Someone sent me beer, that is to say, “ale,” the other day. I’m not quite sure how to feel about this, as I’ve never received alcohol in the mail – from a stranger, no less – but as a colleague of mine suggested, I decided to drink first and ask questions later.
First, about the beer: It’s apparently English. It came in a selection of pint bottles with names like Fiddler’s Elbow and Yorkshire Ale. Not a Bud in sight. There were also a couple of bottles of the hilariously branded Monty Python’s Holy **ail Ale, which (whoever you are, Mr. Beer Sender) was exactly the right thing to send to get me to try an English ale.
I’ve heard the complaint from my English colleagues a number of times: American beer tastes like watered-down piss. And, to be honest, some of it does. (Old Milwaukee, I’m looking at you. Don’t even get me started on “light” beers.) Whenever I go to the bar, if I’m not drinking scotch or bourbon, I’m drinking Guinness. It’s more filling and tastes like … well, something. Not “great” though. (Beer shouldn’t taste “great.” It’s beer, for … anyway.)
A friend of mine from the Austin days (ah, the Dog & Duck Pub, how I miss thee), who was a fellow Guinness enthusiast, once described to me his trip to Ireland. He said he traveled to a small town just outside of Dublin and ordered a Guinness at the local pub. He thought for sure he’d be bowled over by the experience, knowing as he did the dark brew’s reputation for not traveling well. But here, at long last, a few scant miles from the brewery, he was convinced he’d finally get the Guinness that Almighty Arthur intended.
The bartender poured him his pint (taking care to pour it in layers), then put it aside to settle. At which point he apologized to my friend, having recognized he was from The States. “It might not be what you’re expecting, lad,” said the bartender (who may or may not have actually said “lad”). “Wish it were better, but Guinness doesn’t travel well, you see.”
It was with this in mind that I cracked open my first bottle of the Holy **ail, which had traveled god knows how many miles on its journey to me. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but, you Englishmen will be proud, I poured it into a pint glass and before taking a single drink had my mind quite literally blown wide open. The first thing I noticed was the ale’s creamy head. (My, that’s hard to type with a straight face. But it’s true.) I could tell right away that I wasn’t dealing with any ordinary beer. This was clearly ale, and a rich, creamy one at that.
My first noseful merely confirmed this, so once it had settled a bit I took a long pull – it was incredible. Honestly, I couldn’t believe I’d never tried anything like that before. I drank the whole pint – warm – and wished I hadn’t left the other at the office for the rest of Humidor to try.
The rest of the selection (yes I tried them all but one) held a few pleasant surprises, but none were as acceptable to my American palate as the Holy **ail, which may or may not be a good thing. Hopefully my English colleagues won’t mock me too severely for preferring a campy promotional ale, but I mock them for less serious transgressions, so this may be a vain hope. Nevertheless, I’m now convinced that I’ve found a new hobby, if for no other reason than that the buzz from just a single pint of this stuff was quite pleasant. I now understand why Englishmen always appear to be so inebriated – they are.
So to you, Mr. Ale Sender Guy, whoever you are, I thank you, and curse you simultaneously. For as excited as I am by this new find, and the discovery that all those English twits I’ve encountered over the years aren’t, in fact, daft, I’m going to have a hell of a time feeding my newly-developed habit. For in spite of the fact hat we’ve found ourselves in the information age, and the era of global commerce, for some reason English beer hasn’t yet found its way onto the shelves of my local foodporium. Perhaps it doesn’t travel well.