WHISKEY JACK ALE—5%, but still not for four-year-olds

It occurred to me today that Miss V is getting pretty strong.

Maybe she could help me open some bottles. Would it be so reckless to ask her?

Naturally our mum walked in the second I did ask her.

Where the hell are these kids’ parents?

I blamed Max & Ruby for corrupting us. Whatever those stupid bunnies had been doing on TV, it had reminded us of alcohol.

Even though my mother believes that Max & Ruby’s insipid plotlines and relentless gender stereotyping are definitively corrupting, she didn’t buy this excuse. If anything, Max & Ruby might suggest the Women’s Temperance Movement or the Tea Party. The show could lobotomize a child.

Thankfully it hasn’t turned V into a vegetable yet. She’s got some smarts about her, which is why—when my mother went out of earshot—I suggested we play mixology. She could measure and stir and shake and pour and add ice cubes…and open bottles with her strong little thumb-equipped hands.

I had this bottle in mind. I thought the preserved larva hanging out in the bottom would appeal to V. Just yesterday she stood spellbound watching ants attack a centipede. Why wouldn’t she want to get her hands on a mescal-saturated arthropod? She could play with it while I pounded its mind-altering marinade.

“Why don’t you stop being a pest and review another Whistler Brewing Co. beer?” said our killjoy mother.

Whether she wanted to wreck our fun or discourage V’s possible nascent interest in entomology I don’t know. She wouldn’t be able to handle a kid dissecting worms on the kitchen table, that’s for sure.

I didn’t really want to think about an amber ale like WHISKEY JACK ALE with our fridge crying out for a refill. Not with the mescal bottle so tantalizingly close. But here goes.

Another member of Whistler Brewing Company’s Travel Pack, WHISKEY JACK is a dark-amber ale with apeshit fizz and an ecru head that vanishes in seconds. The title is very appealing and suggestive, especially with INNIS & GUNN OAK AGED BEER lingering in recent memory, but upon pouring there’s no aromatic suggestion of barrel treatment.

I’ve come to think of Whistler Brewing Company beers as having a watery taste, and WHISKEY JACK is no exception. Billed as a session ale for those who like to convene with their beers rather than just drink them, this ale seems from the first sip to be missing something. Oak barreling certainly. Decent ABV indeed (it’s 5%). The smell is mildly wheaty/bready with a little caramel, suggesting more bakery than distillery.

In the mouth there’s a bit of disharmony between its sweet and bitter tones, with earthy hops pushing their way through the back of the palate while you’re still wondering about the oak. The mouthfeel is inadequate for an ale but refreshing nonetheless. If you’re thirsty, no complaints. If you’re having a session, you’ll probably bitch. Not that you would bitch, my fellow inebriates—you are all awesome.

What else can be said? Slightly puzzling but minor dischord among the flavors, thin-to-medium mouthfeel with aforementioned wateriness, and paltry alcohol. In short, well worth pounding a case all at once, and less likely to make you sick than a bottle of mescal.

Wow, that worm is totally dead

My Fellow Inebriates,

For a long time I thought the worm in our little bottle of mescal was just hibernating, or that it was some sort of aquatic worm enjoying a swimming medium much more awesome than ordinary water. But I’ve noticed, having checked up on it periodically for four or five years, that it’s not moving. And I don’t think it’s asleep.

How did it come to be in there? It’s a mystery, isn’t it? Just like a ship in a bottle, I commented to my mother, who pedantically pointed out the relative skill involved in constructing a model of an intricate sailing vessel inside a bottle as opposed to dropping moth larvae through a hole.

These ones aren't for mescal; they're for eating.

So it didn’t decide to be in there? Certainly not, it turns out. It’s not as though mescal and tequila producers have to turn away lineups of insect aspirants to bottom-dwelling alcoholic glory; on the contrary, bottlers put them in there as a gimmick. The larvae enjoy eating the agave plant, which is used to make mescal. In fact, tons of those little suckers end up in the agave brew during production and are credited with imparting some of the famous nastiness that characterizes mescal. (Old mescal recipes call for a chicken/turkey breast to be placed in the mash during fermentation but presumably larvae are more cost-effective, since they’re along for the ride anyway.)

Mescal is so famously nasty that bartenders have struggled to incorporate it into palatable drinks. While it enjoyed a stunt-style college popularity for many years, which had more to do with the worm than its smoky, off-putting flavor, mescal has failed to capture more sophisticated market share.

Nor does it have a signature drink the way tequila does the margarita and rum the daiquiri. Why is that?

Well, I would certainly tell you if I could get my little bear-sized bottle open. But my sources tell me it tastes like ass. In fact, one of our family’s medical-type friends advises against drinking it because it will make us sick. That’s all very well for my parents, who have work and childcare obligations, but there’s no reason I shouldn’t sample it.

Bottled gusano, ready to be added to mescal bottles

But back to the worm, which isn’t a worm but the larva of a butterfly. Bright coral naturally, its mescal bath leaches the color out of it, turning it pale pink or off-white. Despite the misconception that all mescal brands include dead arthropods, only those from Oaxaca feature the bugs. And whether or not they impart a desirable flavor, one thing’s sure: they’re not an ancient tradition. Mescal has been bottled con gusano only since 1950, when Mexican entrepreneur Jacobo Lozano Paez tapped into the time-honored marketing tactic of reconceptualizing a liability (caterpillar infestation of agave plants) as a benefit—suckering untold millions of American college students into chugging not only his vile-tasting mescal but chowing down on deceased larvae to boot. Sure, those larvae have reputed aphrodisiacal effects, but OMG, so do bananas and asparagus, people.

