The Monday Hangover: Nov 12-13

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Following last weekend’s trip to Cal-ee-for-nee-ah, it was nice to get back into the weekly routine of cocktail night on Friday. There were Rule 37 fufillments, a whiskey sour made with an overripe lemon (yargh… not recommended) and a cracking of a new bomber, imported from the west coast: Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter. The Lady Friend was quite keen to try this one, as she’s been gaining an interest in stouts and porters (she found an Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in Healdsburg that was quite enjoyable for her and JJ.) The Ballast Point, however, was WAY too coffee bitter for my taste. It was more coffee than porter, with cold-pressed beans overpowering the other chocolate and vanilla flavors in the brew. I’m not a coffee drinker, and called it quits on this one after a couple sips. The Lady Friend took down the whole bomber. I guess she liked it.

The following day brought a Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale to sip on mid-afternoon, with a Negroni before supper. The Lady Friend had picked up a bottle of Gallo sweet vermouth for me, a brand which I hadn’t tasted before. It has much more of a wine quality than some of the other brands, thought it blended quite well, assuming its place behind the bold Campari and schizophrenic gin flavors of the cocktail. The Lady Friend rather enjoyed a Tröegs Pale Ale with dinner, but there was much more beer to be tasted.

Saturday night was the main event. I had been talking to the Irish Lad about coming down for a sampling of the brews I brought back from Cali, when we got an email from JTops the Engineer, whose wife was busy babysitting that night. He went to college with Wifey, and is a craft beer drinker, as well as cocktail/spirit geek. Initially, he wanted to go out for some beers at a couple Boston-area craft bars. Instead, we invited him along to the beer tasting night, which helped to add a new element to the group, as he is generally strongly opinionated about most things. When I say “generally”, I mean “always”. And when I say “most things”, I mean “everything.” And he’ll be the first to tell you that. But, he does have the knowledge to back up his opinions, and is prepared to cite specific examples and show his work when called upon. Wifey was along as well, and sugared herself with some Smirnoff Ice, a couple Dark & Stormys (Stormies? Also, “Dark ‘n Stormy” is a trademarked term owned by Gosling’s Black Rum. Because of this, a “Dark ‘n Stormy” legally must only be made with Gosling’s. What a douchy move on their part.) and a pina colada that was half gone before I could turn around. The rest of us loosened our belts and tucked into the brews.

Nelson Golden IPA Alpine Beer Co., Alpine, CA
Hopped with Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop. I was talked into two bombers from Alpine in the City Beer store by the very helpful clerk, Stephanie. Alpine is about 30 miles from San Diego, and according to Stephanie, was flying off the shelves. They got several cases in the day before I was there, and the stock was already quite dwindled. She suggested I snag it while I could, so I grabbed the Nelson and one other, Pure Hoppiness.

Nose: Citrus right away. Strong tree/ stone fruit. Sweet and delicious. With my nose close to the liquid, I found an undercurrent of some cannabis-like bitter, lurking beneath the citrus explosion. Though I was initially dismissed for that, the Irish Lad came to my defense, smelling a bit of dank, and pointing out that hop plants are related to cannabis. So there.

Wifey said it smelled like tropical Mike & Ikes.

Taste: Doesn’t taste like it smells, and that becomes apparent right away with a sharp, dank, bitter start. It’s almost like a rye bitterness, which the Engineer suggested. It does have that spicy snap to it, then the expected citrus/ grapefruit sweetness washes in. I was getting a bit of mint/ menthol underneath which helped to open up the flavor. But again, the others thought I was crazy.

Armageddon IPA Epic Brewing Co., Auckland, New Zealand
The Lady Friend read somewhere that only 1,000 litres of this have been created. We weren’t sure if that meant 1,000 litres just this year or in the history of the beer. Allegedly, it used to be brewed with Simcoe hops, but was recently changed to Falconer’s Flight. According to their website, they use Simcoe, but there was no brew date on the bottle, so we have no idea what batch this was from. This was a 500ml bottle, a little more than a pint.

Nose: Mild piney bitter hop with some sweetish maltiness to the aroma. Also a slight citrus, and a reddish colored pour.

Taste: Much stronger malt than the previous Nelson. A hop spiciness, with some dry resin finish. Drinkable, and very well balanced. We all liked this one, but the Engineer was harder to please, noting that the nose died off too quickly, with a low alcohol push. He was “tasting the bittering hop by the end of the glass.”

Sculpin IPA Ballast Point, San Diego, CA
The only Ballast Points I’ve found out here are the Big Eye IPA, and whatever fishy names they chose for the pale ale and porter. I snagged this in the City Beer store intrigued by the promise of a citrusy West Coast style IPA. Apparently it won a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.

Nose: Tropical! Sweet and juicy.

Wifey said it smelled like a Jolly Rancher.

Taste: Piney hop start. Wet, juicy melon. Watery and refreshing. This time, the Engineer came to my defense with the watery comment. I don’t mean watery as a weak flavor, but rather a wet, clean, and opening sensation on the tongue that allows more flavor to come out. It’s the opposite of syrupy sweet.
The Engineer and Irish Lad both spoke of cucumbers and melon rind, with some puckery citrus. Wifey had a sip and proclaimed “ruby red grapefruit, but ONLY the ruby red kind,” and the Lady Friend just said “I like this!”

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, MO
We took a break from my California hops to taste this one that the Engineer had brought along. It’s called a farmhouse ale, and was very wheaty-Belgian that poured cloudy. “Look at the haze!” was the comment from the Engineer.

Nose: Whoa. Took a big whiff… bigger than needed for this one. Very aromatic. Wheat. Banana clove. Bubblegum. Phew.
The Engineer: “Funk. Whole bunch of funk.”

Taste: WHOA. “That’s got some balls,” was my exact quote, though the Irish Lad suggested “Robust.” Took a bigger sip than necessary. Has some body to it, and a strength in there. Not a fan of this style, but it has a punch behind it that carries it along. The Tank 7 was really well done.
The Irish Lad noted that “the alcohol (8%) really makes it a nice drink,” while the Engineer proclaimed that there was “a whole bunch of cheese” in there.

Sockeye Red IPA Midnight Sun Brewing, Anchorage, AK
You know what you can get in California? Beers from places like New Zealand and Alaska. I bought this out of novelty.
This poured darker than I initially expected, until I realize it was a RED IPA.

Nose: Sweet up top, but a savory undercurrent that was puzzling the Engineer. Cheese and sausage. Savory meaty. Strange, but not unpleasant, just unexpected.

Taste: A little flat. Lower carbonation. Sharp bitter start, eases into a metallic copper taste, but not too much. A nice blend. This was the Lady Friend’s least favorite so far, due to the sharper bitter hop, rather than citrus sweet.

