STORM WATCHER—The last drink before Armageddon?

My Fellow Inebriates,

If you’re like me (and I hope for your sake you’re not) you must be wondering exactly how the Apocalypse will come, as well as the exact moment. New Zealand chimed in earlier to say it had made it to December 21, but that was 12:01 a.m.—a little optimistic if you ask Scarybear, who will no doubt maintain his apocalypticity until Pago Pago has crossed into the safety of December 22.

Which happens to be Miss P’s seventh birthday. Note that Scary did not advise against making a cake, which throws his confidence in global annihilation into question. For if we were going to blink into non-existence on the 21st, surely it would be torture to observe the cake’s preparation knowing you’d never get your greedy paws on it.

“But the cake will be in the fridge. The fridge is the safest place,” Scary insists. “Didn’t you see Indiana Jones when he survived a nuclear bomb blast by getting inside one?”

Note Scary says “Indiana Jones.” Not “the character Harrison Ford plays.” Indiana Jones.

scary 2Scary has always struggled to separate action and sci-fi characters from the actors who portray them. Throughout his pre-literate years, Scary believed in Jean-Luc Picard, Jack O’Neill, Seven-of-Nine, Morpheus and Agent Smith, Han Solo, Sarah Connor, and RoboCop. Only when challenged by the subtitles in Heroes did he become literate, read the end credits on his shows, and reluctantly admit the possibility that these were characters. And even now, he forgets. He sees continuity between Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel in Angel, then wonders why Angel switched jobs for Bones. So of course the “nuke the fridge” scene in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seems fully plausible to him.

Okay, well, it might work if you had a lead-lined fridge rather than the cheap piece of shit that came with our house. But what about the beer in the fridge? OMG! The bottles would shatter. And that’s why we have to finish our supply of STORM WATCHER WINTER LAGER.

storm watcherVancouver Island Brewery isn’t renowned for departing from mainstream flavor. While its winter offering can be found in the Craft Beer section of our local booze shop, it differentiates itself from macro beer mainly by location and scale—not with oddball tasting notes or niche beers. (For a great dissection of “craft versus macro” and whether it matters, check out beerbecue.) Vancouver Island Brewery has often tended to be very “safe,” and while it’s expanded somewhat into beer-nerd territory, its winter lager is a fairly predictable offering. Which isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you just don’t need a surprise. Especially on Apocalypse Eve.

The color is reddish amber with minimal head and patchy lacing. On the nose there’s… well, beer aromas—slightly sweet and malty, but not much going on.

STORM WATCHER hits the palate with a wash of…beer. Decent beer. There’s some toffee sweetness and a pat of honey; moderate hops, carbonation, and mouthfeel; and a friendly, lingering finish. It’s pretty good, but not a stand-out. There’s nothing to wonder about, no odd flavors you can’t place—just nicely harmonized hops and caramel malt. Overall: yummy enough.

But do we want this to be our last drink ever?

Huh. Not really. But the alternative is to dig the Canadian Cream* out from the back of the fridge and put it through a strainer to get rid of some unexpected curds—the very sort of pre-Apocalypse surprise I didn’t want.

So much for my teats. (Actually, I don't think the lumps are curds; they're more like lumps of cream that separated because my mum decided to use organic, unpasteurized, unhomogenized cream.)

So much for my teats. 

And the last word goes to Scary: “You should buy cans, weirdo. And put them in the fridge right away.”



*If you decide to make your own Canadian Cream, make sure you use homogenized whipping cream 😉

The pre-apocalypse gin shoot-out!

I can’t remember where I found this poll. Oops.

If I thought my friend Scarybear was in the minority for thinking that we’re nearing the End of Days, well, perhaps I was right, but it’s not a small majority. This freaks me out a little. I’ve been reassuring myself with the thought that Scary’s an idiot, but he’s got solid backup in this poll and others like it.

When he mentioned the sun had just ejected a massive coronal flare, now speeding toward our little planet, with the potential to duplicate the Carrington Super Flare of 1859, I got really worried and started trying to distract myself with various projects, some of which ended badly.

Scary seemed to be enjoying the idea of all our electronics getting fried despite his reliance on the TV to bring him shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad. His contemplation of disaster seemed even more enjoyable because it freaked me out, my fellow inebriates. I even forgot about my DTs for a while.

And then the brilliant Christine showed up with her canvas bag and effectively banished all thoughts of Armageddon. There was no one in the world I would rather have seen at that moment, and what’s more, Scary vamoosed (being afraid of women), taking with him all notions of solar ejecta and electromagnetic havoc.

Which left us free to do the LBHQ Gin Shoot-Out in peace.

