25 January 2010

Drunken Days of Yore

A Night on Barrel Wash

This is yet another bad idea that turned into a horrible experience. Any story that involves homemade liquor and thirsty twenty-something men with a will to drink anything is never going to end well. In retrospect, this one is fairly amusing simply for the sheer ignorance of the participants - Phlegm, Mad Dog Johnny, Myself and an acquaintance named Marty. while you will undoubtedly laugh at our foolish antics, I hope this serves as a warning to any self-respecting boozer who is looking for a super-cheap drunk.

On a spring afternoon in my early twenties, I received a call from Phlegm, who's parents own a nursery north of Cobourg, Ontario. The nursery had contracts with many surrounding municipalities to provide flower arrangements for their downtown areas. Many of these flower arrangements were created in a half-barrel, within which the flower arrangements were planted. The nursery usually obtained the barrels from a distillery that had used them to age whiskey and other spirits. When Phlegm called, the delivery truck that had brought the barrels had just left.

"Dude, you'll never guess what I got brewing!"

"What?" I asked.

"The barrels for our flower arrangements were just delivered from the distillery and they just reek of booze. Are you up for some barrel wash?"

It was back in public school when I first heard of barrel wash (or "swish"). For those of you who don't know, barrel wash is a form of cheap homemade liquor that is made by filling a freshly used whiskey barrel with water, recorking it and lying it on its side in the sun. Every day, one rotates the barrel a quarter turn. Usually within two weeks or so, the alcohol that has been absorbed in the wood of the barrel leeches into the water, and you have a barrel of watered-down whiskey to drink. Being a opportunistic drunkard, Phlegm had apparently taken a whiskey barrel and started the process.

"In two weeks, we'll have some piss-up," he promised. I should have taken it as a warning.

Approximately two weeks later, Phlegm called to say the wash was finished and ready to drink. I rounded up Mad Dog Johnny and Marty and headed up to the nursery, which was situated in a valley in the middle of prime farmland. Within the valley was a small creek, which Phlegm's family had dammed up to create a pond. The pond then served as a scummy, stagnant frog sanctuary which could then be used in an emergency to water the greenhouses in the event the wells ran down. The valley area around this pond was what Phlegm referred to as "The Pit" and was a prime location for bonfires, keg parties and other drunken tomfoolery regularly undertaken in our irresponsible youth.

We arrived in the late afternoon and pitched tents in The Pit. Phlegm used his tractor to bring down the barrel of wash while we gathered wood for the fire. As is got dusk, the fire was set and the barrel was tapped. We poured out the liquid in a juice jug and filled our glasses. The finished product just tasted like whiskey and water. Not harsh at all. We continued drinking as the night wore on, until Mad Dog Johnny suddenly spit his drink into the grass.

"There's a chunk of something in this booze!" he exclaimed.

We filled a glass from the barrel and checked it with a flashlight. Even in our drunkenness we could see that there were definitely black chunks in the liquid. Thoroughly grossed out, we thought the party was over until one of us realized it was char from the inside of the barrel. Apparently, the years of soaking in harsh alcohol, slight drying after being emptied followed by the water Phlegm added caused some of the char to come loose from the inside of the barrel and start floating on the liquid's surface. Relieved, we continued to drink thinking a little charred wood would never hurt anyone.

After a while, the taste of the swill was getting tiresome. Having a drunken brainstorm, Phlegm went up to the house and came back with a can of peach concentrate. He poured some of the concentrate in the jug and mixed it with the hooch. It was kinda gross, but cut away the tiresome taste of the watery whiskey. We continued drinking around the fire until we were all in a very drunken state. At some point, Marty went to his tent to pass out, Johnny was crashed on the ground someplace and Phlegm and I were finishing a final drink. I recall falling backwards off the log I was sitting on, and being unable to sit back on it. I crawled to my tent, and after several minutes of drunkenly trying to open the fly, finally opened it and crawled inside.