Double Daddy dIPA Speakeasy Brewing, San Francisco, CA
So, on our Cali trip, Ke$hia Ho was trying to decide if having Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA on tap was a good choice for her bar. I tried to order it at several places, but they either didn’t have it, or they were out. The Lady Friend and I finally did get a taste at Ke$hia’s bar, and liked it, but determined that it had a rather peanutty flavor to it. Having set the baseline, we could now find out if the double version was better.

It should also be noted that at this point in the evening, we broke out the cards and started playing “Asshole.” So, the notes may fall off a bit from here.

Nose: Staleness. Mustiness. Earthy, definately earthy, with a malty nuttiness.

Taste: Malty. There IS a peanutty flavor, as in the Big Daddy single IPA, but it’s much smoother and rounded out in the double.

Maiden the Shade specialty ale
Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, OR

This was recommended to me by Stephanie again. Plus, it had a nice label and a pun name.

Nose: It… just smells like an ale. Nobody in the group could come up with a better description. Malty grain.

Taste: Touch of bitter, but slight. Malty, cereal sweet. Tasty, but unremarkable.

Dogma Brew Dog, Fraserburgh, Scotland
On the label, it’s described as an “ale brewed with honey, kola nut, poppy seeds and guarana.” This launched a whole debate between the Engineer and the Irish Lad about brewing “weird beer for the sake of being weird.” The Engineer said plainly “Brew Dog bugs me,” while the Irish Lad admitted that they make “innovative tastes but not always successful beers.”

Nose: Sweetness. Malt, but sweetness under the malt. Honey. Lots of honey.

Taste: The Irish Lad found this one “very gin-y.” It starts bitter, with a lot of honey sweet that starts in the middle, and grows to the finish. I thought both their Punk and Hardcore IPAs were interesting, and grabbed Dogma on a lark. It was certainly different, and I’m glad I tried it, but not something I’d have on a regular basis. I don’t really like honey all that much, and it seems to be the primary sweetener in this one. As the Irish Lad summed up, “I’m not saying it’s a good beer, but I’m happy I tasted those flavors.”

After eight different brews, we called it quits, and the unruly mob was forcefully expunged from my lair. The Lady Friend and I kicked back with a Lagunitas IPA to close with, since the Irish Lad had brought one over. I’ve puzzled before why he doesn’t like it, as I find it piney bitter, but generally tasty. Apparently he catches some sort of plastic quality in the brew, and the Engineer wasn’t terrible keen on it either. Regardless, the Lady Friend and I sipped it peaceably before retiring. Sunday brought a Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale to sip on with some crispy bacon around the noonish hour. Delightfully and deliciously citrusy and tasty, with some lovely salty bacon. Then I busied myself with getting very little actually accomplished by not leaving SFHQ at all until finally crashing into bed to start another lovely work week.

Happy Hour is Dead

Well, the Massachusetts Senate and House came to an agreement, and will vote on the “Casino Bill” tomorrow before going on recess until Jan. If they approve it, the next step will be sending it along to Gov. Deval Patrick for approval. However:

“The happy hour provision approved in the Senate drew wide attention, but was taken out of the final bill. It would have allowed bars and restaurants around the state to hold happy hours, to compete with casinos’ ability to give out free drinks. But it received some criticism from people who argued that allowing bars and restaurants to give free or discounted drinks would lead to more deaths and injuries.”

“Lawmakers release final version of casino bill, House and Senate votes expected tomorrow”

By Noah Bierman on

I think it’s time to call it. There will be no Christmas Happy Hour in Massachusetts this year, children.

The cracks started to show about two weeks ago when the Happy Hour Amendment’s main supporter, Republican State Senator Robert Hedlund, changed his mind and decided to abandon the proposal, since he doubted it would ever pass the Democratic-controlled government of Massachusetts. Now, he’s calling for the state beverage commission, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Comission (ABCC) to look into some of their flawed regulations over the next year.

As usual, Massachusetts has shown itself to be a completely childish and Puritanical state, keeping the traditions of almost 400 years’ worth of of immaturity. With the local and regional craft beer industries BOOMING (there were about eight new MA craft breweries started in 2011 alone) a reintroduction of happy hour would pump untold dollars into the economy. No matter what the economic climate, people will always buy booze. However, the liberal scare tactics of “If we have happy hour, EVERYONE WILL DIE!!!” seemed to work, as the legislature fears more drunk driving deaths. If that’s the case, why isn’t anyone doing anything about the state of the Southeast Expressway after closing on a Saturday night? It’s like Mario Kart out there. But… if we don’t have happy hour, then there shouldn’t be any drunk drivers EVER! Happy hour is the cause of drunk driving, so we can’t have that!

Massachusetts: grow the hell up.

Rule 37: The (El?) Presidente

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

This week’s selection comes from (once again) Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. It’s listed simply as “Presidente,” though it’s awkward to say it with out “The” or “El” in front if it. There really wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the drink choice. I was flipping through and it looked good.

Plus, it gave me an excuse to use the Bully Boy rum again.

(El) Presidente
“Created in the 1920s at the Vista Alegre in Havana and named for General Carmen Menocal [sic], the president of Cuba before Batista” ~Dale DeGroff, The Craft of the Cocktail

- 1 1/2 oz white rum (Bully Boy)
- 3/4 oz orange curacao
- 3/4 oz dry vermouth
- Dash of grenadine

Shake/strain/serve in chilled cocktail glass.

First of all, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but it was actually very tasty, and not as boozy as I thought it might be. Some of that might be from the flavor bomb of the Bully Boy, which tastes like sugar cookies and rainbows. Overall, it was quite smooth and tasty, with a little bit of fruit sweetness from the grenadine. Apparently this was a classic Prohibition-era cocktail created in Cuba, that morphed into a touristy abomination with copious amounts of pineapple juice and other additions. The original version was closer to a rum Martini than a fruity tiki drink, but the version I made was still quite nice, though could have probably been a touch drier without ill effect.

Now then, abiding by the House Rules of SquirrelFarts HeadQuarters, any drink made with Bully Boy earns the toast of “Bully!” Since this drink was Cuban in origin, uses Bully Boy, and was called the Presidente, I had to give a nod to the big man himself, Theodore Roosevelt. It appears that there’s a lot of differing information as to which Cuban the drink was actually named after, from Carlos Mendieta, to General Carmen Menocal, to Gerardo Machado, so I don’t have a clue, and I’m just going with a T. Roos reference. He did lead the Rough Riders, became presidente (of the US, not Cuba) and was a big advocate of Cuba’s independence from Spain. What this drink needs, is a slight variation to include some good ol’ American influence. Maybe a Stars n’ Stripes garnish.

Perhaps a dapper uniform.

Soused in SanFran – Part 2: SFO D1

This here is Part Two of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Hold on to your butts, this is going to be a long one.

