INNIS & GUNN WINTER TREACLE PORTER—Charge it to the corporate card

“You wouldn’t even know the difference if you had to wear a hairshirt,” said my mother when she saw the liberties I’d taken in describing her childhood Catholicism. “Your moustache isn’t even scratchy. In fact, I can’t even see it.”

It’s true, the moustache hasn’t gained much traction on this already furry face. I thought, if I just put my mind to it, I’d have this epic Fu Manchu growth going on by late November, but nothing doing. So I’ll have to donate money to the cause instead. Or give my dad a prostate exam.

None of my fellow inebriates will be surprised to learn, however, that my parents keep the LBHQ enterprise on a very lean budget. When I told them I wanted to make charitable donations, purchase seasonal greeting cards, and buy a crate of gin, they told me I’d have to use the “corporate card.”

Turns out the corporate card is a beat-up, unusable piece of plastic, maxed out and ripe for denial. Who knew my parents could be so mean?

It reminds me of the time they almost finished the INNIS & GUNN WINTER TREACLE PORTER. They were almost at the dregs, people, when it dawned on them that the resident reviewer was not there. (I was looking for Glen, polar bear and vodka expert, who’s been missing, along with the camera charger, since we moved to the new LBHQ.) There was only one bottle of this clear, mahogany elixir; they’d split it between them, the gluttons, and their portions were down to fumes—vanilla-caramel-malt fumes with gentle oak and molasses. A Scottish ale I would have given my moustache for, damn it.

When I appeared, they actually looked guilty and let me have the remainders. Forgetting about Glen and the camera charger (and Movember, a worthy charitable cause for those of you with deeper pockets, or any pockets for that matter), I slurped it up.

At 7.9% alcohol, INNIS & GUNN WINTER TREACLE PORTER is perfect for getting ripped on a cold day. A stunning marriage of lightly toasted malt, sticky toffee, well-behaved hops whose fruitiness is a mere hint, crisp carbonation, medium body, and a lingering, peaty finish, this porter is less porter than ale, but what sort of bear would quibble? This shit is divine. For the sake of the tremendous layering of flavors alone, it’s worth grabbing while it’s available—which it won’t be after winter.

Fortunately, the bottle came in a specialty pack that included two other varieties and an INNIS & GUNN beer glass. How could my dad possibly buy just one? A week later he returned to the store and bought another so he and my mum could drink from identical glasses. I can only assume he’ll take a third trip next week on behalf of yours truly…

Or perhaps he’ll tell me to go and buy my beer glass with the corporate card. This isn’t over, Dad.

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DEAD FROG NUT BROWN ALE—Froggy style has a lot of variations

My Fellow Inebriates,

Two nights ago my dad returned from a trade show with two bottles of DEAD FROG NUT BROWN ALE.

I’d been wondering where the hell my dad was. Often I can find him spread out (his work gear, not his junk) all over the dining room table, stressing my mum out with his tentaculate electronics, and offending us all by playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall out of sequence. But for the last week he’s been scarce.

I suspect he’s been wined and dined by suppliers this week, plied with swag far beyond the two beers he brought home. But we’ll never know. My dad has this effective trick of entering the house with his headset on, carrying on a conversation until the novelty of his arrival has worn off and everyone’s forgotten to ask him about his day. Repeatedly throughout the week, and well past the bedtime of the kids—who would ignore his phone conversation anyway and attack him—he’s entered mid-conversation, muttering away about terminations and racks and permits, and—seeing he won’t respond anyway—I’ve gone back to looking at the People of Walmart or trying on moustaches or whatever other productive thing I was doing before he came in. Effectively I’ve forgotten to interrogate him about this trade show and whatall’s been going on there. For instance:

Why only two beers?

Why NUT BROWN ALE particularly? Does he know that DEAD FROG markets an array of unusual brews (mandarin orange, pepper lime, toasted coconut)?—not quite targeted at craft beer geeks (too light, too lager-y) yet not targeted at the Molson Canadian crowd either. In fact, DEAD FROG has been a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to aligning with the increasingly divergent craft and mass beer markets, particularly with its 650-mL specialty brews, and would have found itself dead indeed had it not sought $500,000 in investment money earlier this year.

