I am settled in comfortably at the Liquor and Rubber Balls Sports Emporium and Deworming Clinic, surrounded by the regular crowd of laughing lesbians who quarrel good-naturedly (mostly) over football minutiae as highlights from the weekend’s games are displayed.
Don Tequila is behind the bar this evening — he’s always somewhere on premises; a 24/7 presence that suggests he is in fact one of several clones. But at 6’10” and I dunno, 4oo pounds? — that requires a Frankensteinian leap of faith.
Fuck you, Don. Nobody tells me what to drink. I don’t say.
I sniff the glass, grimace neutrally, and down a mouthful. Wow, bitter. But tasty, refreshing. Findings I report, but cautiously, because I sense that this is the sort of beer that changes on you as you work your way through the glass. Sure enough, the second taste brings a faint citrus suggestion, less bitter, and sort of flat. By the end of the glass I’m ready to say it’s not bad, okay, but nothing I’d make a habit of.
Don nods in agreement and shows me the bottle. “Read the label,” he says
Bailey’s Blonde Ale. The print is tiny and the room ill-lit. I don’t have glasses with me, but fortunately Crazy Cosmo is a stool or two down the bar so I remove hers from her head — she doesn’t even stop talking, let alone notice they’re gone — and adjust them so I can make out the print:
Named after our blond lab, this deep golden-blonde ale has a full frontal bouquet of American hops, including the classic Cascade, and Centennial. A light malt body is not lost in the orgy of hop aroma, but progresses through the middle palate in lock step with piquant flavors to a balletic finish of quenching bitterness.
Don, I think I’m gonna hurl.
“Don’t do that,” he sternly suggests (“suggests!”). A wise and attentive professional, he has already replenished my empty pint of restorative Grolsch. I drink deeply.
Don, that is exactly the sort of lilting, over-wrought prose that makes foodie blogs as repulsive an experience as stepping barefoot in dogshit. Whose brilliant idea is to print that fey slop on a bottle of fucking beer?
The big guy laughs. “I wouldn’t even care if it was a better drink,” he observes. “But it’s nothing special and it ain’t cheap. I do get a kick out of thinking about the way those Massholes are marketing it, though.” He looks around the room, bemused. “See any delicate raised pinkies?”
I tell Don the story of a friend of mine — dead many years, now — whom we used to call Barnacle Bob after the way he attached himself to the bar every night. Barnacle did all sorts of classic drunk behavior, like fall over and crack his skull in bathrooms while fumbling with his dick trying to pee; get rolled in the street after stumbling out of bars at closing time; falling asleep on the bus or subway on the ride home after drinking and getting tossed out on a public bench at the end of the line at 2 am; setting himself on fire from his own cigarettes…..yeah, Barnacle was a lot of fun when he drank. Strictly a beer man, too.
“I just like the taste of the stuff,” he’d say, when we asked him why he drank so much.
Early on in his career as an alcoholic, a bunch of us were at a party in a house, and we ran out of beer. “I think I have another case out in the garage,” says the host. “But it’ll be warm.”
Barnacle looked at him incredulously. “It’s beer, isn’t it?” he asked.
And that (I tell Don), while it isn’t my entire attitude — there are definitely beers I love, and many more I don’t, and lots I won’t drink at all — it’s basically that. It’s just beer. A wonderful drink on many levels, but it’s just beer. Be happy for every drop, and don’t overplay it.
“Beer just makes me fart,” says Cosmo, turning around. What, she was listening? She reaches for her glasses. “How’d your friend Bob die?”
Bad story. He finally quit drinking — everybody was on him about it, his boss, colleagues, family, and doctor, even the bartenders where he’d hung out for years. He was a wreck. But he survived by switching to diet soda. Then about 6 months later he had a complete mental breakdown — paranoid, psychotic, swearing government agents planted electrodes in what was left of his brain to monitor his thoughts. Out of control. They locked him up, medicated him like Lance Armstrong, and one morning he woke up dead.
“Must have been the diet soda,” said Cosmo and Don, damn near in unison.
Whatever. It sure wasn’t the “piquant flavor to a balletic finish of quenching bitterness.”
“Gosh I wish I could talk in italics,” says Cosmo.