I somehow managed to close the fly and get inside my sleeping bag. I lay there maybe 3 minutes before I suddenly got the urge to vomit. However, being in the dark of my tent and in a very inebriated state, I couldn't work the zipper to get out. I was unable to get out, and proceeded to throw up my last drink on the floor of my tent. My last conscious memory was trying to position myself as far from the mess as possible as I (in the words of Mike Tyson) "disappeared into Bolivia."

I awoke to a world of pain. My head ached and my stomach felt like it had been kicked by a mule. Wondering what had roused me from the sweet embrace of unconsciousness, I heard Mad Dog Johnny slapping on my tent.

"Hey," he asked. "Is that pond water safe to drink?"

I vaguely recalled the scum-covered swampy pond that was used as an emergency resevoir for the greenhouses. "I don't think so, man."

"GODDAMN IT!"

"What?" I asked.

"I already drank it." he replied.

I drifted off for a while longer until I felt well enough to wander up to the house to wash my face and get some water and a paper towel with some vinegar. I washed the floor of my tent with the vinegar and took my tent down. Marty and Johnny had taken their tent down, and Johnny was lying on the grass looking pretty grim.

"What's wrong with him?" asked Phlegm.

"He drank the pond water," I replied as everyone but Johnny broke into fits of laughter.

"FUCK OFF!" cursed Johnny, as Phlegm pondered the possible bacterial and parasitic infections one could suffer as a result from drinking from a stagnant frog pond.

As we loaded our sorry asses into my old Malibu for the ride home, Johnny climbed into the back seat and lay down. Marty and I decided that a greasy burger from Harvey's might help with the hangover. We asked Johnny if he would like anything, to which we heard only mumbled curses as replies. We finished eating and headed down the highway, all the while listening to Johnny mumbling and cursing to himself. In fact, I don't think he stopped cursing until I dropped him off.

"I am pissed off and in a vile mood," he stated as he got out. "I'm going to go lay down. I feel like shit. GODDAMN IT!!"

I don't believe Johnny got too sick from drinking the pond water, but it wouldn't be something I would want to risk. More telling is the fact he willingly chose a filthy home for frogs to drink from, rather than the remains of the barrel of wash he willingly guzzled the night before. Seeing how Johnny will willingly chug Cisco, there would seem to be some kind of moral lesson in that somewhere.

20 January 2010

Aventinus Eisbock

On occasion, we review a product that is so utterly horrific that it literally defies description. Aventinus Eisbock is a prime example of this. It is brewed by Schneider and Sohn, who also make the very good Schneider Weiss which I am quite fond of. However, this one deserves an epic fail of the brewer's art.

While I cannot remember the specifics of the experience, the beer was very dark and gave of a hideous scent. The flavour was so terrible that I actually forgot to take notes on how bad it was. However, I did manage to write down the following reactions to the experience of actually imbibing this devil's brew:

"This smells really, really bad. I pray for my tastebuds." - Michelle

"Fucking terrible!" - Me

"Ahhhhh... I hate you!" - Brian

Brian literally took one sip, cursed me and grabbed all three glasses to dispose of them in the toilet. As you can see from the spillage, he wasted no time in doing so. What an utterly godawful example of German brewing.

Aventinus Eisbock - Final Score:
Michelle -1
Myself - 1
Brian - 0

11 January 2010

BrewDog Punk IPA

On the heels of the Drink of the Month, we have another product from Scotland. However, unlike the fine whiskey bonnie Scotland is famous for, this beverage is the bottled equivalent of a '77 Sex Pistols concert - a chaotic bloody mess. Perhaps this is where the "Punk IPA" name was inspired from. Brewed by BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Scotland, this beer has an abv of 6%.

I originally noticed this one when picking up beers for New Years Eve review. As I had already picked up several products for review, I left this one for another day. Spotting it again at the Ajax LCBO, I grabbed it along with several bottles of weissen for a piss-up at Brian's. Looking over the bottle, the pseudo-punk label describes this "post moderm classic pale ale" as thus:

This is not a lowest common denominator beer.

