HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE—Embrace your inner Walmart Person

My Fellow Inebriates,

If my dad would buy himself a man-purse, perhaps I could ride in it for his liquor store forays. I could steer him away from weird things like FRÜLI and toward items more conducive to drunken oblivion. But despite my dad’s metrosexual penchant for getting frequent haircuts, he’s shown no inclination to buy a man-purse.

He’s mostly trustworthy when he goes liquor shopping. Yesterday he brought home a budget-minded six-pack of HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE with “crisp, bold flavour” and 5% alcohol. This is a brand past which both my parents have walked many times, expecting bottom-shelf nastiness. But when you’ve brewed your own using hop pellets and drunk the whole supply with minimal complaint, how nasty can any liquor store offering possibly be?

With no pretence of subtlety, HELL’S GATE will set you back $7.99 for six cans. My heart leapt when my dad walked in with them, and I was so grateful that I thought I’d rely on his tasting notes.

“Rough”

This comment seems a little restrained for a beer whose one-color-printed cans contain a golden, slightly hazy ale wafting a honey-like odor commingled with overcooked vegetables. Undisciplined sweetness hits the tongue while malt and hops trip over each other—but over to the side as second-fiddle players. I taste pellets here but I could be wrong, and if the beer is close to freezing it’s forgivable. Heavy carbonation and icy cold are true friends to HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE—strip away these conditions and its random flavors go berserk, appalling the tastebuds with funky, stewed characteristics conveyed via a medium mouthfeel and a finish that overstays its welcome in the mouth.

“Not smooth or creamy or any of those things”

What I’m really saying is I loved this beer. This is a camping beer—appropriately sweet for breakfast and so discordant in its baseline flavor array that it’s combinable with any food from baked beans to marshmallows. Throw a couple of flats of HELL’S GATE in your beater car, hope like hell it won’t break down before you reach that illegal camping site where you have to dig a hole for your nightsoil, then seek out People of Walmart who may be sharing your free campsite, jiggling their muffintops and chawin’ on jerky as they turn the beach into a giant ashtray. Break out your HELL’S GATE and bask in their approbation at “what you brung”; “lay” around with them and hurl double negatives into the starry sky…ahhhhh!

“It was beside the Cariboo cans”

My dad considers my praise for HELL’S GATE—which he regards as pitched at lager drinkers with a hankering to expand their beer-drinking repertoire (slightly)—overexuberant. Anyone considering it as a lager-to-ale gateway would probably never approach another ale after the GENUINE PALE ALE experiment ended. He may be right.

And there’s no reason you couldn’t take a decent beer on a camping trip. I’ve just never tried it before.

And my offer still stands: If my dad will get himself a man-purse, I’ll be happy to help him make better beer purchases.

How the lottery can help build a kickass bar…or not

Okay, it seemed like a reasonable gambit. Ordinarily I’d suggest my parents blow the entire paycheque on booze. I thought the idea of leveraging the money via the lottery was really quite clever.

But my parents ignored me!

I thought they were being dickheads again, campaigning against my happiness.

Like most people, they buy the occasional lottery ticket. Why shouldn’t they buy more lottery tickets, then? Imagine: we could multiply our Lotto 6/49 chances by 10 or even a hundred, and then we’d be awash in booze. The booze of winners!

The Lotto Max jackpot is currently at $20 million—enough for the kickass bar of our dreams…the sort of bar the kids could brag about to their friends at elementary.

When I asked my mum about it, she said she feels like an idiot when she buys a lottery ticket. The only thing that allows her to do it is the knowledge that millions of other Canadians are doing the exact same thing without feeling like idiots. Just for a moment that $5 or even $10 seems like small change beside the chance at new cars, new clothes, new furniture, massive televisions, killer sound systems, whiter teeth, Botox, vacations, cruises—you name it.

Oh yeah, and all the philanthropy they could engage in! We mustn’t forget that, because wasting your money on a lottery ticket involves digging for justifications, the biggest of which is that you deserve to win.

But can you win? I decided to school myself a bit.

Winners who beat 14,000,000:1 odds!

The average North American spends $1000 per year on lottery tickets and recoups a thirtieth, at best, of that with minor wins. Wow! That’s over $900 in spilt money. That’s ten very nice whiskies, 50 decent bottles of wine, or 40 cases of beer. OMG!

So maybe lottery tickets aren’t such a hot idea. Why do people buy them?

If you went to an investment advisor with $1000, you wouldn’t sink that money in a fund that promised to swallow your capital and give you $30-$40 back. Duh. But despite the statistical fact of abysmal returns, we continue to do this very thing at the lottery stand.

Canada’s most popular lottery, the 6/49, carries odds of almost 14 million to one. A toonie doesn’t seem like a big risk. One toonie twice a week=$208 per year, which is fine for anyone who doesn’t mind sacrificing five bottles of Belvedere and getting a mickey of Alberta Pure in return.

