Craft Beer Benders
It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before movies got him by the throat. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there it’s not Third Avenue any longer, it’s the Nile. Nat, it’s the Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.
–Ray Milland, “The Lost Weekend”
When I own a brewery we’ll make a beer called Methadone-ale. A clean and near-flavorless low ABV session beer packed with healing nutrients which will help ween a man off the shit coursing through his body from a lost day, a lost weekend, a lost week of aggressive imbibing.
I’m finally free after what ultimately ended up being an eleven-day craft beer bender. Through a confluence of events, parties, friends visiting, friends to visit, dates, meetings, and just general ennui, I was forced, forced I say!, to drink heavily for all these days. Beginning in Philadelphia two weeks ago at the legendary Monk’s, ending just yesterday at Union Hall in Brooklyn, and knocking off along the way several states, cities, many famous watering holes, and many more famous beers, I finally have a respite right now. My body is in pain though. My mind is putty. I must have lost five to ten IQ points in the time. I am in full detox mode and it hurts.
We craft beer drinkers like to pretend we aren’t alcoholics, and most of us aren’t, technically, but many of us would be lying to say we aren’t at least drunkards. Whether intentionally or accidentally. Luckily, most of the macro drinking world isn’t aware of these facts.
They see a man getting wasted on the cheapest beer in the house, the thriftiest rotgut vodka around, and the sensors go off: ALCOHOLIC.
They see a man like me slowly sipping a dark and viscous beer out of a chalice, a snifter, and they think: “What a classy young gent.”
If they only knew!
So the alcoholic is absolutely pummeling his body with Bud Lites and Popov vodka and Wild Turkey shots, seeing how fast he can get these into his system, the carcasses of label-peeled beer bottles and sticky shot glasses in his wake, and I’m slowly sipping an Old Rasputin XII. Taking a good hour at least. Probably more. But, naw, he’s no alcoholic they say when they see me. He’s a “connoisseur.” I was psyched to locate the what-I-assumed-was-very-rare 12th Anniversary bottling of North Coast’s flagship stout Old Rasputin and I paid mightily for it. The most expensive bottle of beer I’ve ever bought quite frankly. Was it worth it? Eh, perhaps. Is fermented liquid ever “worth” it?
From what I understand, simply the “normal” and very good Old Rasputin aged in bourbon barrels, this is one delicious stout. However, it simply lacks a little “oomph.” An ineffable je ne sais quoi to make it an unequivocal classic. I like really, really boozy, bourbony, bourbon-barreled beers–Goose Island Bourbon County and Brooklyn Black Ops to name two–and this one doesn’t quite have that potency. But it’s still good and very well made. Incredibly smooth and silky, chocolately malts with more hints of vanilla than a full-out assault of bourbon and oak, and a nice, tingly little carbonation. A thinner, less syrupy mouthfeel than I would expect and desire too. So was it worth it? Yes. But only one time I would say. I would never pay what I paid for it again, unlike other prohibitively highly priced stouts like the aforementioned Black Ops which I’m always happy to make it rain for.*
So how can that man drinking an Old Rasputin XII–a beer we’ve never heard of!–be an alcoholic or a drunkard?! That man’s refined!
But he probably is one. Just not one like all the other ones. Like youse guys.
Differences between a craft beer drunk and a normal drunk:
1. Price — Even in uneconomical Manhattan, a drunkard can belly up to a barstool at a classic dive like Rudy’s, Desmond’s, Doc Holiday’s, and drink the night away with $6 pitchers, $2 cans, $3 shots. Even soak the beer up with gratis hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, and the like. And if he’s friendly with the bartender, which he will be since the bartenders are likewise drunks and drunks are friendly to drunks, quid pro quo–usually–he’ll get out for under a single Andrew Jackson. Meanwhile, us craft beer alcoholics are cavalierly ordering $50 rare bottles from the back room, “sessioning” with $10 barleywine snifters, and nightcapping with a $12 stout pour at 3 AM. And for us, the bartenders never seem to knock on the bar, turn over an empty shot glass, and “Next round’s on me!” when you’re throwing back Ommegong Rouge at the Ginger Man.
2. Speed — Low-brow alcoholics crack me up. Striving for “nirvana,” drunkenness, yet throwing down cans of low-ABV macro-crap. As Clay Davis would say, “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet,” that’s going to take you all night to get buzzed. Meanwhile, us craft beer drunkards can enter a bar at 5:05 and be wasted by 5:30, well before the happy hour rush, after having only had a pint of Oaked Unearthly and a snifter of Chimay.
3. The people — You’re a standard alcoholic, you’re hanging with the unsavory hoi polloi of the vomit-soaked dive bar scene. Fellow belching beerbellies too lit up and full of carbonation to possibly have a clever conversation. But us beer snobs are in fine wood-panneled establishments, soft jazz playing, interesting chatter, real swank scenes, when we get our drunk on. A buncha prententious a-holes you might even say. Surroundings paint a false picture of realities. A false picture of non-drunkardness. But, honestly, some “established” craft beer bars have been the sites of the rowdiest nights I’ve ever seen.
4. Lack of care — If I were to polish off ten pitchers of Miller High Life, a friend, a drinking buddy, the fucking bartender would probably say, “Why don’t you go home buddy, you’ve probably had enough for tonight.” But no one’s EVER going to say that to me: “You’ve had enough, pal. Call a cab.” Enough?! Why I’ve only had three beers all night! Admittedly a 120 Minute, a bomber of Stone Old Guardian, and a Goose Island Nightstalker. But still, that’s just three beers! No one ever has a weepy intervention** with a craft beer “addict.” “I think you drink too much, pops.” Too much?! I only had one beer on Saturday night! Yes, technically true, but wasn’t it a bomber of Serpent’s Stout?
5. Hangover — I unfortunately don’t (usually) get that hungover from craft beer. I say unfortunately because it doesn’t teach me any lessons. And one is supposed to learn lessons when they do harmful things to themselves. Frank Sinatra would probably feel sorry for me, but I feel sorry for these drunkards waking up with pulsating headaches, the adjunct cheap ingredients acting like a tornado inside their skulls. Better ingredients, better hangovers, your desire to get drunk again not muted whatsoever by any worries.
6. Productiveness — I’ve been perpetually drunk the last few weeks. If I was just a measly alcoholic I would only have to show for that a protruded gut, a bulbous W.C. Fields nose and bloated face, and a pickled liver. And while I may have a few of those things myself, as a craft beer drinker, my rampant alcoholism also allowed me to knock off twelve, count ‘em, twelve Beer Advocate Top 100 beers, nearly one per day, during this recent binge. Why, that’s a major accomplishment!
I’m no alcoholic, I’m an ambitious overachiever!
*On a somewhat deplorable note about North Coast’s bottling of Old Rasputin XII. It appears to be in a 750 mL bottle, and goddamn it’s certainly heavy enough to be a standard 750 mL bottle, but it’s got the thickest Harry Carey glasses bottom you’ve ever seen in your life, making it deceptively large and heavy when it fact it only holds a paltry 500 mL. You’ll be sipping a glass thinking, “Swell, and I got at least another full glass to go.” But, no, no you don’t. The bottle is completely empty despite it’s great heft. You’ll be stunned. Dump it upside down searching for liquid. But it ain’t there. And all you’re left with is a heavy trophy of a bottle to shoot BBs at.
**Best reality show on TV and #2 ain’t even close!