This is an aggressive beer.

We don't care if you don't like it.

We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness.

It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft brewed beer.

You probably don't even care that this rebellious little beer contains no preservatives or additives and uses only the finest fresh natural ingrediants.

Just go back to drinking your mass marketed, bland, cheaply made watered down lager and close the door behind you.

BrewDog: Beer for Punks

BrewDog is about breaking rules, taking risks, upsetting trends and unsettling institutions but first and foremost, great tasting beer.

I have to say without doubt, that was the most pretentious description of a product I have ever read. This beer practically begs you to hate it before you even crack it open. At this point, Brian and I had extreme reservations of what was in store for us. In my experience, good products speak for themselves. By contrast, companies that proclaim their products as "too good for you" are generally trying to push sub-standard tripe on the snooty, know-nothing crowd.

We cracked it open and poured out the samples. Immediately, the room was permeated by the pungent scent of hops which in reality was not at all unexpected for an IPA. The beer was clear, sans sea monkeys and formed a nice head. Michelle raised her sample to her nose and exclaimed "Oh god!" at the scent coming off the brew. We tipped the glasses back and my palate was immediately attacked by the extreme bitter taste. The flavour reminded me of a decayed swamp, and the bitterness continued down the throat and the gnarly aftertaste seemed to hang around like a herpes infection. Michelle described the flavour "like sucking on a tree" before declaring she couldn't finish her sample. Brian also gave a thumbs down as he remarked it was like "beer flavoured Halls." Truly a vile and undrinkable product.

BrewDog Punk IPA Final Score:
Michelle - 4
Myself - 4
Brian - 3

06 January 2010

Drunken Days of Yore

The OPSEU Incident

As promised, I have decided to share some drunken stories from my past with you. I hope you find these as funny as I did. The first one I'd like to share takes place somewhere around 1993-1994 in a 4 star hotel at at a party being hosted by a union that I did not, nor did I ever belong to. I like to refer to this drunken adventure as The OPSEU Incident. Keep in mind that some of the names and locations may be changed to avoid the possibility of lawsuits and/or criminal prosecution for the participants in this tale. The facts of what happened however, remain 100% accurate as I remember them occuring.

I received a call one afternoon by an old friend we shall to refer to as Phlegm. Phlegm and I had been friends since Grade 2, and we shared a common bond in that we liked to drink. A lot. The conversation went down like this:

"Hey! Wanna go to a party tonight?"

"Sure. Where's it happening?"

"Some hotel in Toronto. Its some kind of OPSEU party. Redhead says there will be free booze."

Redhead, a member of OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) was a fortyish single mother of a couple girls Phlegm was fairly tight with. They all lived together in what I assumed was some kind of party house. I had drank there a couple of times in the past, but really did not know Redhead or her daughters very well at all. Luckily, they really didn't know me either, or they wouldn't be offering me free liquor.

As it turned out, Redhead worked with a fourtyish friend we shall call MILF. MILF had met a co-acquaintance of Phlegm and I named D at a party at Redhead's. As it turned out, MILF had decided she wanted a piece of the 20-something D, and decided an overnight party hosted by her union was the perfect cover to get away from her husband for the night. Seeing how D would be "tied up" so to speak, Phlegm requested to bring me along so he'd have someone to drink with. Redhead agreed with his logic, and 60 minutes later we were on our way.

It turned out that the party was being held at The Prince Hotel in Toronto. Redhead had advised us that she had access to a penthouse suite for the night, and we should come directly up once we arrived. As we entered the lavish suite, MILF pounced on D, handcuffed his hands behind his back and pushed him onto one of the beds. Phlegm, Redhead and I watched amused as MILF did her best to tease D into submission before leading him off to one of the other rooms. Redhead poured out some rum and cokes and Phlegm and I settled into a night of drinking at OPSEU's expense.