If only we were that restrained, though. And actually Canadians are a little more restrained than US citizens—we spend about $600 a year. Which still isn’t restrained—we’re not just spending a toonie on the 6/49; we’re also getting sucked in by scratch’n’wins and the astronomically long odds (28 million to one) of the Lotto Max.

Who’s doing all this buying? It isn’t everyone. Plenty of people walk past the stand without being tempted. Their $0 purchases contribute to the national average—which puts in perspective the lottery addict who spends ten minutes a time at the stand hand-selecting scratch tickets and boring the shit out of the clerk. The Lottery People are closely related to the People of Walmart; they have specific characteristics, not necessarily including visible ass crack but often involving body odor and decrepitude. They like to have rambling one-way conversations with captive listeners such as lottery stand attendants, and they are singularly oblivious of people in line behind them.

The Lottery People actually save us money sometimes. My mother, who already feels like an idiot whenever she buys a ticket, is too embarrassed to stand for more than a minute in the line-up and will bolt rather than be exposed for longer in the queue. While there, she looks furtively around. If someone chit-chats with her, she makes a point of snickering about her own silly purchase and calling it the Idiot Tax. If the kids are with her, she tells them lotteries are stupid and that we don’t do this very often. Yes, my mother has some inner conflict to work out, but she won’t be able to afford a psychologist if she continues buying lottery tickets.

Considerably better odds than government lotteries 😉

Sadly, having less money often translates into buying more tickets. Statistically, lower-income earners hand over more cash for tickets, perhaps because lotteries seem like their only chance to attain wealth.

This represents a striking dichotomy between realism (slim chances of mobility) and utter unrealism (the odds of winning are substantially smaller than the odds of dying from necrotizing fasciitis).

Plenty of things are more likely than winning the lottery:

  • Dying in a plane crash: one in 400,000
  • Drowning: one in 88,000
  • Being struck by lightning: one in 500,000
  • Contracting herpes: one in 950
  • Getting attacked by a bear in Yellowstone Park: one in 2 million

Wow, all those things suck!

So what should my parents buy instead of lottery tickets? Ahhh!

  • Instead of playing 6/49 for a year: two bottles of Glenfarclas 17
  • Instead of Lotto Max for a year: one bottle of Ardbeg 18

Between Glenfarclas for sure and wealth maybe, I’ll take the Glenfarclas.

After another nudge, my parents finally responded.

OMG! They really are opposed to my happiness.

OKANAGAN SPRING PALE ALE—Good beer between neighbors, especially if you don’t have a good fence

My Fellow Inebriates,

The toilets in the house are not very fond of swallowing, which has given my mother a familiarity with the plunger she never enjoyed in any previous dwelling. Not that she embraces the chore—her modus operandi is to dart away from what she knows will be an incomplete flush, hoping to pin the general blame on my dad’s more man-sized deposits.

But our reluctant toilets are only one prominent example of the ways in which building developers cut corners. Builders lure you into their spanky demonstration townhouses, where you ooh and ahh over the granite countertops and shiny backsplash, only to stick it to you with shoddy workmanship on less visible elements such as plumbing, roofing, the furnace, drainage, insulation and construction. The small stuff.

Naturally this happened to my parents on this, our first home purchase. When they first purchased me six years ago, they were still renting: they’d just left a West End apartment rental for a 60s-era Burnaby house, from which they were evicted to make way for ten of the owner’s relatives who wished to occupy it, then moved to another rental, this time in the boonies of Coquitlam, high up on a hill, where they were so miserable that they finally decided to grow up, take the plunge, and buy a place even farther out in the boonies of Langley. And that’s where we are.

It looked really shiny, this place, especially before the kids started drawing on the walls. Neither of my parents had ever occupied a new home, and this one was only two years old. The previous owners had been gentle with it. My parents figured that once they’d secured home ownership they’d ramp up to all kinds of other grown-up things: dinner parties and such, and they certainly wouldn’t let the mess get out of hand the way it had everywhere else.

Sure.

Four years later, despite three angry toilets, a furnace that malfunctions in sub-zero temperatures, pockmarked walls exhibiting the scratchability of bargain-basement paint, a destroyed carpet, and thanks to the stellar insulation materials chosen by Platinum Enterprises, seasonal temperature variations evocative of that planet in The Chronicles of Riddick and/or Mercury, the whole gang is here. And somehow, those ideals about perfect housekeeping and continuous home improvement slipped away.