The dawn did done diddly dawned Thursday morning as JJ and her husband scurried about the apartment and left for work and classes, respectively. The Lady Friend and I eventually changed out of sleepy pants and rallied for the day’s adventures. The one certainty on the schedule was a lunchtime visit to 21st Amendment Brewpub, but after that we were open until tentative happy hour plans with JJ. We decided to walk, since it was a couple miles away, and I like to wander and do some street shooting. Went down by the water to see the Bay Bridge on the way, and then were plenty ready for lunch and beer.

Slightly bigger than Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH. Slightly.

21st Amendment Brewery is a brewpub in the South Park area of SFO, and is apparently near AT&T Park, a baseball stadium that is a whopping 11 years old. How cute. Fenway is almost 100 years old, so suck it California. 21st is, of course, named after the Twenty-first amendment to the Constitution which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment of nation-wide prohibition. I’ve had several of their canned offerings including the Brew Free or Die IPA, Hop Crisis ImpIPA, and Hell or High Watermelon (of which I believe there’s still a can in the Lady Friend’s fridge.) While they don’t have an official sampler of their beers, you can order a sample of each, which we did. However, the normal canned beers (which apparently are canned in Cold Spring, MN) were not on the list. They might have been on tap, but we were at a table instead of the bar, and didn’t get a look. Here’s what we got:

We tasted right to left.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple fruit. Slight malt. Very light and airy aroma.
Taste: Green, unripe tree/ stone fruit. Tart, apple.

Rammstein Bavarian Wheat
Nose: Banana clove. Sweet and aromatic. The Lady Friend described it as “circus peanuts” that marshmallowy orange candy.
Taste: Initial spiciness, eases off to a banana/ bubblegum wheat flavor.

Roasted American Amber Ale
Nose: Roasted malt/ barley. Not a coffee roast, but a TOASTED aroma.
Taste: Burnt toffee. Not syrupy. Not quite toast-like, but essence of golden brown crust, like fresh baked bread. Slight copper metallic, but very slight. We both really liked this one.

Fireside Chat Dark English Ale
Apparently they’re canning this one, but I haven’t seen here yet.
Nose: Very weak aroma. A stir with a fork yielded some slight fresh-baked cinnamon bread aroma.
Taste: Cinnamon raisin bread. Gives way to a slight syrup maltiness with a touch of roasted bitter.

Schooner’s Oatmeal Stout (Guest Brew)
Nose: Roasted oats. Yep.
Taste: Bitter coffee, but eases off. Very smooth. Finishes with a roast bitterness lingering. Nice.

Two Rivers Granny Smith Apple Cider (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple juice. Tart and sweet.
Taste: Tart start. Mouth puckering. Not too sweet, but finishes nice and apple-y. I’m not generally a cider fan, but this one was really nice, and not too acidic.

It was very lumber-y inside.

Following our sumptuous repast, we started wandering around with thoughts of heading down to a beer store where I planned to do some purchasing. However, though it began as a brisk, sunny day, by mid-afternoon it started to rain. Then pour. Plans for walking several blocks were aborted, and we about-faced to head towards Union Square. I had gotten in touch with a friend of mine from my former company, Qwadd Grafficks, who I met by chance on a tour of a printing plant in Wis-cahn-sin. She also turned up on one of our ski/snowboard house trips to Killington/Pico in Vermont (SnoHaus 2010). She left Qwadd to travel to France earlier in the year, and was now working as a bar manager in SFO. She traveled with two other Qwadd ex-pats, who, following the trip, became wine harvest interns in Sonoma County. Ke$hia Ho is a plucky little Asian girl with dance moves that demoralize any white boy within a seven-block radius, except perhaps Trevtastic. She rocks a New York fashion-sense, despite her Minnesota upbringing, and since I saw her last has developed quite an appreciation for, and knowledge of, cocktails. She had Thursday off, and agreed to meet us in Union Square, then hang out for the afternoon.

The Lady Friend and I ducked into a dark Irish sports bar to dry ourselves, just off of Union called Lefty O’Doul’s, who is apparently some former baseball player. It was appropriately dark, dank and bar-like, so we grabbed a couple stools at the end of the bar and ordered up two Anchor Porters. When in Rome. Sidebar: it also happened to be International Stout Day. A porter may or may not technically be a stout, depending on who you ask, but I had the oatmeal stout sample at lunch so THAT TOTALLY COUNTS. Louie, apparently a regular, was having a grand old time a few seats down slurping Heineken’s and hitting on the female waitstaff, who are plainly used to his advances. Ke$hia Ho strode in after a short time, and we departed for a bar called Top of the Mark, a hotel bar with commanding panoramic views of the city. Though the rain had stopped, this unfortunately meant hiking, and I do mean HIKING, up several of the steepest hills mountains I had ever encountered in a city setting. It’s not even funny.

The view was pretty nice.

So, Top of the Mark is a ritzy little cocktail and piano bar, and we flipped through the extensive drink menu looking for a tasty tipple. However, something quite alarming caught my eye: the Top of the Mark Negroni, made with Ketel One Citron, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Wait… what? A Negroni made with VODKA?? Guess what tardclowns, THAT’S NOT A NEGRONI. I should NEVER have to specify that I want GIN in a Negroni. Ugh. They lost all credibility for that one. Unbelievable.

Despite the waiter’s near unintelligible accent, we managed to place our drink orders, with Ke$hia Ho sipping on a French 75 (she had some champagne earlier in the day and wanted to keep the theme going) and the Lady Friend trying what she thought was a Tequila Sunrise, until something tasted a bit off. Turned out, she got a Tequila SunSET, which was Stoli, 1800, Grand Marnier and Grenadine. Take a tequila drink and dump in some vodka. What is the matter with this place? Anyway, the cocktails were pricey, the waiter unsuccessfully attempted claw his way through the English language, they massacre classic drinks, and we spent our time there next to a group of business types drinking Bud Light. In a cocktail bar. The only reason to go here is to see the views, which were very nice, but after you’ve seen it, there’s no excuse to go back. Also, the bathroom, while elegantly decorated, had the distinct bouquet of a thousand haunted farts, with strong overtones of wet dog. Time to leave.

So, leave we did, thankfully taking the bus instead of walking, to a bar called Harry’s to meet JJ for happy hour. Yes, SquirrelFarts, there is a Happy Hour. We’re not in Boston anymore. Nothing too special about Harry’s… casual, but nice, and dark. There were $3 drafts, including Lagunitas IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Awesome. The Irish Lad isn’t a fan of Lagunitas IPA, though I’m still not quite sure why. I think it’s slightly pine bitter, but delicious.

As we were chatting, a girl came up to our table calling Ke$hia by some other name… I forget what. After some confusion, we figured out that apparently Ke$hia is this other girl’s doppelganger. When the other girl turned up, it was a pretty close match, and mild chuckling ensued. We had a few munchies until JJ arrived, looking rather drawn and haggard. A nice pint of Sierra Nevada revived her, and we all headed to a Peruvian restaurant for dinner, though some of us would have much preferred a slice of pizza.