To be honest, I am not sure if it was the union or the taxpayer who was footing the bill for this event, but with a sweet room and free booze, I was determined to make the best of it. Redhead explained to us that we were to provide a specific union local number in the event we were questioned by anyone during the night. As it turned out, the first part of the evening was rather uneventful. We were joined by several of Redhead's friends who all seemed pretty cool, but it quickly became apparent that they were more into "social drinking" as opposed to the "power drinking" Phlegm and I were kicking into 3rd gear. To Phlegm and I, these people were total lightweights. Most of them were married, and aside from MILF, they weren't exactly the kind of women either of us were interested in hooking up with. At one point, a very large woman we shall call Grossberger showed up for a drink. As she left the suite, Phlegm grabbed my attention.

"Watch out, man. That Grossberger is a mattress. She only comes to these things to get drunk and hook up with any guy that will have her."

Great. A morbidly obese cougar on the prowl. Just one more factor to throw into a night that was quickly about to become an unpredictable chaotic mess.

At this point, I am not sure if it was general rowdiness, wonton drunkeness or Phlegm threatening to turn on some pay-per-view porn to "liven this party up", but as I was looking for another drink, Redhead told me they were out of booze.

"It is in the other room [in the suite], and people are sleeping in there."

Even through in my drunken stupor, I knew this to be a lie. The bottle we were drinking out of was at least a quarter full last time I filled my glass, and I did not see it nor Redhead nor anyone else wander out of this room since I poured from it. To a half-drunken twenty something on a mission to oblivion, cutting him off was probably the worst thing she could have done.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE ARE OUT OF BOOZE?!?"

"We're out of booze?" asked Phlegm.

"It is in the other room," repeated one of Redhead's friends. "People are sleeping in there."

"WELL GO GET IT! WHY THE HELL WOULD SOMEONE TAKE THE BOOZE IN THE ROOM WITH THEM WHEN THEY ARE GOING TO BED??? THEY DESERVE TO BE WOKEN UP FOR DOING SOMETHING SO STUPID!" I retorted in utter disbelief.

Just as the words were coming out of my mouth, a couple we were drinking with when we first got there came in the room. As they listened to my outburst, they smiled and explained the "real party" was downstairs in the Conference Room.

"They have $1 beers and $2 drinks," said the husband, unbeknownst that Phlegm and I were over 3/4 of the way from "pleasant to be around" to "shitfaced assholes."

While Redhead and her other friends rolled their eyes, Phlegm and I high-fived and made a beeline for the elevator. We located a bank machine and headed for the Conference Room. I walked up to the bar in the conference room and slapped down a $20.

"Give me a tray of rum and cokes," I demanded.

As Phlegm and I proceeded to start downing the rum and cokes like shooters, a forty-something woman came up to us and introduced herself.

"Hi!" said UnionChick. "I was wondering if you would like to volunteer for..."

"I DON'T GOT TIME FOR THAT SHIT!" I sneered at her and turned back to my drink.

Apparently, UnionChick did not like my response.

"DO YOU THINK I HAVE TIME FOR THIS?" she exclaimed. "I HAVE A HUSBAND, THREE KIDS, HELP RUN THIS UNION AND STILL MANAGE TO FIND TIME TO VOLUNTEER! WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T HAVE TIME??? IF I HAVE TIME TO DO IT, YOU HAVE TIME TO DO IT!"

Apparently, UnionChick was some kind of higher-up in OPSEU, and she thought I was some typical lowlife union member that was willising-out on what she considered to be my duty. Both knowing I'd never see her again and wanting to get her off my back, I decided to take a different approach.

"I'm sorry. Of course I can help out. He will too," I replied, pointing at Phlegm and having absolutely no clue what we were volunteering for.

This seemed to win over UnionChick, who then produced a clipboard and asked me my name. After giving her something crafty I made up off the top of my head, she paused.

"And what is your local, Sweetie?" she inquired.