 

If my dad hadn’t been yammering into the headset I would have asked about DEAD FROG’s beer portfolio—did Dad have the option to scoop some other products for yours truly or was he just not interested? Did he have his fill of them at the show? OMG, would my dad do that without me?

Fact is, Dad might have picked the best of the bunch. DEAD FROG NUT BROWN ALE is a nice beer. Dark and almost cola color with a moderate-to-weighty mouthfeel, it carries a hoppy punch yet doesn’t distance itself from the warming, mellowing maltiness of a good ale. Crisp carbonation focuses the hop/malt intersection nicely. You can detect chocolate in the background plus the eponymous nuttiness, making for a solid, interesting brew that doesn’t cloy and isn’t so intriguing that it becomes annoying or precious. Paws up for sure. Or flippers or whatever.

With its recent cash infusion and wealth of marketing ideas, DEAD FROG, just one of three new brewers making a splash in British Columbia, evidently has some (frog) legs. If we all boost our drinking, we should be able to keep the frog alive.

Rest in peace, Granny (please)

My granny died one year ago today. She was cremated, and then the cremains were buried, which is kind of like doing things twice and costs about twice as much. Not that anyone begrudges Granny; she had a tough life and a slow death.

Cremation is great for people who are afraid of being accidentally buried alive. My long-dead Granddad had a big fear of this and probably should have been cremated; but in 1985 Catholics still hesitated to cremate their deceased, so into the ground he went, although the medics did ransack his body for salvageable organs (just eyes, it turned out—his esophageal cancer had metastasized everywhere, disqualifying any other organs for donation).

Of course your relatives still might put you in a bacon casket.

Burial is great if you’re concerned about your dignity and the possibility that your survivors may do frivolous things with your ashes, such as use them for artwork, put them in the kids’ sandbox, or consume them in some sort of ritual. Vouchsafing your corpse into the ground is the best bet if your relatives have any whackjob tendencies, although all bets are off at the wake.

Whether Granny harbored either of these paranoias is unclear. What I imagine is that she—always one to say yes—agreed to both cremation and burial while talking deliriously to two different relations, who then compared notes and felt she’d specified both. Or who knows—maybe she did want both.

The greater point in all this is: You’d think, by opting for both cremation and burial, that you’d be doubly sure of making yourself gone after death. What no one thought of checking was whether the soul—that 28-gram essence that once untethered seems to be able to do whatever the hell it likes—had a nearby vessel to scoot into when Granny’s heart stopped beating. Did anyone notice Fluffy sitting on her dresser drawer???

This thought occurred anew last night when—promptly at midnight—something in the house went THUMP! Not a little bump like the settling of a 1980s-era house, but the sort of big-ass THUMP that makes you think your dad may have slain that garbage-scavenging raccoon and started hurling its carcass gratuitously against the outside wall of the house. But there was just one THUMP! At midnight. On the anniversary of Granny’s death.

My dad wasn’t home yet, so there was no chance he could be outside braining a raccoon. I sat up in the dark with my fur on end. Fluffy, two bears away on the couch where we’d been tucked in under a pink blanket, was evidently playing dead. I heard my mum shuffle out of bed and rustle the window blinds, then wander around investigating. Beeps on a cellphone keypad. A drowsy conversation. Then quiet.

She knew she could go back to sleep because it was just Fluffy. He may look like nothing more than one of Chuck Testa’s less successful taxidermic experiments, but he’s the vessel. He’s the vessel Granny jumped into when she died. And the two of them, bear and 71-year-old cancer victim, decided to announce themselves at midnight.

We wouldn’t have this problem if it weren’t for the scourge called cancer. First Granddad in 1985: esophagus, lymph, liver, the works. Then Granny: lungs, back, liver, lymph…riddled. Months of hopeless treatment…surgery, chemotherapy, radiation…it made them suffer. Cancer treatment sucks.

So if all these Movember staches haven’t reminded you yet, why not head over to the doctor’s office for that overdue prostate probing? If you don’t have a prostate, scooch down in the stirrups for your yearly check-up. And while you’re there, get your doctor to check any other cancer hot spots. When you get your clean bill of health you can drink a toast. And I’ll drink one with you. (I’d join you for the physical too, but I don’t have an anal cavity.)

I never knew my granddad, but I miss my granny. She was very soft-spoken and gentle, and she was the kind of person who talked to bears.

I think I hear her telling me to have some Chardonnay.