The place was named Fresca The roasted chicken looked tasty, and that happened to be the one thing on the menu that the kitchen was out of. Super. So, I said I didn’t want anything else, and started doing some tasting notes on my Cuzqueña Peruvian lager (no nose whatsoever, a slight skunky “green glass” lager taste with some cereal grain sweetness. Also of note: it’s allegedly the only South American beer that adheres to the Reinheitsgebot; the German purity law that says beer must be made only from water, barley and hops.) I’m not sure if the notebook did it, (although I have had strange things like this happen before) but all of a sudden the waiter came back saying there was magically ONE more chicken in the kitchen, and would I like it? Um, sure. Maybe they thought I was some sort of reviewer or critic, but whatever the reason, I got my chicken. And it was tasty. As were the accompanying french fries I very nearly inhaled.

After that we called it an evening (since it was a work night for JJ). Ke$hia hopped a bus with plans to meet up with us again the next day, and the remaining three of us stumbled back down Fillmore to the apartment for another night of futon slumber. This was just day one: more drinking adventures to come!

Soused in SanFran – Part 1: The Pregame

This here is Part One of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.

The Lady Friend and I had been discussing a trip out to California, for a number of reasons. She has a friend living in San Francisco, and Sissy moved out to some God-forsaken wilderness camp in Sonora, which is in the Sierra Nevada range. The Lady Friend loves Sonoma wines, and there are a number of legendary breweries in the area, so we made the plans and left Boston on Wednesday evening.

We parked next door to an old friend. Should’ve stopped for a quick preflight IPA.

We had some time to kill in Terminal C at Logan before the flight, and there happened to be a Boston Beer Works location right near our gate. Why, yes, a tasty beverage would be lovely before the flight, I though to myself, and helped myself to a Back Bay IPA, followed by a chicken sandwich and fries for dinner. When the bartender handed me the beer, she said “Have a nice flight,” and I pulled a Brian Regan by saying “You too!”

Yeah. Starting the trip off like an idiot.
Back to beer, the first of the voyage:

Back Bay IPA
Boston Beer Works

Nose: Mild hop bitter. Light cereal grain sweetness.

Taste: Hop bitter – piney. Sharp start, but eases off quickly. Clean, but dry hop resin finish makes you thirsty for more.

While sitting in the crowded restaurant, a group of three thirty-somethings shuffled in and parked at the table next to us, and set off one of my biggest peeves: ordering proper drinks. Keep in mind, we’re in Boston Beer Works, a small, local franchise of brewpubs that make some tasty beers. With a suspected hometown of Malden, Revere, or Lynn the first girl, clad in a green Red Sox hoodie, asked what the lightest beer was. Sigh. “The Pub Light,” was the waitress’s reply. Her male counterpart ordered a blueberry beer, and the second girl ordered a Pinot. There was an awkward pause until the waitress prompted her for more clarification “Pinot…?” “Grigio,” was the decision. Yes, Malden, there’s more than one kind of Pinot. Thanks for the info. After a few minutes, the fourth member of the group joined, and initally asked for a White Zin, prompting a visible shudder from the Lady Friend, (she’s a red zin drinker, and white zin is kind of her kryptonite) before having a Reisling. You know what? Here’s a vodka and Sprite, since apparently you just want sugary alcohol.
So, you’re at Boston BEER Works, and you’re ordering white wine. I understand that selections are limited at the airport, but there were several other restaurants they could have gone to without invoking my anger at hearing a light beer, a fruit beer, and two white wines ordered at a brewpub franchise. Here’s the deal: get on that plane, and don’t come back. There’s plenty of other douchebags just like you in Everett. Or Chelsea.

After a long, dark flight, where I exhausted my entertainment possibilities (including a masochistic viewing of “Engineering Disasters”) after about 45 minutes and elected to just put my head facedown on the tray table, we finally arrived. We taxied to the apartment where we were staying, which belonged to Lady Friend’s friend JJ. They met on their French winey trip some years ago and have visited and traveled together since. JJ is une petite fille blonde originally from West Virginia. Like Country-Roads-Take-Me-Home-type West VA. She had visited SquirrelFarts HQ earlier this year for a small cocktail party, and christened me with an appropriately Bacchanalian pseudonym, so we were previously acquainted. She has a soft, southern lilt that amusingly comes out only after a glass or two of wine. Over-hyphenation irritates her. Her husband is in dental school, and graciously allowed the Lady Friend and I to crash at their apartment for our trip. This would be SFHQ in SFO. Time to hit the futon and prepare for the adventures to come; the imbibing would begin in earnest on the morrow.

The Monday Hangover: Oct 29-30

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Cocktail night started off slow and easy with a soothing Negroni and a home-cooked meal, rather than the usual takeout. Saturday was the real drink adventure, as the Lady Friend and I ventured out into the stormy wet afternoon to attend the Curtis Liquor Annual Fall Beer Tasting.

Yowza. Bigger than I expected.

With something silly like 20 breweries serving 100+ beers, this was a crazy event for a retail store. About 1/3 of the store was taken over with folding tables and some great breweries. We wandered in with a list of all the beers available, and the Lady Friend wondered where we should start. There was a bit of a lull in front of Oskar Blues, so I replied “Right here.” They’re the ones responsible for the incredibly hoppy Dale’s Pale Ale, however we went for their Old Chub, a Scottish style ale, dark and malty. From there I don’t remember the order of our tastings, so here’s the rest.

Lost Sailor IPA Berkshire Brewing Co. (MA)
Nose: Weak nose… not much hop, but a mild cereal grain sweetness.
Taste: Good malt/ hop balance. Crisp and clean.

Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale Sierra Nevada (CA)
Nose: Wow hop. Wet, green and grassy. Well, not quite grassy, but like a lush, juicy, unripe fruit. Watery, but not weak. Spring rain.
Taste: Lush hop start. Gradually turns to the bitter hop flavors. Very juicy and almost, but not quite, tart, like an unripe apple. I bought a bomber of this to try some more. It was wild.

Milk Stout Wachusett Brewing (MA)
They were out of the Larry IPA, which is a fantastic brew, so we both went with the milk stout. I didn’t know Wachusett HAD a milk stout, but apparently it’s been out for about a year and a half. The server was a wild character… would love to see his version of a brewery tour.
Nose: Coffee roast nose. Um. Yeah that’s all I got.
Taste: Smooth, slight syrup. Good roast bitter but hint of sweetness. Very nice. Smooth and creamy without being too sweet.

Pumpkin Ale Wachusett Brewing (MA)
The server initially poured me this one instead of the Milk Stout, so I drank it anyway.
Nose: Mild nose. Not really much to smell.
Taste: Subdued fall/ spiced taste. Not too strong. I don’t really like pumpkin beers, but this one was pretty mild and drinkable.

IPA Opa Opa (MA)
Nose: Weak nose with a mild fruitiness
Taste: Lots of malt. Some bitter hop in the middle, but very caramel malty overall.

