It’s Veteran’s Day and my thoughts always turn to my Grandfather on this occasion. Among his many accomplishments, he served in WWII. He also bought me my first six-pack of beer.
There isn’t enough space in this humble little column to extol the life of Herbert Dohms, so I’ll give you the “nickel tour,” as he used to call a brief visit. His mother and father came from Köln and Magdeburg, respectively, and emigrated to New York City in, I believe, 1908. Growing up in the Boroughs gave him that wonderful port city accent. He met my grandmother, fell in love with her and actually had to chase her down to South America where she was on a modeling job to inform her that “I’m the man you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.” Preposition placement ignored, she agreed and they made port of call in Mobile, Alabama followed by a Justice of the Peace ceremony and honeymoon in New Orleans.
He saw time up and down the Atlantic Ocean as a Merchant Marine; death from below constantly upon every swabbie’s mind. When not playing cabin pranks on each other, they managed to capture a German freighter, had singer Carmen Miranda perform on the boat and dreamed up creative methods of smuggling liquor past the teetotaler Admiral.
His crew survived the U-Boat terror. He and his shipmates were among the lucky ones. Thousands of others then and since weren’t so lucky, so take time today to appreciate those who have served.
One day in the summer of ’45, ship-to-shore informed him that he’d be having a child soon. The picture of him arriving back in Manhattan was taken by a random shutter bug who gave him a business card.
That first child was my dear old dad. I still have the photo.
I spent an entire summer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with my grandparents laboring for my first car; his old ’71 Plymouth Satellite 383. We worked hard on his property and he believed a good day’s work earned a cold beer, so he took me to Angeli’s Grocery and let me pick out a sixer of whatever I wanted. It felt good doing grown-up’s work and capping the day with a grown-up’s drink.
I can still hear his deep-timbre, NYC voice asking if I’ve ever tried a martini before; a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Man, do I miss that voice… and that man.
The beer I chose back then was some random macro lager. Today being Veteran’s Day, it’s the perfect time to upgrade to a Rooney’s Veterans Beer instead. Solid, straight-forward and surprisingly tasty! Pale straw in color with a pretty cap of thin bubbles, this German-American hybrid lager exhibits sweet scents of hay, honey and apple skin. More honey shows up on the palate with grassy American-raised Saaz hops and bready malt with a clean finish.
Were he still around, you can bet I’d be sharing a Rooney’s with my granddad. To veterans everywhere, cheers!