The Rhine is one of Germany’s wine-producing regions. So was the Mosel, two nights ago. So will be Franconia, two days hence. Sometimes it seems every Teutonic nook and cranny has been declared “one of Germany’s best wine-producing regions.” That is all fine and well as far as it goes, but it means waiters are always trying to foist off a Riesling or Gewürtztraminer on me.

Now, one nice thing about Rieslings in Germany is that, unlike the bulk of that gets imported in the States, many are actually troken (dry), not “sweet as syrup,” which is unfortunately what “Riesling” usually means in the USA (the same way a decades of spurious ‘oaking’ tactics by second-rate California wineries have come to make “Chardonnay” translate as “tastes like hamster bedding”).

That said, I did not come all the way to Germany to drink wine—and certainly not at eight bucks a glass. I came for beer, for crying out loud! I came for a country where every town has its own local brewery and its own proud tradition for mixing fermented hops and barley. I came for frosty mugs made of thick glass where ordering a “small” gets you half a liter, and “large” means ein Maß—a liter.

Every time I try to order ein bier in a restaurant, though, it gets me a condescending look—almost a sneer. Beer, it is implied, is for slobbering in a tavern with the working classes, not for accompanying such a fine dinner composed entirely of pork products. Everyone else in the restaurant is drinking wine, and having a beer is obviously trés declassé. I usually end up caving into peer pressure (and the waiter’s impending disapproval), and whenever I open my mouth fully intending to order ein bier vom faß (whatever’s on tap), I find myself instead asking for a wine recommendation. So I spend most dinners ruefully sipping at a half-filled, $8 glass of mediocre white wine, poking at my slab of pork in a pool of mustard sauce, and thinking wistfully of the lucky slobs in the taverns gulping down their $3 Maßes of beer.

That’s why I’ve taken to grabbing my beer furtively, in places where it won’t be frowned upon. I’ll have lunch in a tavern—which I know means my choices will be wurstel and saurkraut, or this other kind of wurstel, also with sauerkraut (or perhaps with a virulently yellow, terribly sticky, grapefruit-sized ball of gelatinous starch). But at least I can hold my frosty mug up high and proud and say Prost! to the fellows at my table (when you toast in Germany, you have to hold eye contact all the way through to the sipping of the beer). And one day, as I sat at an Internet cafe in Coburg, I noticed that there was an incongruous bar wedged into the back room, so I ordered up a glass of the wonderfully named Frankenbrau, though it was only 12:30pm, and happily drained it whilst deleting spam from my Webmail inbox.

I can’t, however, bring myself to break that old Puritan taboo of drinking alone in my room. That, as I know from after-school specials on alcoholism, is just one step away from sneaking in the kitchen at night and slurping vanilla extract to get a fix, like Tom Hanks did in that guest spot on Family Ties. (Of course, the first thing I did upon seeing that episode was go to my mom’s spice cabinet and take a giant swig of the vanilla extract, because it had never occurred to me you could do anything with it other than put 1/4 teaspoon into recipes for baked goods. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to drink the stuff straight, but it tastes exactly the opposite of how good it smells. That one experience, more than any sit-com moralizing, has convinced me never to become an alcoholic. Yes, despite my parent’s best efforts, 70s and 80s TV really did play an unhealthily large role in my upbringing.)

That is how I ended up with this can of miXergy, which I bought on a whim at a gas station, because I figure it doesn’t count as “drinking” alone in my room, as it is merely a form of soda. In fact, the label heralds it as “bier + cola + X!” I popped it open as I sat down to write this part, took a sip and, once the involuntary gagging was over, glanced at the side of the can to see what, exactly, they meant by “X.” The can was of little help, other than announcing the alcoholic content, so I can report only that it is composed of 3.1% alcohol and 96.9% oh-my-god-that’s-nasty.

It’s enough to drive a man to Riesling.

As for me, it drove me down south, to Germany’s bastion of beer: Bavaria.