Stowaway IPA Baxter Brewing Co. (ME)
We were planning to visit Baxter on our Maine Beerventure, but didn’t feel like making the long(er) trek upta Lewiston. This turned out to be a great chance to try their brews (all canned).
Nose: Sweet tree fruit hop, like citra.
Taste: Sharp! Bitter pine hop. Very sudden and arresting. Evaporates quickly. The second taste eased off leaving elements of sour, unripe tree fruit. Certainly an experience.

Extra Pale Ale Baxter Brewing Co. (ME)
Nose: Very foamy head. Smells cereal and/or fruity sweet.
Taste: Starts with a cereal malt. The hop bitterness eases in, but then finishes with a slight rubber staleness as I get with Czech Pils. I attributed this to green glass bottles, but since Baxter is canned, that theory doesn’t hold. Discussed it with the Irish Lad, but results are inconclusive. This will require more tasting and geekery!

Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale Harpoon Brewery (MA)
Nose: Very typical Harpoon nose, if that makes sense. It literally smells like most of their other beers, like the Munich Dark Lager.
Taste: Starts light, like the Oktoberfest, then turns sour. A tart, cranberry taste oozes in. Meh.

Thanksgiving Ale Mayflower Brewing (MA)
Every year, Mayflower brews a signature small batch of beer for Thanksgiving, available in limited quantities. I hadn’t ever had one, so we tried the 2011 offering.
Nose: Fruity sweet. More depth than just a malt aroma.
Taste: Thick, syrupy mouthfeel. Starts sweet, moves to a bitter roast, but not too sharp. Finishes almost stale, like a wet forest with rotting wood. Earthy and dank.

Perpetual IPA Tröegs Brewery (PA)
Hopped with Citra, Cascade and Nugget
Nose: Sweet Citra tree fruit nose, like nectarine.
Taste: Starts with the sweet Citra fruit, then delves into Piney Nugget-ness. Yum.
After the tasting, the Lady Friend snagged a sample 12-pack of the Tröegs. I guess she was impressed. They do make tasty beers.

Southern Tier 2X IPA Southern Tier Brewing (NY)
Ooooooh mamacita. Southern Tier makes some goooood beers. The next step up from this is their UnEarthly Imp IPA, which I’ve had and enjoyed many a time.
Nose: Malt. Some hop. Light body, light hop. Fruity and floral.
Taste: Malt start. Hop bitter in the mid and finishes slightly bitter as well. Quite nice.

Black IPA Otter Creek (VT)
This was at the Long Trail table, but I’ve had most of what Long Trail has to offer, so I went with this. The did have the Long Trail Imperial Stout (Brewmaster’s series) which the Lady Friend tried.
Nose: Hoppy bitter with some floral notes.
Taste: Piney hop start gives way to a bitter coffee roast mid. A clean, non-syrupy finish.

XXXX IPA Shipyard Brewing (ME)
Again, I’ve had most of Shipyard’s stuff, but I got the Irish Lad a bottle of this quadruple-X IPA and he seemed to enjoy it. Hadn’t tried it for myself, so went for it.
Nose: WOW – MALT. Malt malt malt. Like a caramel candy. Werther’s Original. Butterscotch.
Taste: Sweet and syrupy. Some hop in the mid, but not nearly enough to balance this malt bomb. Now I know why the Irish Lad liked it… he’s been going malty.

Guinness Black Lager Guinness (IRL)
Guinness’s Black Lager just came out a few months ago. I had heard about it from someone, but hadn’t tried it for myself. According to the promo girl, their main competitor is Heineken.
Nose: Light, and lagery.
Taste: Light pilsner lager taste. Foamy head. Pours a dark color, due to the brewing process, though there really isn’t much of the roasted barley taste you’d expect from a pour this dark.

Beer beer beer!

Naturally, the big local breweries were all in attendance, like Samuel Adams and Harpoon, and there was a strong showing from regional favorites like Mayflower, Blue Hills, Berkshire, Wachusett, and Opa Opa. Some great unexpected appearances by Oskar Blues (CO), Tröegs (PA), and Southern Tier (NY), though Saranac was a no-show. I found most of Saranac’s brews pretty uninspiring but was intrigued by their India Brown Ale, and the Lady Friend wanted the Vanilla Stout.

Following the beer tasting, we had some dinner before trekking up to Cambridge for an annual Halloween party with some friends of mine, an event not to be missed. There was an abundance of nice beer to start (the Lady Friend snatched up and hoarded a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA) though someone later on plopped some Narragansett tall boys in the cooler. I guess the Samuel Adams winter pack is out, since I was able to grab a Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, then their Old Fezziwig. The bock was very rich and dark chocolatey, while the Fezziwig was a bit too like their winter ale… spiced and kinda gross. There was that snowstorm that everyone is still complaining about, and we drove back in a slushy wet nightmare of a highway, though without serious incident. Bonus: when I looked out the window the next morning, not a drop of snow to be seen. Suck it, Western MA.

Are YOU a Turtle?

A couple months ago, I was in a meeting at work to view some upcoming TV pilots. One of the network sales women said something (I’m still not sure what it was) and caused our media manager to immediately turn to her and demand “Are you a TURTLE??”

“Uh… no…?” the woman stammered back, clearly confused by this sudden query.

“Oh. Never mind. It’s a drinking thing,” replied the media manager, which naturally caused MY ears to perk up and put the booze-sodden brain on alert mode.

Later that day, I popped into the media manager’s office to ask her what that whole turtle/ drinking thing was about. This is the woman who keeps magnum-sized bottles of vodka in her office, received as gifts from various clients. She’s horribly sarcastic and incredibly amusing, especially in drab meetings, and seems to know most people worth knowing in Boston. She said the turtle question was part of a drinking club from back in the day, and dug through her purse until she found a battered and folded index card. “Would you like to be a turtle?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“Ok then,” and she proceeded to read the speech printed on the card:

We assume all prospective Turtles own a Jack Ass. This assumption is the reason for the password. [UPDATE: This refers to the donkey of a sweet and kindly disposition that all Turtles are rumored to possess.]

This password must be given if you are ever asked by a fellow member, “Are you a Turtle?” You MUST then reply “You bet your sweet ass I am.” If you do not give the password in full because of embarrassment or some other reason, you forfeit a beverage of his choice. So always remember the password. [UPDATE: According to the official rules by Supreme Imperial Turtle Denis P. McGowan, "the negligent Turtle to forfeit an adult beverage to all Turtles present and/or within earshot."]

As all members are of clean mind to become an official Turtle the person must solve the following riddles with clean-minded correct answers [UPDATE: Called the Sublime Test of the Four Questions]:

1. What is it a man can do standing up, a woman sitting down, and a dog on three legs?

2. What is it that a cow has four of and woman has only two of?

[UPDATE: An alternative official question is 2. What goes into a woman's mouth hard and comes out soft and sticky?]

