LOBKOWICZ BARON—Toasting our little grads

Congrats to our two little graduates, who rocked grades K and 2 this year. Obviously their accomplishments call for a toast, but when I suggested it, my parents accused me of appropriating the occasion as a drinking excuse. “Never!” I protested, while sidling over to our one bottle of red wine on the counter. But they nixed it and instead shared a solitary beer.

Baron beerMy mum had bought only one bottle of this Czech dunkel, LOBKOWICZ BARON on the weekend after watching a fellow customer load his entire basket with the stuff. He raved about it, pointing out the excellent price ($2.17/bottle) and describing it as dark and “sweet but not too sweet.” It sounded normal enough, so Mum shot out her hand and grabbed one before the dude could empty the shelf, and before long it was beckoning yours truly from the fridge.

Advancing to grades 1 and 3 is a big deal that warrants free-flowing liquor, I maintained, but it was not to be, so I will tell you about my tiny portion of LOBKOWICZ BARON. As promised by the dude in the liquor store, it was dark brown with persistent tan foam and a doughy aroma. Accompanying notes of malt, caramel, and yeast was a somewhat unwelcome metallic note all the more evident because of the beer’s simplicity. To be honest, it tasted like my dad made it, which I wish he had, because then we’d have a garage full of the stuff.

Overall, LOBKOWICZ BARON is friendly and uncomplicated, quite mainstream and, being on the sweet side, a good pick for drinkers who dislike being shit-kicked by wayward hops. But LOBKOWICZ BARON is very ordinary, and therefore inappropriate for significant occasions such as today’s. Certainly V, who was touted for her “inventive spelling techniques” and P, whose stint as “Goat Three” of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” won her accolades, would side with me and advocate hitting the sauce early and wantonly. Too bad they are not in charge. But one day they will be.

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BEAR FLAG DARK RED BLEND—Freaky label for a freaky day

My Fellow Inebriates,

The head-lice notice came home from school AGAIN today. This time a kid in Miss V’s class has bugs, so my dad spent 15 minutes this evening combing through both girls’ hair to make sure LBHQ hadn’t been infested.

Despite her habit of bestowing hugs upon and sharing hats with every friend she has, P was relaxed during the inspection. V was freaking, though. Every few weeks one classmate or another has been positive for lice, and V is a natural pessimist, so she was probably thinking her number had come up.

Phew. No lice.

And that’s how the kids felt. Read this (from HealthLinkBC) and you’ll get a sense of how I felt.

Anything that can’t be washed (i.e., Blankets, coats, headwear, stuffed toys [italics mine]) can be treated by: placing in a closed plastic bag for 10 days or putting in a hot dryer for 20 minutes or putting in the freezer for 48 hours or ironing it.

OMFG!!!!

The choices, again:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Cooking/suffocation with motion sickness as a side bonus
  • Cryonic stasis (beside meat, probably)
  • Flattening and hot-branding

I repeat, OMFG, people. I need a drink stat. And the kids need to shave their heads. But FIRST I NEED A DRINK.

BEAR FLAG DARK RED BLEND to the rescue. Christine left this $13 bottle of unpretentious California vino when she visited last week, along with a sweater I’ve been using as a blanket. You should never really share sweaters if you’re concerned about lice, but we had no idea we’d be on Yellow Alert about lice, and I don’t think Christine meant to leave her sweater, especially since she could have predicted that I’d fetishize it. She did mean to leave the wine, because Christine is wonderful and genuinely cares about my alcohol supply.

bear flag wine

BEAR FLAG DARK RED BLEND bills itself as a “big, bold blend” of dark varietals (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Petit Verdot, and Tempranillo—a veritable Heinz-57 mixture). Compare the “DARK RED” with BEAR FLAG’s three other products (SMOOTH RED, SOFT WHITE, and BRIGHT WHITE) and you can see this outfit is all about sloshing as much into the vat as possible and seeing what comes out. Slap a hideous label on it and voila! Low expectations.

bear flag art 2

Promised tasting notes include chocolate, coffee, and blueberries accompanied by low tannins—an easy-drinker you could stuff under your arm and take to a casual barbeque. Let’s pour it.

