Monday, December 25, 2006

Seasonal Disappointments: Beer and Ties Edition

So yesterday I'm in the store and I stumble across this beer that I've never seen before. A seasonal brew, obviously, given the snowman on the label. I'm not generally excited seasonal offerings; there are a few good ones out there, but most are unremarkable.

But the name of this brew, "Winter Bourbon Cask Ale", piqued my interest. The label claimed that it was aged on bourbon barrel wood and real vanilla beans. As I've had memorable interactions with other bourbon-aged beers I thought I'd give it a try.

Closer inspection, however, revealed that all was not as it seemed. The brewer of aforementioned product was none other than Anheuser-Busch. I lived in St. Louis for several years and, having taken many out-of-town guests through the brewery tour, know what AB is capable of doing to beer. Fun fact: Did you know that, in addition to barley, the various members of the Bud family are also made with rice? When I asked the tour guy about that he said something about "making the beer smoother". Yeah, smoother my ass... you make a beer that actually tastes like something and the vast, unwashed masses might stop buying it.

But I digress... I was willing to give it a shot, though being a mass-produced beer rather than a craft brew I wasn't expecting much. But it was an ale and, AB not really being an ale producer, might be informative of what they were capable. So I grabbed a six pack and had a bottle when I got home.

Unfortunately, it seems that AB's ales are indistinguishable from their lagers. The first thing I noticed was that the cask ale had the same metallic aftertaste that I've long associated with Bud and Bud Light. To their credit you could taste the vanilla, and maybe the bourbon... most notably the beer did not taste like synthetic vanilla, so props to AB for that. But these pleasant notes were drowned out by the general suck of the underlying product. So, in conclusion, its not that good. Go buy yourself a Sam Adam's Triple Bock instead.

As long as we're talking about the season and its let-downs I'd like to digress into the area of gift giving. For several years now when people have asked me what I want I tell them that I don't want anything. This isn't because I'm an anti-materialist; far from it, I like things. But I've got all the things that I need at the moment; additional things would besuperfluous . I tell people this and it doesn't go over well. They beg and pester and what have you and I eventually produce a list of a few carefully chosen items that would round out someunoccupied niches in my personal inventory.

Here's a question, people: Why, oh why, after extracting a list from me, do you go ahead and buy me crap that's not on the list? My parents, bless their hearts, are the single, largest culprit in this area. Would it be too hard to buy me that slicing knife that's been on my list for three frickin' years? Why the hell did you get me a shirt and matching tie when it wasn't on my list? I wear ties once in a blue moon; it's just going to gather dust along with the rest of my ties.

I hereby firmly resolve to not provide lists next year. When coaxed, prodded, wheedled, and/or cajoled about the issue I'm going to tell people to make an anonymous gift to the EFF instead. Except for my wife, 'cause she got my scotch last year.


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