3. What is a four letter word ending in ‘k’ that means the same as intercourse?

4. What is it on a man that is round, hard, and sticks so far out of his pajamas that you can hang a hat on it?

After some prompting, I managed to come up with the four answers, and she proclaimed me a member of The Order of the Turtles. Now that I was officially in the club, I was even more intrigued. An old school drinking club? AWESOME. Was this a local thing, or well-known? When did it start? As near as I can piece together from various interweb sources, the story begins back in WWII, when Captain Hugh P. McGowan of the U.S. Army Air Corps 8th Air Force was a bomber pilot stationed in England. In his words:

“We were flying daytime bombing missions over Hitler’s Third Reich. We just wanted a little fun.
We had seen a sign showing that the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’ and the ‘Royal Antedeluvian Order of Buffalos’ would meet in the local pub, and so I asked the governor of the pub what was that all about? The pub’s governor told us that the clubs’ local branches would meet in the pub’s back room, and that he would give them reduced prices for their pints and drinks for holding their meetings at his pub.
I asked him if our club could meet there, and he agreed, and asked for the name of our club.
I told him that we were the ‘Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles,’ and it stuck.

I devised the name ‘Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles’ for the fun of it. It soon spread throughout the bomber pilots, then the fighter pilots, and soon to other bombing groups and squadrons, and to other air bases. We even initiated members of the other Services, and soon,
even Allied pilots were being initiated as Turtles in the backrooms of pubs across England.

The Order was not meant to be serious, as it had no constitution or by-laws, no formal applications for membership, no dues or fees, and a simple initiation ritual. It was a relief from the horrors and dangers we saw every day on our missions. It spread after the War through the VFW and American Legion posts, and eventually, to colleges and even to the high schools of the U.S.A.”

Taken from this website, from the writings of Capt. McGowan’s son, Denis.

Now you’re talking my language. They were in a pub, and noticed that groups and clubs got discounted drinks, so they made up their own. When they got home, it spread throughout the country, and was apparently quite well known in the 1950s and 60s. There were “Turtle Parties” to recruit new members, complete with rituals, membership cards and little turtle lapel pins. Anyone else feel like drinking was a lot more fun back then? There’s even a Turtle Creed which reads:

Turtles are bright eyed, bushy tailed, fearless and unafraid folk with a fighter pilot attitude.
They think clean, have fun a lot, and recognize the fact that you never get any place worthwhile in life unless you stick your neck out.

[UPDATE: There's also a secret grip, and hailing sign. The grip involves the phrase "Behold, my Brother! The secret grip of the Turtles! Feel the alcohol pulsing through each other's veins!" The hailing sign requires the statement "Behold, my Brother! The hailing sign of the Turtles! See the noble Turtle sticking his head out of his shell, seeking his next drink to imbibe!" AWESOME]

When I said it was quite well known in the ’60s, I wasn’t joking. Freaking astronauts were doing it. I guess that makes sense, since a lot of them started off as military pilots. From Wikipedia:

“During the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission (part of the United States space program), astronaut Wally Schirra was asked by a ground controller whether he was a turtle. Not wanting to use vulgar language while his communications were being broadcast worldwide, he temporarily stopped transmitting while he gave the required response.”

[UPDATE from Denis McGowan: Brother Schirra, a U.S. Navy Captain and Naval Aviator who flew 90 combat missions during the Korean War, was asked the famous question if he was a Turtle during Brother Schirra's Mercury flight, when a fellow astronaut and Turtle, Brother Donald Kent "Deke" Slayton (March 1, 1924 - June 13, 1993), a U.S. Air Force Captain who had flown 56 combat missions during World War II, had radioed up to Brother Schirra asking Brother Schirra if he was a Turtle. The entire world would have heard Brother Schirra's response, so he switched off the radio speaker when he replied, in order to avoid the penalty of having to purchase a drink for all Turtles within earshot, and to avoid providing what might have been interpreted as a crude answer.

Brother Schirra got even with Brother Slayton during Apollo 7's flight, when he wrote "Deke Slayton, are you a Turtle?" on a large object in front of the cameras for the NASA Public Affairs Officer, Brother Paul P. Haney, the "Voice of Mission Control," and Brother Slayton to reply.

Brother Deke Slayton's Turtle membership card and pin
were auctioned off for $290.00 on April 22, 2006.]

Dude, even the President was in on the joke. Again, from Wiki:

“President Kennedy was allegedly asked if he was a Turtle at a press conference, to which he replied, ‘I’ll buy you your drink later.’”

Ball-busting with JFK. Awesome.

So, how does this work? Ok, once becoming a member, you ask other members “Are you a turtle?” If they don’t respond with the proper password, they have to buy you a drink. That’s half the fun… you ask someone if they’re a turtle at a time when they’re caught off guard (the media manager does this all the time with her husband, and then demands champagne for her free drinks. I like her style) or when they can’t really reply with the proper password due to the word “ass.” Like an astronaut broadcasting worldwide from space, or a President at a press conference.

Yeah, now I’m betting you want to know how to become a turtle. Well, from other sites I’ve read, the initiation process can be very simple or very complicated, depending on the local chapter rules. Some make a game of it and place four drinks in front of the candidate before they answer the questions. Any vulgar or incorrect answer means the candidate takes a drink. A correct answer means everyone present takes a drink (including the candidate). Some chapters have different questions, but with the same basic theme: the obvious answer is vulgar, but the correct one is perfectly innocuous, though leading towards innuendo. Most of the information I found was on horrible Geocities, Tripod, and other free, terrible web servers. This makes sense given the advancing age of most original Turtles. However, I think it’s hilarious, and have jumped in and recruited several friends including the Lady Friend and Wifey, though I don’t think the Irish Lad has taken the plunge.

If anyone else has further knowledge of the Turtles, I’d love to hear about it. Is there a current Boston chapter? If you’d like to be initiated into the Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles, feel free to comment and I’ll “officially” induct you. I’d really like to see if this thing is still going out there, or if we can bring it back, though I doubt we’ll get Obama into it; I don’t think he drinks as much as JFK did.

Also, this post was updated in several places after receiving a very informative email from Denis McGowan, the son of founder Cpt. Hugh McGowan. He currently holds the rank of Supreme Imperial Turtle, a title held by the successor to the founder. He very helpfully gave me a ton of “official” info on the Order, and I’ve tried to include it in the original post where possible.

Some other helpful links about the Order:
- A pretty detailed history
- The Wiki entry
- Another helpful turtle site
- Possibly the “official” site, since they own the domain name
- Another “official” and extensive page, with a fictionalized history of the Order

The Monday Hangover: Oct 22-23

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Naturally, the weekend started with a trip to Curtis Liquors for some beer browsing. I had recently heard of Backlash Beer Company, and happened to see their two brews, Convergence and Groundswell on the shelves. Of course, they wound up in my clutches, and will be reviewed (hopefully) soon. A cool feature: they dip the bottle tops in wax (a-la Makers Mark, Knob Creek and other bourbons, but somewhat unusual on beer bottles), and put a cool logo stamp on the top, like a signet ring. Nice touch.