Which doesn’t change the fact that I want to get this little blue bottle of mine open. Can you believe it? My parents actually gave it to me several years ago for Christmas—my very own bottle. And they won’t open it for me.


ASTROLIQUOR for Jan. 27 to Feb. 2—What the stars say you should drink!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Here’s your booze horoscope:

Some big changes are happening with your playtime, Aries, but how satisfying those changes are will depend on who you meet this week, and how much money the two of you can pool together for alcohol. Your new friend has a thing for sloe gin and brandy with some lemon and bitters. Go with it, but aim for the cheap stuff—one of your bigger appliances is going to need fixing/replacing this week, and it might be your beer fridge.

Taurus, your computer is acting up. Do you have a savvy friend to help? If not, it’s time to go trawling at the bar for geeks. You know how to find them—they like their martinis with gin and vermouth. Oh wait—you like gin martinis. They like weird stuff like Aperol, so long as you tell them Mr. Spock likes it too. Buy a round and get one of them to fix your computer.

Oh no, Gemini, you’ve stepped on the scale and had a shock this week. If you think the number is too high, make a list of the foods you eat every day. Then cross half of them off and substitute tequila. Worried about vitamins? Add some grapefruit and lime juice, plus a little triple sec. Be careful, though…somebody’s going to be attracted to the new tequila-swilling you. Don’t lend this person money! You’ll never get it back, and he/she won’t buy you any tequila.

Your finances are messed up, Cancer. Time to draw up a budget and find out where all your cash is going. Over the next two weeks you’ll write everything down and even sort your expenses into categories. Good job! Reward yourself by replenishing your liquor cabinet. You’re probably out of Grand Marnier, and you deserve a nice gin as well…say, Broker’s Gin. Friday is big for romance, and the person you pick up that day is the one. Say yes to that tat with his/her initials.

Leo, the memory dropouts are getting to you this week. You’ve lost something particular—something small but meaningful that fails to turn up even when you tear apart your house in a drunken rampage. Finally you’ll replace it, but you’ll still be upset with yourself for blacking out so thoroughly. Self-recrimination like this is unhealthy. Make yourself this chill-out recipe:

  • 2 oz Bacardi 151
  • 1 oz Malibu
  • Pineapple and cranberry juice to taste (I’m having “none”)

Pour the ingredients into an ice-filled Collins glass and stir. There! All better.

This week calls for physical improvement, Virgo, even if you just trade the elevator for the stairs, although you’ll miss the weirdos in the elevator. Somebody at work is going to ask you for a loan, but don’t be fooled by the minor sum requested. It’s a tip-of-the-iceberg, slippery-slope kind of request, meaning this person is going to be on your ass forever if you lend any money this time. Tell him/her you’ve earmarked your wealth for tricking out your bar. Then buy some exotic brandy and pound it with mango juice.

Libras are not always good at seizing the day, and you probably have a list of impulses you’ve been ignoring. Wouldn’t it be nice to visit an unfamiliar bar and meet some strange new people? Go on, it will make you feel truly alive. What other impulses could you satisfy? Don’t even think about it—if you hesitate you’ll miss out! My favorite impulse is this one: Take a half-full bottle of whiskey (not half-empty!) and pour triple sec and lemonade into it. Give it a shake and guzzle the whole thing. That, my Libra friend, is living.

Uh oh, make sure you have a cold compress in the freezer, Scorpio—not just because of your proclivities with alcohol, but because you’ll have one owie after another this week: elbows, toes, you name it. And this is before you mix up that vat of beer, vodka and orange juice and down the whole thing. (About that: use plastic instead of glass because you’re gonna drop it.) It’s really the sort of week that calls for hiding inside. With physical injuries and broken china at every step, you won’t even want to get up. Oh yeah, and your blender might break, so no blender drinks.

Sagittarius, you’ll encounter a hot stranger this week, and your turbulent mating will give you a brief taste of pure joy. At times you’ll feel the two of you share a brain—you’ll be licking creme de cacao off each other and think you’ve met your destiny. And then you’ll suddenly get bored. Luckily you have some distractions, so you won’t get morose. It’s a good career week, and you’ll change gears to work mode without even pausing.

You’re lusting after a Virgo at work, Capricorn. But you’re being a little inept about it. When you try to do this Virgo a good turn, other colleagues will notice and start dissing you for bringing your hormones to work in full force. This is a good lesson in subtlety. Up until this faux pas you’ve thought yourself pretty suave. Turns out you’re not! But it’s not your fault. You messed up because you go to work every day hammered on Malibu.

Aquarius, do NOT make any important decisions this week. No documents, no contract, no selling your house, no getting engaged—nada! Any decision with long-term consequences must be avoided until the stars look upon you more favorably. Even if it means holing up in your apartment and drinking Big Gulp-sized cups of Everclear, Bacardi and Clan MacGregor whisky (with Gatorade for the  electrolytes you’ll inevitably donate later to the toilet), do not—seriously—sign anything.

Pisces, one of your friends has a medical condition that greatly concerns you. It’s affecting your emotional well-being; you can’t concentrate to tie your shoes, and you’re walking around with your underwear inside out (i.e., with visible skid mark). Stop mooning about your friend’s diagnosis—just go and get tested. It’s just chlamydia, but don’t worry; after you finish your antibiotics you can drink some more.