The next-door neighbours, mind you, have maintained their townhouse like a show home. Peek through the door (which is all we’re allowed to do because they hate us) and you’ll see calm, spartan design, carefully wiped surfaces, and not a thing out of place. Their yard does not contain two bikes, a broken stroller, a wrecked IKEA tent, a punctured swimming pool, a dirt-encrusted hose, 30-odd broken toys, and a water table swimming with filth. Their little garden is immaculate, and with every season it blooms with decorations—giant inflatable snowmen, pumpkins, and easter bunnies. In short, these people are fucking nuts. They have a real-life furniture catalogue going on inside their house, despite having two rugrats almost exactly like ours (just not as cute, friendly, well-mannered, intelligent, or funny).

So obviously my parents are burning with jealousy. Well, my mum is; my dad says he isn’t. How do our next-door neighbors achieve such order in their lives? Have they embraced the 7 Habits? Do they abide by The Secret?

My mum says no, it’s just that they’re fucking batshit crazy. It’s all very well to shop with the reluctance of the budget-bound at Walmart, looking for deals on necessities such as shoes and diapers. It’s another thing to invest in Walmart’s full selection of wacko lawn ornamentation and festoon your residence with it, all the while forbidding your children to touch anything. Anything! Those kids probably aren’t allowed to touch the walls. They’re rarely allowed to play with Miss P and Miss V; such an event only occurs if preceded by extreme begging on both sides of the fence by all four kids, none of whom have any idea why their parents aren’t best friends.

Not the neighbors, but some fellow Walmart shoppers

And my parents have no idea either! They don’t hate the neighbors; they’ve even invited them over for a beer. They’ve invited the kids over for playdates and they’ve tried to orchestrate accidental playdates in the park across the street. No go. Those people have a hate on for us and we’re not sure why. My parents used to muse about it a fair bit, wondering if…

  • The neighbors loved the previous owners of our house and were mad at us for taking it over.
  • They think they don’t have anything in common with us. Unfortunately this might be a logical conclusion if they’ve sneaked any peeks into our house the way we have theirs.
  • They think they’re too smart for us. Well, tidy homes=tidy minds. Perhaps they’ve got something.
  • They think we’re too smart for them. Unlikely. If my parents appear in the yard it’s mostly to drink beer or hustle the kids (impatiently) to school.
  • They’re offended by our yard. This is fully possible. Sometimes I’m offended by our yard.
  • They’re offended by my parents’ language. My mum and dad keep the four-letter words in the house for the most part, but you know how it is in summer when the windows are open.
  • They think we’re religious weirdos. LOL!
  • They are religious weirdos. We just don’t know; we haven’t seen any magic underwear, though.

Honestly, we don’t really know them at all. Occasionally we hear the mother hollering. She’ll yell stuff like, “FIVE MINUTES AND WE’RE HAVING SOUP & SANDWICHES; THAT’S FIVE MINUTES AND YOU HAVE TO MAKE A CHOICE TO COME IN. FIVE MINUTES!” And that’s when she’s calling her husband.

My mum knows how to yell pretty well too, although she throws more filthy metaphors into her dinner calls. I bet we could all hang out if we just made the effort. And (unless they’re Mormons) this is the beer that could bring us together: Okanagan Spring PALE ALE.

If it were summer I’d suggest a lager—something light with a slightly lower alcohol content just in case the neighbors are concerned about losing control. You can’t maintain your home furnishing as rigorously as they do if you’re looped. But with the continuing cold weather, PALE ALE is a more appealing option. OK Spring PALE ALE pours reddish copper with crisp carbonation and a frothy head. It gives off a mild fruity aroma—very subtle, so it shouldn’t turn off dyed-in-the-wool MOLSON CANADIAN drinkers (just a neighborly suspicion). On a scale of fruitiness, OK Spring PALE ALE is about a 2 compared to, say, TROIS PISTOLES or MAUDITE—beers that would appall the neighbors and perhaps make them question their sexuality.

On the palate Okanagan Spring PALE ALE is uncomplicated: some hops and carmelized malt with a short arc from sweet to slightly bitter at the end. More flavor actually emerges at the finish, which is probably of benefit to Okanagan Spring, since that lingering palatability goes a long way, especially when you are being distracted from your initial impressions by an eight-foot-tall inflated Easter rabbit undulating next door.

The mouthfeel is quite refreshing, almost palate-cleansing. Indeed, there is a brisk, scrubbing character to the carbonation that adds more than detracts from the drinking experience. Overall, this PALE ALE is a decent, middle-of-the-road offering, and if a neighbor passed me one over the fence I’d do a jig.

Spring has sprung now, so windows will open, as will doors. More often we’ll find ourselves ten feet from our neighbors’ garden activities. Maybe this is the year we’ll get to know them and find out if they actually hate us as we suspect.

Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” But, as it happens, our fences are pretty cheaply made, and some dumbass driver recently bashed part of our fence into smithereens. And since we don’t have a good fence, the job of relationship building goes to…beer.