Category Archives: alcohol hysteria

Yesterday I Binge Drank

It’s been a rough summer. Following a dreadful winter, the worst I can recall, I was hoping for a hot, beautiful summer this year, but it never arrived. Instead, we got rain, unseasonably cool temperatures and clouds, clouds, clouds.

And then came Labour Day. Nature being as perverse as it is, the weather since the unofficial start of fall has been more summery and beautiful than was any of the time in July and August. So yesterday, rather than working as I should have been, my wife and I decided to make a lazy Sunday out of a warm and sunny day, beginning around mid-afternoon.

I went out and bought some cheese, olives, crackers and other assorted victuals and then gathered together what we would need to enjoy our snacking repast on our condo building’s common outdoor area. We then repaired to the third floor with our food and some wine, all of which we enjoyed in the sun until a swarm of wasps eventually chased us back upstairs.

We continued our idyll on our balcony, switching from wine to gin and tonics, of which I had two over the course of an hour and a half or so. I then pulled together some more food, since hunger had once more reared its head following the sunset, and opened a beer as my final drink of the night.

Around 9:00 or so, I switched to carbonated water, having tallied a drink total of two and a bit glasses of wine, two G&Ts and one beer over the course of about six hours. Which meant that, according to most of the ‘expert’ definitions bandied about in the media these days, I had been binge drinking.

Oh, what an exceedingly pleasant “binge” it was…


Filed under alcohol hysteria

The Food Babe Thought She Could Spread Paranoia Among Beer Drinkers. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

There’s this pile of bullshit being spread around the Internet today courtesy of a presumed charlatan called the Food Babe. It involves ingredients in beer. Please don’t read her demented ramblings. Instead, read this and this.

That is all.


Filed under alcohol hysteria, beer & the web, beer blogs

Advice for St. Patrick’s Day

Okay, so evidently St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a day this year; it’s a whole friggin’ weekend. Which means that the madness and mayhem will commence tomorrow.

While I’ll personally be laying low this year, as I do around March 17 every year, many others will be running riot over the next four days, drinking beer and whiskey that they seldom if ever otherwise drink, calling anything that’s green “Irish,” including bog-standard lager dyed with food colouring, and generally using the feast day of an Irish saint as an excuse to get plastered. Which is fine.

But if you’re going to “do” St. Patrick’s Day, at least do it right! Which means paying at least a bit of attention to the following:

1) If you must shorten the name, repeat after me, St. Paddy’s Day. Not St. Patty’s Day or plain Patty’s Day. “St. Paddy’s Day.”

2) There are many more Irish whiskeys out there than just Jameson. Try one or two. You might just find yourself drinking Irish whiskey more than just once a year.

3) What I said above about whiskey? It applies equally to Irish stout.

4) If you must do shots — and on a day that is sure to be filled with drinking, I would counsel strongly against them —  limit yourself to just one or two. Five or six or more whiskey shots is a sure-fire route to drunkenness and eventual spewing.

5) Wear green, wear funny badges, wear silly hats if you wish, but accept that you are not, in fact, Irish. Not for a day or for a minute. (Unless, of course, you really are Irish.)

6) A cocktail made with crème de menthe is not by definition Irish. Neither is one made with Midori.

7) Imperial stout is not a beer built for all-day drinking.

8) The green-dye-in-lager thing? It shouldn’t need saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Just. Don’t.

9) Lining up to get into a bar is stupid. If there is a line-up, go somewhere else for a drink or two and return later to see if the line-up has dissipated. If it has not, just accept that it was never meant to be.. (The sole exception to this rule is when the line-up is covered, heated and licensed.)

10) That “Kiss me, I’m Irish” shirt? Leave it at home.


Filed under alcohol hysteria, beer & health, drinking quality, holiday beer rules, pubs

Shorts in Knots Over Glassware

If you’re read my previous post, the one about not stealing beer glasses, then likely you’ll also know that Sam Calagione and Ken Grossman and a few others have come up with a new glass designed, they say, for the drinking of IPA. And certain people, including my good friend Mr. Lew Bryson, have reacted rather badly to it.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Lew railed on his Facebook page, “More prescriptive bullshit about how we’re supposed to drink our beer.” That little post garnered, at last count, 76 “likes” and 83 comments in two days, the majority of which were in agreement. One commenter even went so far as to maintain that “(s)tuff like this is ruining the experience of enjoying the beer itself, I believe.”

Me, I’m of two minds. As anyone who regularly or even occasionally reads these missives will know, I’m a great proponent of glassware, but more on the side of aesthetics than function. I hate the “shaker” pint glass because I think it’s ugly and presents the beer poorly – any beer, from IPA to Trappist ale to mass-produced lager. I like the glasses I keep sequestered in a dedicated cabinet because they look good and thus enhance my beer-drinking – or cocktail sipping or wine supping or spirits enjoying – experience. In my occasional role as hospitality industry consultant, I advise against the shaker because I feel its use is a false economy and ultimately detrimental to beer sales.