Although Christine had brought Scotch, cask-aged beer, red wine, and a honey hefeweizen, she was perfectly game to get into the gin first. We decided to be scientific and sample the different brands two ways:

  • straight up
  • in identically prepared G&Ts

I’d been envisioning a tableful of gin—seven varieties, perhaps, especially because it was my dad’s birthday—but encroaching old age hadn’t helped my dad find his gin-drinking inner child; nor had the attainment of 47 years triggered the sort of midlife crisis makes a man rush out and blow his whole paycheque on gin. So I had to settle for three brands:

  • GILBEY’S LONDON DRY GIN ($11.88/375mL)
  • GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN ($12.69/375mL)


This is a Canadian product my parents told me I couldn’t review unless I managed to get a free sample. But at $11.88 per 375mL, it represents the bottom shelf, and the Canadian bottom shelf at that, so they relented for the sake of contrast. For this, our first Gin Shoot-Out, we wanted three distinct tiers, and something needed to be at the bottom. Our other choice would have been a big jug of POTTER’S, also Canadian, but my parents didn’t want to pony up $36 for 1.14 litres. They said we wouldn’t want that much. Hellloooo???

Straight up

No two ways about it, GILBEY’S is rough. Jagged and pointy, front-end palate abuse with no backnote to speak of, the taste lacks not just subtlety but almost the entire array of flavors that make gin so famously nuanced. It’s a little like being shivved in the tongue, drinking this ragged stuff. Perhaps it would appeal to drinkers of cheap vodka with its lack of complexity and harsh edge. You couldn’t possibly get down a martini made with GILBEY’S, not unless you were very committed to drinking that martini. I would do it, of course, but only if I didn’t have GORDON’S and BOMBAY SAPPHIRE winking at me from across the table.

Gin & Tonic

GILBEY’S is much more tolerable with tonic and a big squeeze of lime. But it’s still edgy—sort of like chewing tinfoil or being yelled at. I thought it was okay, and I would do it again.


We’re already fans of GORDON’S at LBHQ; it won us over just last week. The best-selling gin in the world and James Bond’s gin of choice, GORDON’S is a solid, traditional gin.

Straight up

Back to back against GILBEY’S, a straight sip of GORDON’S provides a flood of juniper-infused relief. On the tongue it expands with complexity, although citrus and juniper jump to the foreground. Highly sippable, GORDON’S would make an admirable martini.

Gin & Tonic

Ahhhhhh! Yes! This is what GORDON’S was made to do. With its firm citrus backbone and juniper chorus, GORDON’S owns the gin & tonic. Its personality punches through the tonic nicely and coordinates well with a lime twist. Maybe we’re all primed to delight in a GORDON’S G&T because so many bars mix with GORDON’S by default, but none of us were disappointed by its generously layered flavors. What Christine said about gin in general, “It tastes like more,” couldn’t have been more true with a gin like GORDON’S.


We haven’t had this at LBHQ for many years. My mum grew up with BEEFEATER, practically the antithesis of BOMBAY SAPPHIRE and famous for clobbering the drinker with not unwelcome lashings of juniper. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE strives to be more delicate: a premium but still affordable gin with a more floral profile. As such we expected it to win the martini category but possibly not the G&T category, because its subtle notes might get lost in a mixer.

Straight up

Ahhhhhh! Yes, indeed, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE tinkles across the tongue with delightful botanical essences, none outstripping the others. Of the three gins, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE is the lightest and most playful sipper. With just a whisper of vermouth it would make a perfect martini.

Gin & Tonic

Here we found ourselves divided. My mum thought her BOMBAY G&T was divine; Christine liked hers but preferred GORDON’S; and my dad departed from all reason, describing his BOMBAY G&T as “dusty.” What he meant by that I couldn’t pry out of him. I live in a house full of synaesthetes who don’t know how to describe flavors except in terms of sounds/colors/textures, and I guessed, when my dad said “dusty,” that he was applying some sort of metaphor—that perhaps a G&T made with BOMBAY SAPPHIRE felt venerable somehow; perhaps it threw him back to a past life in which he was a British colonial pounding tonic for its anti-malarial quinine and getting pissed on gin as a side effect. But he said he meant it literally—that it tasted like dust. So I guess we have to take my dad to the doctor.

Results of the Shoot-Out

Here’s the breakdown (lowest being best):

  1. most favorite
  2. second favorite
  3. least favorite

Resoundingly, the bottom-tier gin got waxed in the Shoot-Out. But the whole exercise illustrates the law of diminishing returns. Once you get past the bottom shelf (which, with a mickey, it costs about a dollar to do), you enter a realm of highly competitive products, the best of which often comes down to subjective tastes. For the 375mL size, the three products we reviewed were about a dollar apart. At $11.88 GILBEY’S got trounced. At 76 cents more, GORDON’S represented a whole other echelon. But adding $1.30 for BOMBAY SAPPHIRE didn’t make a significant difference; it was almost a toss-up, with GORDON’S emerging the winner by one point.

Whether this will play out with three other gins, we just can’t know. We can’t know until we do it. But there’s a Shoot-Out Part Deux in the future. If Scarybear’s ideas about global annihilation are wrong and there is a future.

Photo: Reuters/NASA

5 ways to help your anus thrive

My Fellow Inebriates,

Running out of alcohol feels like the end of the world, which—especially here in 2012—got me thinking about actual Armageddon.

How will it come when it comes?

Are we prepared? What does “prepared” even mean when we’re talking about wholesale annihilation?

