Thursday, July 25, 2013

There's Needles and Grass in m'Beer

Over the last few years, I've unintentionally eased my way  into a mild state of semi-beer-snobbery.  I don't really drink to get hammered very often these days, and I've convinced myself that one really good beer every few days is a reasonable substitute for a healthy obsession with say, PCP or salsa dancing - neither of which really interests me.  So I'd agree with Benjamin Franklin when he said "beer is proof that god loves us," but I'll amend it slightly (since Benji was never forced to try Natty Ice) to "good beer..."  So I enjoy $6/ bottle beer that smells like raisin bread and has stuff floating in it.  That's where I am, and I'm okay with that.  As long as I don't ever get to the point of bemoaning someone offering me a 'crappy' beer, or planning a pilgrimage to Belgium just to have some 'elusive' beer that monks don't want to sell in stores.  

My point is, I like to think that I have some perspective about my snobbery.  I think that's important when you want to really enjoy all the other wonderful simple things life has to offer, or when you have no money.  So when I stumble across the following review - by, oh, let's call him "Mr. X." to make him even more enigmatic - of a bottle of beer (bold = reminder for perspective) - I can't help but wonder how on earth our species has managed things like the polio vaccine, space travel, or Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.

So here it is, Mr. X's beer review that reads like the highlights from a publisher-rejected romance novel:

"Starting with a brilliant and glowing ruby color, the snifter simply glows like a night light. Mildly hazed, the color is of deep amber honey in mesmerizing fashion. Capped with a dainty off-white head, its creme skirts the glass evenly until later in the session when it reduces to a collar along the glass.

Bursting with malt sweetness, the nose is chocked full of maple, buckwheat, molasses, toffee, and nuttiness. Its hearty sweetness nearly whets the mouth from its aromatics alone. A firm hop undertow peaks through with dried citrus peels and pine needles for a strong hop scaffolding although the scent is certainly malt-centric.

Likewise, the sweetness from malt is strong, seductive, and runs the gamut from maple syrup and brittle to bread crust and sorghum. Strong buckwheat honey toffee, pistachios, and fresh sweet tobacco keep the waves of sultry sweetness coming. A late rise of hops reveal a supportive balance with grapefruit and orange peel, pine and fresh grass, and with a deeply resinous bitterness that assists the sweetness with a malty-dry finish and alcohol flavors of spiced rum

Incredibly bold and even chewy at first, the beer seeps into the soft tissues of the mouth with its sultry sweetness in true dessert-like fashion- easily replacing port wines as after dinner digestives. Rich with residual sweetness, the late rise of alcohol spice and drying hops signal closure and extends well into aftertaste."

8 year olds, dude.

But seriously, "Capped with a dainty off-white head, its creme skirts the glass"?  Sounds like an excerpt from a Nabokov knock-off, or...  or ... a wine review.   Here's a not-so-short list of words in this piece that should never, ever appear in a beer review:

night light
creme (at least not this French version of the spelling)
soft tissues

(Coincidentally, the only other piece of writing which contains all of these words is "Le Bulion de Goarchende Feuerminteggs," a 19th century French short story about a young accountant, Pierre, who enters the dark, drug-riddled underworld of after hours, cross-dress tax auditing, and in a pot and morphine induced stupor, ends his life by jumping off an under-construction tower into a raging river.)

I wonder if he was listening to Ravel's Bolero, surrounded candlelight while he picked out just the right shirt for his beer 'session.'  For a few moments, I wonder how men who can have such a gloriously romantic evening with a brewski might ever bring themselves to have a highlife at a baseball game, or drive 30 miles for White Castle, or ever meet a woman.  When I process phrases like "the beer seeps into the soft tissues of the mouth with its sultry sweetness," I can't help but think of Adrian Cronauer in "Good Morning Vietnam" telling his Commanding Officer that "(he) is in more dire need of a blowjob than any white man in history." 

I digress.  My aim here isn't just to pick on this connoisseur/wordsmith and his red velvet curtains.  It's to pick on him and make myself feel better about myself and my own, more enlightened perspective.  And what do I think the answer to both my question about how that kind of dude meets women, AND the answer to why his perspective seems so disturbingly skewed?  Of course, it's money.  Money turns uninteresting and obnoxious men into'eligible bachelors.'  Money makes people think things that are exclusive are necessarily valuable.  So valuable, in fact, that they require entire vacations to Belgium to say "I've had Westy 12."  Magically, grapefruits and fresh grass and tobacco and leather suddenly appear in our beers. Beer with a higher pricetag needs to be described as 'sultry' or 'seductive.'  People with the palate of a de-tongued llama amass a bit of wealth, and suddenly, claiming to be able to discern between the Reserva and the Gran Reserva is of urgent importance.

Practically speaking, the sad thing is that the more people have (and express) this sort of attitude about good beer, the more exclusive it will become.  and the more exclusive it becomes, the more expensive it will become - rinse, repeat.  And if I have to pay even more for fantastic beer, well that deserves an emphatic and eloquent "you fuckers" sort of response.

For example, Westvleteren 12, has for a few years at least, been the highest-rated beer in the world.  Coincidentally (or not), you can only legally buy it at one single place in the whole big gigantic goddamned beer-selling world.  The abbey where the monks brew it.  Last year, they had a one-time public sale - you can't blame the monks, who don't sell more than they need to to maintain the monastery, and they sell enough on-site - but they decided on a public sale to pay for some major structural repairs.  Any profit they make goes to charity.  Six packs were sent to select stores in the U.S., in some, not all states.  The six-packs sold retail for about $85 (yes, that's still almost $15/bottle).  Within days, they were selling for $500 or more online.  There is an empty Westy 12 six-pack box  selling for $100 right now - no beer included - I can't even fathom the level of douchebaggery it would take to justify spending 45 BK doublestackers worth of cash (plus shipping) on the cardboard box of a beer you never even drank.  There are 4 or 5 beers on the shelf at the Hi-Vee down the road from me which even the nerdiest beer-nerd will admit are pretty-much-almost as good as Westy 12 (if not better), and they sell for $3-$6 a bottle.  This is the madness that the expensive/exclusive cycle drives us to - moneytoburn-ness causes us to believe that there is inherent value in something that is hard to get.

My guess is, that's Mr. X's problem.  He may have, at one time, been a mild-mannered accountant, minding his own business and enjoying the simple things in life, playing Punch-Out during his MillerTime.  It could be that the mysterious death of a senior account manager opened the perfect opportunity for him, and that the money turned his soul darker than a Russian Imperial Stout -- that his love affair with nuttiness, hop scaffolding and sultry malt undertows drove his friends and family away.  He may drive up and down the coast with his new gold-plated cronies, buying everyone out of the most sought after craft brews so he can stock his beer aging cellar and keep the promise of the finest reviews and higher prices for years to come.  It could happen.  Who knows.  Or maybe he's just a huge fucking dork.