chance to relish more seasonally appropriate beer offerings.
Here, you could definitely try out breweries’ limited-release seasonals. Many are excellent, but some are meh. I’m just not much of a seasonally driven beer drinker and will gladly reach for an Oktoberfest in the middle of April. I’ve also been hurt by breweries’ habits of hooking me on a seasonal beer only to discontinue it in their regular rotation (yes, I’m looking at you, New Belgium, and your delicious 2011 Somersault). I’m not bitter, or anything, though.
Instead, let’s look at broader style options. For those wintery months when we’re making couch cushion forts in the living room to avoid the Wyoming wind and snow, I prefer the richness of a Belgian dubbel (New Belgium’s Abbey comes to mind, in particular) or a bock—a dark lager that was traditionally brewed in winter. With the warmer weather spent pushing the kids on the swings out back, I go for any lighter beer—think your hefeweizens, pilsners, and blondes. And if New Belgium ever revives Somersault, as they did briefly in 2015, snag it up.
Bottom line: Savor the season. A Belgian dubbel or a bock for the winter, and a wheat, pils, or blonde for the summer. However, note this summer pairing is automatically trumped by parent moment no. 4.
4. Potty Training
This may be an easy-going, no-big-deal parenting moment (I’ve heard of such legends…) or a frustratingly difficult, bang your head against the wall fight. You might even find yourself experiencing both extremes with one child depending on the day or time. It happens. Such is life, and for this I have a bipolar beer pairing to match.
On those easygoing days, find an amber ale, such as Mission Brewery’s Mission Amber or Odell’s 90 Shilling Ale. This style is easily enjoyable, not too complex, allowing you to still focus on the task at hand while partaking. However, on those more difficult days when nothing goes as it’s supposed to and everyone’s fed up, consider switching to something a bit heftier like an imperial stout. Think Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy or Karl Strauss’s Wreck Alley. The weight of these will help you forget your human waste woes (at least until the next accident).
Bottom line: An easy-on-the-palate amber for the good days or a stronger imperial stout for the not-so-good. Under all circumstances avoid any beer the same color as pee.
5. Family Vacations
Vacations with kiddos can mean a lot of stress and little sleep. While it may not necessarily rival National Lampoon’s, your vacation will likely include a mix of mishaps and unexpected adventures. Don’t let any of that fun keep you from remembering that you are, in fact, on vacation. See the sights, tour the area—yes, this means beer!
You probably planned your vacation—or at least the route—with the beer options in mind, so you’ve already scouted out the local breweries for kid-friendly tap rooms and tours. If you didn’t or other obligations nixed your beer cravings, peruse restaurant menus for any regional selections—and don’t forget to ask for free tasters. Just because you’re sightseeing doesn’t mean you have to order that pint blindly.
Bottom line: Look for as local a beer as you can find, or at the very least live a little, explore the options, and try something new.
6. Rough Mornings
Is it bedtime yet? Oh, it’s only 7 a.m. #*$#&
In my nearly seven years of parenting, I’ve only had one day when the morning was so horribly difficult that my husband, dear man that he is, poured me a Crown and Coke. It was barely 7:30, and that drink tasted good. Some days the next twelve hours are looming, and a stiff drink seems like a great idea come nap time, even if that is before lunch.
If hard liquor is a no-go before 5 p.m. in your book, have no fear, there is a beer for you. For these hard days, I suggest a bourbon-aged porter. These may be harder to find, and my favorite happens to be a home brew my husband made based on this kit from Northern Brewer using some old bourbon barrels his brother gifted us, but it’s worth scouring your favorite craft beer retailer or local breweries to find one to have on hand.
Bottom line: A bourbon-aged porter, if available, although anything with a high ABV will do, I suppose. Just don’t overdo it. Be responsible!
7. First Day of School
We parents react to this milestone in a multitude of ways. Just like our children, we may look forward to it with longing, counting down the days with excitement, getting thrilled over backpacks, lunch boxes, and fresh boxes of crayons. When it finally arrives, though, we may discover those excited butterflies have landed in a pit of anxiety within our stomach. Our little ones have somehow grown up, and we apparently missed the whole thing. Now we have to watch them walk away while fighting tears as they hold up their emotions far better than we do.
Or maybe that’s just what happens with the oldest. I don’t know. I’ve only done it once so far. Perhaps with the second, third, and later kiddos it’s not quite so hard and those thrilling feelings of hitting this long-awaited date culminate in a celebratory sigh for having made it!
Again, I’m not sure. But what you need for this is a good Irish stout—and, yes, there are others beyond Guinness, like the Blarney Sisters’ from Third Street Ale Works or the O.V.L. Stout from Russian River Brewing—but you may have to look a little harder. In a pinch, any good stout should pass muster.
Bottom line: For celebrating parents, mix that stout up with equal parts champagne for a Black Velvet beer cocktail. For the parents in mourning, however, just drink it straight—tears and all.
8. First Time They Say ‘I Hate You’
We all think it won’t happen to us. Our littles obviously adore us and our firm-yet-loveable approach to parenting them. Yet it will happen. And it will sting. When we get these three dreaded words—or their not-so-distant cousins “I wish I had a different family” and “I want a new mom/dad”—the beer we reach for depends on how we personally deal with pain.
If you want something that matches the sting from their verbal arrows, aim for the hoppiness of an imperial IPA. Given the trend in craft beer the last several years, you have plenty to choose from. But if you’d rather soften the blow with something soothing, reach for some chocolatey goodness, like Odell’s Lugene chocolate milk stout.
Bottom line: Look to hops to match the bitterness in your wounds or grab a chocolatey pint to mask it.
9. So Many Other Great Firsts
Parenting truly is awesome! We get to witness and behold so many amazing firsts in our kids’ lives. Sure, we may not remember what word they first uttered, what food they first ate (and loved), or when they got their first tooth, as mom- or dad-brain likes to rob us of such details, but we can celebrate these all the same.
For the first tooth, the first step, the first time they say “I love you,” or the first time they give you a full night’s sleep even though you might have waited three-plus years for it, there’s a beer to pair with those great moments. This beer shouldn’t steal your kids’ thunder, but add the icing to the cake. It should top off the moment, not distract you from it. This beer should meet you where you are, not pull you away.
Bottom line: A beer that perfectly balances simplicity with flavor like a saison or farmhouse ale.
Our parenting moments are as varied as the craft beer options before us. Regardless of our varied tastes and diverse experiences, we can come together to commiserate over the trials, celebrate the joys, and give thanks for the delicious drinks that we enjoy through it all.
Cheers to you all on your parenting journey and the awesome kids you have the blessing to raise!