"Mama, I just brewed a beer. It's called Red Wagon. It's tart, but sweet."
Woody looked at me searchingly with his hand held out, offering me this imaginary homebrew. It was a test, this, a do-you-approve-of-this moment, a do-you-still-love-me scenario. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I am telling you, as this child's mother, than you can see the look in his eyes and feel the high stakes in his heart.
He has been picking up on some mixed societal messages about alcohol, and I've been more frank about excessive alcohol's potential effect on people lately when it comes up in conversation. So even though this child was helping us cap homebrew when he was three, and has never seen his parents or anyone he loves drunk, he's testing out his understanding in light of some new and probably disturbing information.
But luckily, this is not an issue from which I carry personal baggage. So I happily accepted his drink, chatted with him about his brewing process and ingredients, and sipped as I sat on the porch. Then, intrigued by the brand name he chose, I asked him if he'd want to make a label that we could affix to a real can of beer for fun.
So, we did. As he drew, I told him about medieval European small beers (very lightly fermented beer contained a far smaller percentage of alcohol) being served to children because they were safer than water. We talked a little about how fermentation works and what it does to organisms and bacteria, and I used our kombucha and water kefir as examples of lightly fermented drinks which contain small amounts of alcohol.
We looked at the real labels on cans of PBR and Blue Sky Root Beer that we had in the recycling bin to see what other information we might include on the Red Wagon label. Woody wanted to add the ounces of liquid contained inside, but not the nutrition or serving size. He liked the way PBR's have the word beer written in all caps, so he copied that beneath his more decorative font.
And his idea is to fill it with water and trick Daddy Honey into trying a sip when he gets home. Let's hope Daddy Honey's in the mood for a tarty-sweet, adorably branded 11-oz. can of childhood magic and coming-to-be...