Whether the shaker makes the beer inside taste inferior to, say, a chalice or a nonic pint or Lew’s favourite Willi Becher, I do not know. I should probably do some research into it, but how does one objectively analyze flavour out of glassware without at least laying one’s hand upon the glass and so influencing one’s perception in some small fashion?

(For the record, while I have not yet held the glass in question in my hand, my initial impression from the photos I have seen – like this one – is that it does not rate terribly high on the aesthetic scale. Better than the Boston Beer glass, for sure, but way below many other glasses, including pretty much every one currently residing in my cabinet.

However, the point is that its existence is harmless. No one is forcing anyone to drink out of it, and I seriously doubt that either Sam or Ken would refuse you a 60 Minute or Torpedo should you not have one handy. They are part of a trend I’ve been noting for some time, namely the fetishizing of beer drinking, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Does anyone need a fancy, flip-knife-style bottle opener when an ordinary church key or, in a pinch, a lighter or rolled up magazine will do the job? No. Do I need a cabinet filled with glassware, roughly two-thirds of which is devoted to beer? Definitely not. Should you feel bad because you want to serve IPA but only own pilsner and weissbier glasses? In heaven’s name, no!

Wine has been fetishized for years now – hands up everyone who owns a rabbit or rabbit-style corkscrew! – and the cocktail geeks are doing their best with that segment of drinks. And if you’re a whisky drinker, someone is trying to sell you rocks to put in your drink, for crying out loud!

Beer is no different, so enjoy it or not, as you wish. Buy the new IPA glass or ignore it, but don’t get bent so out of shape about it. It’s just a glass, not a massive conspiracy to take the joy out of beer drinking.


Filed under alcohol hysteria, beer & the web, beer glassware, beer industry

The Quite Bearable Lightness of Boozing

As I sipped last night on a dram of 46.1% alcohol Mackmyra First Edition Whisky, I mused on the nature of alcoholic strength and the unlikely conflict and confrontation it has caused of late. My thoughts left me wondering why so many members of a purportedly democratic group like drink aficionados – beer drinkers who can appreciate a powerfully hoppy IPA and an equally malt-driven Trappist ale, whisky fans who can take equal pleasure from a pot-distilled Irish whiskey and an aggressively peaty Islay malt – insist on seeing things in such stark shades of black and white.

Simply, in the situation I described yesterday or the scorcher that this afternoon is shaping up to be, a light ale or lager is precisely what fits the bill. Last night, with a bit of cheese at its side, the uncut beauty of the Mackmyra was an ideal tipple. Later tonight, on my condo balcony, it might be better a 10% alcohol double IPA or vanilla-soaked single barrel bourbon. Tomorrow, when I meet up with friends after work, I might reach for a chilled glass of 17% alcohol Lilley Blanc, or a bracingly dry Tanqueray martini.

Sometimes, lighter is better, and it needn’t be absolutely below a certain percentage of alcohol to suit. (Said he avoiding the use of the dreaded “s-word.”) Sometimes, big and beefy and boozy is better. Three pints of 6% alcohol pale ale might leave me feeling only mildly buzzed, while sending a lighter-weight, over-stressed soul over the edge. It depends on how I’m feeling, and the time of day, and the weather, and what I might be eating, and where and with whom I’m supping, and all the other factors that relate to the enjoyment of alcohol and make brand- or even booze-loyalty such a silly concept.

It’s all good, folks, unless, of course, it’s not.

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Filed under alcohol hysteria, social commentary, whisky/whiskey

The Difficulty of Definitions

Some want to define “session beer” as 4.5% alcohol or less. Others say that’s too high and it should be 4% alcohol or less. Yet others suggest that 5.5% is okay.

Me, I say that everything is relative.

I’ve written before that a “session beer” is, or at least should be, a beer you can drink over the course of a “session,’ that being a specific amount of time enjoyed with friends or family or strangers at a bar or pub or cafe. I’ve written about drinking strong beers and never getting drunk in Belgium, because I’ve been sipping at leisure, often with food, and also about “sessions” with low alcohol best bitters in the United Kingdom. Both, I think, are relevant.

But this post at Boak & Bailey reminded me of another occasion when “session” had a very different meaning, which led me to subsequently recall a separate and also very different instance with a most dissimilar result. These are the stories.

I flew into New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001. Yes, THAT September 11. Mine was one of the last planes to land at LaGuardia. I watched from the Long Island Expressway as the second tower fell. I eventually made my way to my hotel near Times Square, deposited my things and went out to drink. Heavily.

Although beer and whiskey were like water to me that night, my sobriety persisted no matter what I drank. It was the shock, you see, and like pretty much everyone I met that night, no matter how much we tried, drinking would not let us forget. A 12% Imperial stout would have been a “session beer” that night.