I was lost. The union local was something I was supposed to remember for exactly an event such as this, and I had dropped the ball. Seriously though, why the hell would I have expected anyone to ask something so absurd at a literal feeding trough of cheap liquor? Feeling the chance of being busted increasing by the second, I desperately tried overcoming my drunken state and to employ the Jedi Mind Trick.

"Local number? Damn, I can never rember this," I lauged nervously as I turned to Phlegm. "What the hell is our local number again?"

To this day, I am not sure what Phlegm said to her. However, whatever local number he gave along with whatever fake name he made up for himself seemed to satisfy UnionChick for the moment. She walked off to talk to some other people who then began to eye us suspiciously. Deciding that sticking around the Conference Room would likely result in getting us booted out of the hotel and into the cold Toronto night, we grabbed the tray of drinks and headed back to the room.

At this point, everything starts to get really hazy. However, I do remember that we never mentioned UnionChick to Redhead. We started hitting the drinks hard and the last thing I remember was Phlegm grabbing the remote for the TV and explaining he was going to find some pay-per-view porn.

"Fuck it," he said. "It's not like I am paying for it."

The next thing I knew I was in a world of pain. For me, rum and cokes always taste so good going down, but the hangover is always deadly. My head was throbbing and my guts felt like they were in a blender. I quickly realized I was laying in the middle of the Penthouse floor. As I sat up to get my bearings, my stomach lurched and my head started pounding harder. I found my way to an empty bed and lay down, hoping to shake the wave of vicious nausea. A short time later, Phlegm found me and sat on a chair laughing.

"Dude, that was some piss-up!" he laughed. "Didn't you pass out on the floor?"

I grunted a reply and shut my eyes. When I opened them, Redhead had joined Phlegm and actually looked amused, considering our antics the night before.

"We have to get going soon," she simply stated.

As Phlegm explained we had to wait for D, Grossberger waddled in the room. She listened for a minute, and as Phlegm finished she came over and sat on the bed beside me. As I wondered what the hell her deal was, she suddenly straddled me, leaned down and whispered some kind of sexual suggestion. I can only guess that the physical state I was in at the time, coupled with the look of abject horror on my face at the thought of copulating with this beast were all it took to make her decide to get off me. As she did, my stomach did one final lurch and I ran for the bathroom to vomit.

After I finished dry-heaving what little remained in my guts, I rejoined Phlegm and Redhead. Grossberger was thankfully gone. A few minutes later, D showed up all smiles. Phlegm and I quickly said our goodbyes, grabbed D and headed out the door. Once in the car, we busted out laughing as we recounted the antics of the previous night, and filled D in with the story of UnionChick. D had obviously had a great time with MILF and (Grossberger aside) we all of us considered it a good time all around.

A few months later, I received a call from Phlegm. "Hey man! Remember that OPSEU party we crashed? Well it looks like they are having another one. MILF wants to hook up with D again, so what do you say? Are you interested in a repeat appearance?"

A repeat appearance at another free booze event? Who the hell does he think he is talking to? "Of course I am interested!" I replied.

"Cool. Let me go talk to Redhead."

He put the phone down and I could hear him speaking to someone. I couldn't make out what he said, but I heard the reply as plain as day:

"WHO?!? OH, NO! NOT HIM! NOT HIM!"

I was literally in hysterics when Phlegm returned with the news. He actually sounded hurt when he repeated what she said. I told him not to worry about it. After all, I was still laughing when I hung the phone up. There's nothing quite like leaving a lasting first impression.

02 January 2010

Drink of the Month

Canadian winters bring with them a lot of weather I could personally do without. Snow, sleet, freezing rain and sub-zero temperatures colder than ice planet Hoth are some of the afflictions suffer living in the Great White North. As such, when forced to endure such weather, nothing warms the blood like our first Drink of the Month - a good strong glass of single-malt Scotch whiskey.

