Friday, March 28, 2014

Drinking, more.

Saturday was…interesting. I have a long-standing tradition of attending a local Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ festival. It started off as a one-off thing with MQ. Now it’s a fixture on the schedule. Brewers, distillers, venders, and entertainers flock to the local fair grounds. Good food and entertainment mix with a selection of 60 beers and 40 bourbons/whiskeys. You start with a glass at the door and go forth to sample bravely—no limits other than common sense.

After 6 years of attendance, I have an excellent working knowledge of the regular exhibiters. There’s some variation—someone new, someone old making something new, or something I’ve forgotten. The first year I attended, the second year of the event I believe, I was able to try just about everything. There were only 2-3 rows to work through. I left well drunk, but satisfied that I got my money’s worth. Subsequent years saw an expansion of the event to ever more purveyors of adult libations—good food, good drink, good times. I am now something of an amateur authority on bourbons and to a lesser extent beers. I know what I like, I’ve tried a significant portion of what’s out there, and I’m old enough to appreciate alcohol without having to overindulge to make the point. This year I wanted to try the new, sample the best of the old, and work my way methodically through the venders.

Retrospect, hind sight…these things make my poor assumptions seem glaringly obvious. At the time however, I had every intention of walking through the event, getting lightly drunk, and generally enjoying myself. Things I did not consider—and should have:

• I lost 40 pounds since last year.

• I’ve stopped drinking regularly and/or in quantity.

• Most of the selection I was interested in was bourbon.

• All the bourbon venders were concentrated into one area.

• I assumed that by cutting most of the beer and half of the bourbon from the menu that I would be fine.

What actually happened was that I spent the first hour and a half pleasantly wandering the venders, sampling, and talking to friends. The nine of us kept splitting off and running into each other, making it impossible to stick with one group for the entire time. The stand out offerings included:

• Rowan Creek. This was one of the samples from the high-end bourbon table. A bold, nicely finished bourbon that felt just right. This was also one I liked a couple years ago, on a level with the Jefferson’s reserve.

• High West Campfire. This was a blend of Rye, Scotch, and Bourbon. Much like Dalmore, one of my favorite Scotches, the blend was better rounded than a pure scotch aged in bourbon barrels. It isn’t a drink for purists, but still excellent.

• 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Small Batch. I put this on par with Bookers. The taste was strong, clearly more than 80 proof. It had a well rounded flavor for all of its kick, probably best over ice or with a splash of water.

• Firefly Moonshine: Strawberry. Not bourbon I know. Still, a surprising liquor. This called out to me for inclusion in some sangria. The flavor was perfect for girly drinkage.

• Woodford Double Oaked. I like the normal Woodford reserve well enough. The double oak had a stronger finish than I’m used to, setting it apart from the run-of-the-mill serviceable bourbons. If the price is right this would make an excellent sippin bourbon.

• Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I like strong Scotches as long as they don’t stray too far towards the smoke-centric side of things. The regular Laphroaig ranks high on my good scotch scale. This rises even higher. It has a slightly oakier flavor, but mixes that with a bold strength that never the less manages to smooth out as it goes down.

Of course, my happy bubble of contentment didn’t last. About 90 minutes into the afternoon I could tell the alcohol was going to have its way with me. I had skipped virtually all the beer and a significant portion of the bourbon. I made sure to drink water regularly. In many cases I split samples with friends. In one case I had to physically take the glass away from the 4 roses lady to prevent her from giving me 2 more samples than I actually wanted. It wasn’t enough.

By the time I got to our lunch table, Backus had me full in thrall. This was embarrassing. I don’t think my friends cared that much. I, however, cared very much. Getting a little drunk in private is one thing. Getting sloppy drunk in public is something I’ve abhorred since college. It bothers me more because in this case I took many steps to avoid that end. I had a good time, but I missed out on many of the venders and most of the food.

In some ways it’s a tribute to my healthier lifestyle just how much my capacity has changed. I suppose I should be proud of that. It’s hard for me to look at the positive though, even six days later. I’ve had several alcohol related experiences which have taught me valuable lessons—if you’re going to drink to excess make sure there are people you trust to take care of you, if people only see you when you’re drunk they’ll assume you’re drunk all the time, and no matter how much fun getting drunk is, living life is usually more fun. Those were not pleasant lessons to learn. The upshot is that I really, really, don’t like drinking to the point where I am completely smashed in anything but a private setting, and most of the time not even then.

Regardless, it was a fun time. I’ll exercise more restraint and better judgment in future. There’s the great grapes in May and the Maryland wine Fest in late summer. I’m looking at hitting up great grapes for sure. The other will depend more on timing and finances. Now, back to planning Easter dinner.

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