Also liberated from Curtis was a six-pack of New Zealand Breweries LTD Steinlager Pure. Beautiful matte-finished green cans, slim due to their 300ml (10.1 oz) volume. Purchased almost purely for aesthetics, and again, an upcoming review. It tasted like any other lager, but was on sale for $5. It may still be cheap beer, but it’s FOREIGN cheap beer!

Apropos of cheap beer from foreign lands, the main score: Baltika Brewery Grade 9 “Extra Lager.” I had mentioned this one before when I snagged the glass pint-sized bottle and yearned for the 1.5l. No such regrets this time… The 1 quart, 1 pint, 3 oz plastic-clad wonder was mine for the equally wondrous price of $3.75. That’s 51 oz of beer, which breaks down to 4.25 beers, or 88¢ per drink. At 8% abv. Looking forward to a fun evening when I unleash this Russian monster. I swear I heard it whisper “I must break you.”

Before our cocktail night, the Lady Friend and I also sampled a Clown Shoes Muffin Top, which is described as a Belgian-style tripel IPA. It was… interesting. Hoppy nose with a hint of Belgiany-wheaty-banana lurking underneath. The wheat is much more prevalent in the taste, though with plenty of IPA hop to confuse my mouth. It was good, but I much prefer the Tramp Stamp, which leans more towards the hoppy versus the Belgian wheat flavors. Still, at 10% abv, it was just the thing to kick my Friday evening into gear, and motivate my apartment cleaning activities.

Saturday brought a perfect fall day with big cartoon Simpsons clouds, ideal for a baseball game. I play with some former coworkers, and this was our “World Series,” the final game of the season. The Knives slashed The Guns 9-8, though it was a well-fought battle. Following the game, we convened for a backyard barbeque and, of course, a wide selection of beers. The Lady Friend and I brought Harpoon’s 5:30 club mix pack, containing the IPA, Munich Dark Lager, UFO White and Belgian-style Pale Ale. My consumables were, as near as I can remember, the following:

- Harpoon IPA: nothing wrong here. Always a pleasure.

- Samuel Adams Bonfire Rauchbier: it didn’t smell like smoke (Rauchbier is literally a smoked beer… it’s odd, and lovely in small doses) but there were elements of charcoal in the taste. Not bad, but not stunning. I have a feeling they kept the smoke flavor subdued to keep the masses happy. Nothing like the rowdy Bamberg boys.

- Trinity IPA: from the Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, RI. I’ve been there several times, and their IPA is outstanding. They only sell their six-packs near Providence, but luckily someone hoofed it up from the Island of Rhode.

- Samuel Adams Black Lager: well, most people brought Harpoon beers, but someone brought a Sam sampler. I’ve had all the Harpoon ones that were at the party, so I took to trying a couple of these Sams. The black lager had a light body but mild roasted flavor. Not bad. Acceptable, but again, like most Sam beers, seemed to be dumbed down for mass appeal.

- Samuel Adams Boston Lager: like the Harpoon IPA, this is a go-to in Boston. Nearly every bar in the city serves this flagship brew, and given the choice between this and the usual macrobrews, I’ll happily chug this every time. Lots of flavor for a lager; if you think it’s “too strong,” then maybe you shouldn’t be drinking beer. You really can’t go wrong here, and Sam Lager has probably helped countless lost souls over to the land of craft beers. For that Sam, I thank you.

Rule 37: The Red Raider

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:

Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.

The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week. For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

Our normally serene cocktail night this week was usurped by a visit from the Irish Lad and Wifey. Natually, SFHQ was in a slovenly state of affairs, and needed some rigorous attention before accepting visitors into its depths. I had made my usual stop at the liquor store for some beer browsing (I didn’t MEAN to buy anything! It just sort of happened!) and dashed over to the supermarket for some citrus fruits, which further cut into tidying time. The Lady Friend arrived, and we determined that our Rule 37 requirement would best be filled before the arrival of the guests. She had several printouts of cocktails that appealed to her (many seasonal ones), and we each chose one from her lists. Once the kitchen situation was sorted, she prepared hers: Berry Nutty on the Rocks – 1 oz whiskey, 1 oz amaretto, 1/2 cranberry juice, garnish with fresh cranberries (we didn’t have any). Finally, after pushing the last of my junk into the closet to deal with at some unspecified time in the distant future, I prepared a quick photo set, and mixed my cocktail.

The Red Raider

- 1 oz bourbon (Knob Creek)
- 1/2 oz triple sec
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 dash grenadine.

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
I’d make up something witty, but there really isn’t much about this one that lends itself to double entendres.

So, for a drink called the RED Raider, it turned out a rather pale orange hue. I helped that out with another generous dollop of grenadine for some color, which settled into tasty goo at the bottom of the glass. The drink in general tasted pretty mild… the bourbon was lost in the lemon, and there was a touch of the triple sec dry mouthfeel. I think some more bourbon would help this one out in the future, but the layer of grenadine at the end was certainly tasty.

With our cocktail requirements met, I switched over to a Negroni, and we entertained the visitors with further imbibitudness. Wifey started with a extremely-dirty vodka martini containing no less than four large olives, until I pointed out that an even number of olives is thought to be bad luck, at which time it became five. She then concocted a number of her “Wifey-ritas” composed mainly of pineapple juice, vodka, Malibu rum, and Bacchus knows what else. Like Narnia, you can’t get there the same way twice. I think there was some mango juice involved at one point as well, though my maraschino cherry supply went unscathed. The rest of us switched over to beer, and started with a New Zealand lager, Steinlager Pure, I discovered earlier that day. From there we tasted a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour, a Blue Hills Brewery OktoBraü, a Sly Fox Route 113 IPA, while Wifey raided the last of the Mike’s lime and berry malt bevs stashed in the back of my fridge. Not a bad night of boozing.

The Battle for Happy Hour

If you live in Massachusetts, you may or may not have seen recently that happy hour may be returning to the state.

If you don’t live in Massachusetts, you may or may not be shocked to find out that happy hour was banned here.

I’ll explain.

Back in the early 1980s, happy hour was a perfectly normal part of running a bar. Then, a 20-year-old girl named Kathleen Barry was killed by a drunk driver in the parking lot of a Ground Round (classy) in Braintree. The driver was her 20-year-old friend, Sheila MacManus, who had consumed at least seven beers prior to the accident. Note: Though they were both 20 at the time, they were of legal drinking age; the National Minimum Drinking Age Act didn’t go into effect until 1984. That promped Braintree to impose a happy hour ban for the town, making it the second to do so (Framingham banned happy hour specials in 1982). Sheila pled guilty to drunk driving and vehicular homicide, and her harsh sentence was a whopping ONE MONTH in prison. A 20-year-old girl had seven or more beers (it doesn’t mention the length of time), got into her car, ran over her friend, and for that got only one month in prison.

