The best beer I’ve ever had: Robin LeBlanc

Recently, I shared an occasion that had me considering the emotional connection one can have with a beer-drinking experience when I wrote “The best beer I’ve ever had.” I put the call out to other beer folks and asked them to detail their “best beer” experiences for me for a series aptly titled, The best beer I’ve ever had.

For this entry, Robin LeBlanc, aka The Thirsty Wench, a home-brewer whose beer blog was a recent finalist in Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog Awards in the Wine & Beer category, talks about her best beer experience. 

Back in 2005 or so, long before I even knew the words “craft beer,” I was a second-year film student with no social skills (as opposed to what I am now–a beer writer/photographer with minimal social skills).

My brother Sean wasn’t doing well. Well, he never did well in his life, as he was born severely disabled; scoliosis, collapsed lung, cerebral palsy; he had quite a list of things to deal with, but let’s just settle on “severely disabled.”

Despite that, I should point out that he was one hell of a kid; always full of smiles and attitude. He also had a way with the ladies. Anyway, something came up with him that required immediate surgery. For most people this would have been a walk in the park, but because of Sean’s other problems,it proved risky. He had never had an operation before and the doctor wasn’t sure that he’d survive the operation. And even if he did, we were told, there was a risk that he wouldn’t be able to be taken off of assisted breathing. We were told to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Terrified and worried, we met the surgical team and said what we hoped wouldn’t be our final goodbyes to my brother.

Hours went by.

It was nauseating. Terrible. There was no way to make that time go any faster. Try reading a book? Too worried to get past a single sentence. Try to talk to family? It only went to the subject at hand and back in to worried silence. I walked around the hospital for a while and talked on the phone to a few people. Mostly though, I just sat in the waiting room with the other families who were worried sick about their kid’s surgery. When we reached the time that the surgery was supposed to be done, I was already at the door of the waiting room. Some time passed by before Sean’s surgeon showed up saying the operation went well, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet, as the breathing tube was still in him and there was still a chance that he wouldn’t breathe independently.

Before we had time to tense up over that, not even a full half hour, a nurse came up to us and told us that Sean had fought to get that damned breathing machine out of him and he was breathing steadily on his own. He was in ICU, but he was going to be totally fine. A collective sigh of relief from the family could be heard throughout the hospital and soon we were laughing. After a while my mom, who knows Sean’s medical details like the back of her hand, decided to stay with him through the night just in case the nurses and doctors needed some information. Dad and I started heading home.

On the drive back to our home in Scarborough, my dad noticed that The Feathers Pub was coming up and decided that a celebratory drink was in order. He pulled over and we went inside. My dad thinks he had Ardbeg Single Malt (his difficulty recalling the specific scotch likely due to the fact that Feathers has one HELL of a single malt selection) and I, not a Scotch drinker, ordered a Guinness.

We got our drinks, toasted to my brother’s strength and good health as well as the phenomenal staff at Sick Kid’s Hospital, and commenced with the quaffing. And I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the best beer I ever had.

After the events of the day, it was nice to sit down with this beer and know that things would be alright.

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