Forward to March, 2009, in Seattle. I was in town with my wife, Maggie, to judge at Brouwer’s Cafe’s 7th annual Hard Liver Barley Wine Festival. My wife who, a couple of month earlier, had nearly been killed (and was left injured) in an accident, and who subsequently had undergone unrelated surgery. I had filled many roles during the early weeks of that year – caregiver, provider, counsel – and I was stressed out to the max.

We sipped a bunch of barley wines, not an intemperate amount, and declared winners, adjourning after to socialize over a couple of beers. And I got drunk. Not just because of the alcohol, which really wasn’t that much, but because I was wound up tight as the proverbial drum.

Those are extreme instances, I admit, but ones nonetheless that I see as representative of the extremes of daily life. Sometimes we will be free and easy and the 6.1% alcohol IPA will flow down our throats to little effect, and at other times two pints of 4% bitter will have us feeling uncomfortably buzzed thanks to the stress of the week.

Session Beer: It’s not so easily defined.


Filed under alcohol hysteria, beer & the web, beer blogs, session beer

Things REALLY Unsuitable for St. Patrick’s Day

I thought I had hit on the high points of St. Patrick’s Day unsuitability with this post. Turns out I wasn’t even close! Here are a few highlights from the current issue of Las Vegas magazine, all being promoted for St. Paddy’s:

– A place called Nine Fine Irishmen is offering free admission to their event to anyone wearing a kilt.

– The Rockhouse at the Imperial palace is featuring green frozen piña coladas!

– $5 Jäger bombs at the PBR Rock bar. Yep, nothing quite so Irish as Jägermeister.

– The Red Shamrock — yes, Red Shamrock — at Tabú Ultra Lounge, which is Jameson, amaretto, simply syrup and cranberry juice.

– But the best of the lot is a St. Patrick’s Day feature at Rice & Company in the Luxor, which will offer a green sushi roll called the Lucky roll. Green…Irish…sushi. Yum.



Filed under alcohol hysteria, social commentary

Things Unsuitable for St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is a week Saturday. I know this because as in years past, but with a ferociousness never before seen, drinks companies from all over are filling my inbox with press releases explaining why their beer/booze/cocktail is what everyone should drink on St. Patrick’s Day. (Thus far, at least, I’ve not received any such missive from a winery, but there’s still a week to go, I guess. Anything is possible.)

Now, I’m not a big St. Patrick’s Day fan, being someone who: a) fails to see the fun inherent in getting falling down drunk; and b) drinks because I like it and/or am enjoying myself with friends, rather than it being an arbitrary day on which a massive marketing machine tells me I must find some place Irish-looking and drink stout and Irish whiskey — or worse, lager adulterated with green food dye! — until I’m legless. Call me a killjoy in you must.

But I’m really not out to ruin anyone else’s fun, just to suggest that at very least the spirit of the day should as much as possible be observed. And that does not mean imbibing the following:

1) Heineken tapped from a home-dispense system. Yes, it’s true, I have actually received a press release explaining that THE thing to drink on St. Patrick’s Day is the famous Dutch beer poured from the ridiculous Krupps home mini-keg tapping device that works only with Heineken mini-kegs. Why someone would buy one of these things in the first place remains a mystery to me, but why someone would do so for an Irish celebration in beyond understanding.

2) Vodka. Multiple companies have sent me missives explaining why their vodka cocktail is THE one to drink this St. Patrick’s Day, but my favourite is the one which suggests making something called the Irish Gold Cocktail, which involves flavouring a sugar syrup with bay leaves and then blending it with vodka and sparkling wine. I suppose the pale green sheen is what’s supposed to make it “Irish.”

3) A Grasshopper. Dale DeGroff calls the Grasshopper a suitable after-dinner drink, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. But for sipping daintily while others around you are quaffing pints of stout? Not so much.

4) A Mojito. I’ve read the release three times now and I still don’t understand how they can possibly make the connection between St. Patrick’s Day, leprechauns and a Mojito, but they do.



Filed under alcohol hysteria, social commentary

Yet Another Insightful Study

As reported in The Guardian:

Parenting style is one of the strongest influences on how much alcohol a child will drink as a teenager and young adult, new research has revealed.

For this they needed a study?


Filed under alcohol hysteria, beer & health

Our Latest Nominee for Britain’s Most Idiotic Bartender

Take a look at this picture. Two delightful looking ladies, yes? Hardly the types to engage in drunken rowdiness, I would think.

So why do you suppose they were refused a drink when they recently visited a London pub called The Britannia?

The answer: They were with four children and the bartender thought it would be “inappropriate” for them to consume alcohol in front of the kids.

Greater idiocy I have not encountered for some time. The full story is over here.

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Filed under alcohol hysteria