Yes, it is a dark red wine, but not to the point of opacity. If anything it’s ruby-garnet and very agreeable to contemplate as it opens up. First aromas: earth, tobacco, stone fruit, and a slight 28-day wine kit–like backnote. First sips are pleasant, although I beg to differ with BEAR FLAG’s own marketing copy on boldness. This is a medium-bodied, fruit-forward wine with some sharp notes that mosh a little roughly with the rest of their tasting-note compadres.

BEAR FLAG reminds me a lot of Granny (my dead Granny, that is) because she probably would have liked it. Granny wasn’t an asshole about wine the way my parents are; she didn’t require a jammy explosion, and she probably would have enjoyed BEAR FLAG for what it is: an uncomplicated and totally drinkable blend. And if Granny hadn’t been too nice to say so, perhaps she would have told my parents off for being wine dickheads. Perhaps she would have told them they need to actually know something about wine to diss it credibly. And then she and I would have taken the bottle outside and downed it while she had a smoke.

bear flag artWhich is to say, I like BEAR FLAG. It’s not my favorite $13 wine, nor is it the most interesting wine in its price range. But it has a wacky, freaky label, especially if you like weird art, and—for you solid food fans—it probably would go pretty well with, um, what’s a solid food you would barbeque? How about a hamburger? I bet solid-food eaters would love BEAR FLAG with a hamburger. But they’d probably be freaked out when they opened the freezer to take the meat out and there was this frozen alcoholic bear beside it staring at them accusingly.

Luckily that won’t happen because the kids don’t have lice. This time.

RUSSELL CREAM ALE—Won’t start a fight, or at least stays in the middle

My Fellow Inebriates,

Miss P never had a kindergarten nemesis, but of course Miss V has found hers. If you met V, you’d understand how natural this is. You’d know, after having a meal at the LBHQ table or witnessing bedtime, that V cannot operate without adversaries. She has to live with the ones at home, which means everybody gets along most of the time—but her school nemesis is another story.

PaperCamera Veronica 2012-05-13-11-47-16Take V at the end of a long row of monkey bars. From across the span she sees “H” starting to swing across, bar by bar. This is a logical prompt for V to start from her own side, monkeying her way with characteristic aggression, surely anticipating a clash in the middle and prepared to hang there until Saturday or her nemesis gives up and drops.

In fairness to V, H has been pretty mean to her this year.

In fairness to H, V’s reports are not terribly objective.

According to their teacher, they have a real thing going, and that’s why they sit at opposite sides of the classroom. The teacher does her best to prevent matter meeting antimatter, but she can only do so much, especially when the two seek each other out.

“That’s got to be stressful for the teacher. You should pack a beer for her with V’s homework,” I told my parents, generously thinking of our small stock of RUSSELL CREAM ALE.

What? You think other parents don’t send beer to school with their kids?

russell cream aleYou knew this already, but my parents aren’t that kind of progressive thinker. Oh well—more for us.

RUSSELL CREAM ALE is pretty quintessential—can you say “pretty quintessential”?—for the brew. It pours a clear, deep amber with a soapy-hued head that takes a few minutes to dissipate. Inhale and you get sweet malt and nuts and pronounced breadiness with some floral hops chiming in. The flavor is mild, with the hops pulling their punches until the aftertaste, where they linger with hints of fruit and weeds, providing an effective balance to the initial malty sweetness. The beer sits on your palate politely—kind of a Goldilocks mouthfeel, which obviously passes muster with bears, particularly this one.

Overall, RUSSELL CREAM ALE is nicely balanced although not especially memorable. Just a solid, good-tasting, perfectly standard exemplar of the kind of cream ale your barkeeper might pour you from the tap. In other words—totally non-provoking and non-confrontational—the sort of thing I bet V’s teacher could have used this morning.