Joshua Bernstein is one of the more prolific craft beer writers working today. (Longreads featured a Q&A with Bernstein after the publication of his recent book, Complete IPA) As he explains in an essay about living in New York on and after 9/11 for Good Beer Hunting, Bernstein’s path has been winding, including stints working at American Baby magazine, and editing a porn magazine.
His office was located in Chinatown, a brisk walk from the Twin Towers, and even before that clear blue morning, Bernstein liked to escape the doldrums of his office job by fleeing to his apartment’s rooftop in Astoria and doing what every New Yorker in their twenties has done: drink.
I often felt small and frazzled on the streets, rushing to work, rushing to the subway, rushing because rushing is a New Yorker’s default, fast-forward mindset. Drinking high-test beer, high above the hurly-burly? That chilled me out, man. Up there, the sun sliced slow, orderly arcs across the sky, planes cutting straight lines through the clouds. Roof beers were my kind of meditation, a Cascade-hopped Zen to counterbalance my day job.
Bernstein describes seeking out the comfort of that same roof and those same third-generation craft beers — the Sierra Nevadas and Dogfish Heads carried in bodegas — after the towers had fallen and America entered a new age at warp speed:
We drank Malibu rum mixed with orange juice in a French press carafe. We drank gin cut with cut-rate tonic from the local C-Town supermarket. We drank beers like Victory Prima Pils and Brooklyn Monster Ale on the roof, the smoke from the smoldering towers like a black serpent, a monstrous phantasm made all too real.
The roof provided a sense of safe remove. From a distance, we were extras in the tragedy, watching fighter jets scream across the sky as if it were a movie scene. The days were warm, the beers cold, life a drunken limbo that caused me to question my career choice. Spending mornings and afternoons writing lines like “Shove your eggroll in my combination box” seemed pretty inconsequential in the grand, tragic scheme of things.