AMSTEL LIGHT—Calls for diplomacy

Today the kids decided I needed a bath. Luckily they’re not totally unsupervised; our mother intervened. She said they could do it as long as the bath was pretend.

That our bathing simulation wouldn’t occur near running water was a relief, but Miss P’s choice of a saucepan wasn’t exactly comforting.

Nevertheless, she made it work.

Ahhhh. Let’s talk about that AMSTEL LIGHT.

However did such a beer (ABV 3.5%) gain entry into LBHQ? The best possible way—borne by friends who joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. (Over-generously, they also brought a bottle of wine, a tray of cupcakes, two large chocolate bars, and a bouquet of flowers. How my parents merit that sort of treatment I don’t know.)

Okay, so when I said I was going to review AMSTEL LIGHT, my mum threatened me. She said, “They are very good friends of ours and if you trash that beer just because it has a low alcohol percentage…you just wait.”

For what?

Let’s face it, 3.5% alcohol is a travesty. “My fellow inebriates,” I said to my mother, “expect complete honesty.”

“Your fellow inebriates,” she said, “can’t even realistically expect you to stay on topic.”

Just the facts then:

Appearance: straw-yellow, like the urine of a well-hydrated bear, with no head (the beer, not the bear)

Smell: Grain, inoffensiveness

Taste: Corn, grain, slight Dutch-style funk

Body: Light, airy, strangely unfizzy

Impression: What the hell?

AMSTEL LIGHT reminds me of the time my parents went to see Avatar and they took Scarybear instead of me (he rode in a purse). I thought I was invited, right up until they got in the car, and then there I was, left behind with the kids and the babysitter. Kind of disappointed, but at the same time not disappointed about being spared a confrontation with my long-standing fear of blue people.

While I very much doubt any of my hobo friends would buy AMSTEL LIGHT, in terms of its potential to shine a small ray of happiness into an alcoholic’s life, AMSTEL LIGHT obviously runs circles around O’DOUL’S. And that makes it okay.

“Faint praise,” said my mum. “You’d better hope our friends don’t read your review.”

“Or what?”

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GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS (2011)—Good grapes, good vino

My Fellow Inebriates,

The only item you’re less likely to find in our fridge than white wine is Canadian white wine. Regardless of nationality, any white wine wanting entrée into LBHQ has to get past my parents’ childhood-instilled preconceptions. My mum’s first glass of white wine, homemade and therefore Canadian by definition, came courtesy of a neighbor who brought a jug of weirdly viscous who-knows-what varietal over to condole with her on her dad’s burial that day. The neighbor proceeded to fill and refill my then-16-year-old mum’s glass with it until she threw up.

Oddly though, my dad is more resistant to white wine than my mum. Perhaps this is because my mum is more firmly on the path to full-on alcoholism; perhaps it’s because the Fubar-type pub crawlers of my dad’s youth would have kicked his ass for ordering white wine—who knows? Personally, I don’t care for white wine’s typically lower alcohol content, but I’ll still get on board for it if I hear the corkscrew operating.

Canadian wine’s second hurdle as far as my parents are concerned is the notion they harbor, misinformed in the face of simple chronology, that Canadian vines are too young to produce good grapes. Now, this may have been true in my parents’ mosh-pit days, but OMG, 20 years have passed since either of them saw Skinny Puppy perform, and Canadian vineyards have spent those 20 years maturing very nicely, nudging Canadian wine from risible to…admirable.

This is even more true of Canadian whites than reds, although global warming may assist the latter over the next few decades. For now a $15 wine-shop gamble is best placed on a white, and with this in mind we chose GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS (2011). The oldest winery in the South Okanagan Valley, Gehringer Brothers put itself on the map with Rieslings and ice wines but has escaped being pigeon-holed as a producer of strictly sweet German-style wines, earning rafts of awards for its 22-wine line-up. The PINOT AUXERROIS certainly proves the Brothers can do off-dry very well indeed.

Pale and straw-colored with shy citrus and granny smith hints, GEHRINGER BROTHERS PINOT AUXERROIS is appealing from the get-go. It glances the palate with bracing crispness and astringency—delicious while being a massive departure from the mouth-filling, long-finishing ZINCK PINOT BLANC we enjoyed on Mother’s Day (and suffering just the tiniest bit by comparison). The body is light, the fruit chiming with delicate high notes, the finish lightly sweet. And at 12.5% alcohol the entire bottle can be pounded with minimal consequence (so I argued to my mum without success).

GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS has obviously been crafted with great skill and attention. More than a simple summer sipper, it offers intriguing flavor and structure with good acid balance. It was a delightful experiment for LBHQ, but I don’t anticipate a repeat purchase after my dad gets back from his naked golf week, especially if he has any cheap Scotch left over, in which case this entire review will escape my two brain cells, never to be remembered except perhaps if someone searches for “Skinny Puppy.”

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.