Sobriety is a bitch but I have to admit it makes it easier to read Discover Magazine. I like the way Discover’s Phil Plait (Death from the Skies!) calculates the odds of each of ten flavors of cataclysm occurring. In a way it’s reassuring—in a way not. Then again, the only proper reassurance is a headful of booze to make his scary ideas go away.

But I’m going to deal with one of them today: asteroids.

Phil Plait calculates 700,000:1 odds of anyone dying from an asteroid impact. Those are vanishingly long odds, considering you have 18,000:1 odds of being murdered (and 2:1 odds of getting away with murder; consider that). Chances of a meteor crashing into your particular house? Try 182 trillion against. Chances of you getting hemorrhoids? You just need to be the lucky 1 in 25.

So it doesn’t make sense to worry about an asteroid slamming into the planet. Nobody used to fret about it, even with the 1908 Siberian event as a cautionary reminder that there’s an asteroid belt out there between Mars and Jupiter that slings the occasional city-size chunk at us. Plenty of asteroids have grazed us over the years, but we were blissfully ignorant. That or we realized our close call after the fact. Some of them, like the bus-size rock that glanced by us on Wednesday, would have disintegrated in the descent through our atmosphere. Others, such as 1,300-foot-long 2005 YU55, which whizzed within lunar distance last November, needed only a little English on their trajectories to take out entire cities.

Holy shit, how often does this happen?!

Well, it doesn’t occur nearly as often as painful hemorrhoidal itch does. Hemorrhoids are an absolute epidemic compared to asteroid hits. Worse still, your odds of getting hemorrhoids increase if you enjoy binge drinking. Tales of alcoholic woe abound:

  • …everytime i go out and party and drink alcohol in mass quantities at somepoint the hemorrhoids protrude. By the end of the night I feel them sticking out and the next day because of the irritation they tend to bleed…It only happens shen drinking alcohol. Help please!!
  • every time i have a drink the next day i see blood on the toilet bowl which is very scary…. i tried to quit drinking but its not that easy… i am only 22…. i was hoping to get surgery but i dont know yet…
  • it felt like as if there was something popping out, like as if i’m going to soil myself but it’s actually just the hemoorhoids getting bigger which makes me panic a bit…when my body temperature rises in a warm environment they start to get irritating…also when i drink alcohol they get worse and i’m running to and from the toilet a lot

Leaving aside the profound effect hemorrhoids seem to exert on spelling and punctuation, they do sound like a dreadful death knell for the party lifestyle. What are the wretched things anyway?

Also known as piles, hemorrhoids are painful lumps that result from excessive anal pressure. In addition to causing the ass to bleed, they interfere with comfortable pooing, and the unfortunate social stigma they carry often causes sufferers to avoid seeking medical attention or even purchasing soothing ointment. One of my mother’s friends was so embarrassed by his affliction that his hemorrhoids ran rampant until he finally shoplifted some Preparation H because he couldn’t face the drugstore cashier.

I should mention that he has an enviable liquor collection and rec-room bar. But is curtailing his drinking the only way to rid himself of the burning sensation of hemorrhoids?

Of course not—how silly that would be, and how intolerable. Here are some medical recommendations:

  1. Get some exercise. This would of course include grinding away at a dance club. (Did I mention my friend Julia Gale of Broker’s Gin recently injured her knee at such a discotheque, gyrating to Love Shack by the B-52s while her colleague Petronella looked on aghast? Julia, who described the injury as an “alcohol-fuelled” form of “self-expression” is going under the knife this week to repair the damage. This sounds infinitely worse than hemorrhoids, although of course the latter can eventuate in surgery too.)
  2. Eat fiber. This makes it easier to flush stool out of the rectum, alleviating anal pressure. Have your breakfast oatmeal with Jack Daniel’s instead of just having Jack Daniel’s.
  3. Drink plenty of water. This softens your poo, which also eases pressure on the anus. If you have hemorrhoids, it’s okay to water your scotch.
  4. Defecate regularly. I guess this means you need to make an effort instead of waiting for your business to slide out on its own.
  5. Avoid heavy lifting. This means modifying point #1 to exclude weightlifting. I’ve heard of compound exercises recruiting multiple muscle groups, but who knew the anus helped with your deadlift too?

And of course there are all sorts of other ways to strain the anus. You may have a favorite way, or even several favorites. The important thing is to realize that your anus needs a rest now and then. It is your friend and you mustn’t mistreat it.

But is alcohol necessarily contraindicated for hemorrhoid sufferers? Scientific reports conflict, besides which they are brain-numbingly full of numbers and terminology. I couldn’t make any sense of them at all, but they do conclude that alcohol’s contribution to hemorrhoids is dose-dependent. The upshot is that there’s a definite sweet spot when it comes to drinking—an amount that will allow you a few drinks yet permit your anus to thrive.

OMG, what amount is that? you may well ask. Sadly, I don’t have a clue. I don’t even have a functional anus, my friends.

But don’t envy me just yet, because there is a dark side to lacking an anal cavity.

It means my odds of getting hit by an asteroid are greater than my odds of getting hemorrhoids.