Naturally, because Massachusetts has such a panic-mode, knee-jerk reactionary system set up, instead of blaming a) the bar for overserving, b) the DJ of the bar for encouraging her to chug drinks or c) the 20-year-old driver with seven beers in her stomach, they decided that happy hour was to blame. MA does things like that. If Sunday’s IndyCar accident, which resulted in the death of driver Dan Wheldon (video clip), had happened in Boston, the Commonwealth would ban cars for everybody.

The incident was the last straw in a series of drunk driving accidents, and George R. McCarthy, the chairman of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) had enough, saying “I’ve heard all the horror stories I’m going to listen to.” With the help of then-governor Michael Dukakis (whose alcoholic wife was busy drinking rubbing alcohol at the time), a ban on discounted or free drinks went into effect state-wide on Dec. 11, 1984, the so-called “happy hour bill.” Since then, every bar in the Commonwealth must submit a price list to the ABCC, and may not offer free drinks or discounts of any kind on alcohol, or have different prices for different days of the week. It also prohibits serving more than two drinks to one person at the same time, which means you can get a shot and a beer, but not a pitcher of beer for yourself. No games involving alcohol are allowed either… at Club 58 in downtown Quincy, there are beer pong tables, but you must fill the cups with water. No joke. It’s posted on the ABCC website as “Regulation 204-4.03: Certain Practices Prohibited.

Massachusetts was the first in the nation to impose a state- Commonwealth-wide ban on drink specials. Since then, MA has been the ugly girl at the party, sitting over by the snack table watching everyone else having fun playing beer pong. In Syracuse, NY, there are posters at one of my old college haunts advertising $2.50 pitchers of beer. In Milwaukee we played beer pong in a bar. In MA, a pitcher of beer will set you back $10+ for a cheap macrobrew, since NO DISCOUNTS WHATSOEVER are allowed. You’d better have two or more people or they won’t sell you that pitcher, and you damn well can’t play any games with it. The only thing bars and restaurants are allowed to do is offer discounts on food, such as half-price appetizers, trying to lure in business.

This is what the drinkers of Massachusetts have to endure.

Skip ahead skip ahead, and now Mass has passed legislation to bring casinos and gambling to the state Commonwealth instead of losing business to Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in Connecticut. What do casinos usually have? Free drinks while you’re gambling. But wait… you CAN’T serve free drinks in Mass. Hmmm… what to do? Well, let’s pass a bill that says it’s ok for casinos to serve free and/or discounted drinks. Ah, but now all the bar and restaurant owners are upset, saying the casinos will have an unfair advantage and take their business. Yikes, ok, well what if we make it the same for everybody? If casinos can have discounts, then so can bars and restaurants. So, after the original casino bill was passed by the Mass House of Representatives, the Senate tacked on a bill to that effect, called the Restaurant Equality Amendment. Since the House passed the original, they now have to approve the updated version passed by the Senate, including the happy hour amendment.

And that’s where we are.

So, here’s some of the interesting factors. The amendment was introduced by State Senator Robert Hedlund. Why should that matter? Well, Hedlund is co-owner of Four Square, a new restaurant and bar in Weymouth landing. I’ve been there a couple times with the Lady Friend (the last time for trivia night, where we placed second) and they have an excellent craft beer selection. Naturally, it would seem that as co-owner, he’d profit directly from legislation allowing drink specials. Of course, I’m pro-happy hour, but that little tidbit shouldn’t be overlooked.

On the other side of the fence are tardbabies like Tony Castagnozzi, co-owner of Rattlesnake Bar & Grill on Boylston Street. I read an article yesterday featuring this dbag and was incensed. He’s whining about several things that don’t make sense, claiming that firstly, overserving is going to be “a manager’s nightmare,” and secondly, drunk driving problems will skyrocket. Joey Arcari of Tavern in the Square in Cambridge claims it will lead “lead to everyone undercutting everyone.” Our old pal Dukakis, the liberal asshat who got us into this mess had the balls to say “There’s absolutely no question that people will be killed, maimed and injured as a result of this,” referring to increased drunk driving incidents.

Broad picture first: Rattlesnake is a douchy overpriced place on Boylston. Tavern in the Square is an overpriced place on Mass Ave (two locations in Porter Sq and Central Sq). Why are they scared by this? Because they’re both wildly overpriced due to their premium locations. If this law went into effect, places like the Pour Farm and Whiskey’s on Boylston, with a younger crowd, would rake in the money gained from offering drink specials. The Rattlesnake isn’t about to discount their $9 glass of house wine, and there are TONS of bars in Cambridge that will undercut Tavern.

So let’s take this point by point.
- Overserving: It is illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is “visibly intoxicated,” and the happy hour amendment won’t change that. Nor should it. However, Castagnozzi claims “It’s hard enough to keep track when you’re serving one drink per person, never mind two drinks.” Buddy, if you can’t keep track of two drinks, you shouldn’t be running a bar. That comes down to responsibility on the part of the business, and clearly you don’t want to bother. That’s your problem.

- Undercutting between bars: Arcari of Tavern is worried the amendment is “going to lead to everyone undercutting everyone.” Uh, that’s called BUSINESS. You have to give the customer something; good food, good service, good prices, unique location or atmosphere… if you’re twice as expensive as the place down the block, then you can’t claim they’re “undercutting” you. That’s called competition. Step it up or you’ll go out of business. Again, that’s on you, pal.

- Drunk Driving: Clearly a problem, as anyone driving from Boston to Quincy on a Saturday night can attest to. It’s like Mario Kart on the Expressway (oh I would LOVE to have some red turtle shells). However, in addition to banning happy hour, MA has drastically increased the laws and penalties for drunk driving, including lower limits (BAC of 0.08), ignition interlock device requirements for repeat offenders (Melanie’s Law), higher fines and longer jail sentences. Drunk driving has fallen 23% across the nation since 1982, and you want me to believe that banning happy hour had anything to do with that? What about all the other states that DIDN’T ban it? Dukakis is an irrelevant whiny crybaby with an alky wife, and the bar owners are only worried because bars are held responsible if there is an incident after someone drinks at their establishment. Train your staff properly or accept the consequences. Besides, who is driving to these places? You’re telling me most patrons are driving to the Rattlesnake? No way. Castagnozzi and others are using the drunk driving excuse as a scare tactic because they’re worried they’ll lose customers to more reasonably priced bars, especially if drink specials are offered.

So, this got wordy, but it’s an important topic around here these days. The amendment has yet to be ratified by a committee, and even then I believe it can still be vetoed by the governor. I’m not sure on that. The bill also states that restaurants and bars can offer the same drink specials as casinos, so I’m sure there will be a loophole in there that someone will exploit saying “well, the casinos aren’t even built yet, so no happy hour until they’re up and running.” We’ll see. For now, the battle continues, but progress is being made.

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