As I am sure many of you are aware, I am a big fan of single malt Scotch. Some of my personal favourites include Talisker, Aberlour, Laphroaig and Cragganmore, but you really can't go wrong with any of the high-end malts. I personally drink mine neat with a splash of water to bring out the flavour. It is the perfect accompaniment to a fine Cuban cigar in front of the fire on a cold winter night.

01 January 2010

Happy New Year!!!

First of all, I'd like to wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2010! We have a whole new decade of drinking to jump into, and I am hoping you all make the best of it! My final bender of 2009 proved to be quite blog-worthy. Aside from drinkig copious amounts of Guinness and Cordon Negro, we sampled some truly horrific ale and introduced yet another unsuspecting drunkard to the horrors of streetwine!

Hop Nouveau 2009 Wet Hopped Ale is brewed by Trafalgar Brewing Company in Oakville, Ontario. The ale is the only one brewed in Ontario with hops that are picked the same day as the beer is brewed (hence the "wet hopped" moniker). Suspiciously, the brewery's website does not mention this beer which I suspect may be due to reasons that became readily apparent after cracking it open. The beer poured a clear golden without any sea monkeys, and was very foamy. Actually, "very foamy" may be a gross understatement. This beer was nearly all foam, and the scent of it was very overpowering. As I passed out samples to Michelle, Brian, Roxanne and Dave, Roxanne remarked it smelled like "foam bodywash". We each sampled it and I agreed with Roxanne's assessment that this beer was very soapy tasting, almost as though they didn't rinse the bottles out properly while cleaning them. Brian commented that it tasted something like ginger beer, while Michelle merely stated "this is bad." Dave was having a difficult time with his sample and actually proclaimed that "this is the worst beer I have ever tasted!" He then mixed it with some Heineken and remarked that only mildly improved the flavour.

Hop Nouveau 2009 Wet Hopped Ale - Final Score
Roxanne - 2/10
Brian - 3/10
Michelle - 2/10
Dave - 2/10
Myself - 2/10

Earlier in the evening when I was coming home from work, Brian messaged me and requested to bring some Cisco. While at first I laughed at the absurdity of such a request (especially from him), he explained that Roxanne's boyfriend Dave apparently wanted to try some. Having one bottle of Cisco Strawberry behind the bar for an occasion such as this, I happily complied. After the beer tasting, we headed down the basement and I presented Dave with this hideous bottled demon. Roxanne and Michelle (both of whom I suspect had a good lot of wine in them) stated that they were also willing to try it. Dave cracked open the bottle, ignored the noxious chemical odor and poured out some samples.

As you can see, he poured a mammoth portion for himself and passed out samples. Michelle and Roxanne took one taste of it, and both exclaimed that it was horrific. Despite the reaction from the women, Dave drank his down like a soldier and commented that the stuff was vile. Brian, always the gracious host, produced a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 Orange Jubilee and gave Dave a taste of it as well. Next thing I knew, Brain pulled out the pride of his collection, the almighty Thunderbird!

Now as regular readers of this blog know, my impression of the "taste" of T-Bird is much like the same feeling you get when you stick a 9 volt battery on your tongue. In fact, I think the whole experience of drinking this swill must be something like a mild version of getting tased. Despite my warnings, Dave insisted he wanted to try it. Brian poured out a shot and Dave knocked this back as well. Unfortunately, the pre-Thunderbird smile in the picture above quickly faded into the typical streetwine despair these chemical concoctions are famous for. You can almost feel the poor guy's despair in the picture below.

What a way to ring in the new decade. I tried to get Dave to go whole-hog and knock back a shot of Wild Irish Rose, but he had enough at this point. I can't say I blame him.

In other news, I have some new things planned for Liquor Pig in 2010. This will include reviews on bars in addition to the libations they sell, a "Drink of the Month" and drunken adventures from my liquor-soaked youth. Of course, reader feedback is encouraged and always welcome. Again, here's wishing you all a fantastic 2010 and beyond!