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.