I would like this to become a staple of this blog…input from you loyal beer drinkers. My next guest post will come from my good friend Mr. Nichols. But, allow me to present to you, unedited from Charleston SC…Mr. E. Beer:
It’s a typical hot, July summer afternoon in Columbia and the air is filled a stagnant heat that’s close to overwhelming. Some might call it the perfect day for a cold adult beverage and The Flying Saucer in The Vista seemed to be the perfect location. Perhaps it was the refreshing misting-fans outside, or maybe the waitresses dressed in schoolgirl outfits, but regardless of reason the place had been determined.
After sitting at one of the outdoor tables, I was approached by our server and immediately posed with a difficult question. Would I like to choose a beer from their daunting selection of draft and bottled products, or would I prefer to take a gamble and select the “mystery beer” for only $2.75. For those who aren’t familiar, the “mystery beer” (to be referred to as MB from here forward) is supposedly an unbiased process, whereas the server reaches into an icy cooler and blindly selects a beer at random. Let me preface this by mentioning my last experience with a MB was at Red’s in Charleston and after paying $2.00 for my first MB, which happened to be a Samuel Adams, I was hooked. Unfortunately the ensuing Busch Lights, Southpaws and High Lifes left a bitter taste in my mouth (literally) and I vowed to steer clear of alluring but risk-laden adventure. Enough on the past though, let’s get back to Thursday afternoon…
With the aforementioned debacle fresh in mind, I decide to avoid the MB and instead choose a strong Belgian Ale called Delirium Tremens. I highly recommend this beer, but will leave a detailed depiction to the pro, our esteemed blog founder Mr. Beer. After quickly consuming one of these stout, 8.5% alcoholic beverages I was starting to warm up. Perhaps it was a combination of the heat, a long day on the road and the heady beer on an empty stomach, but the following decision was made poorly and one I recap only for the sake of others.
As the waitress begins taking round 2 orders, I ask “What is the range of possible beers if I were to buy the MB?” Specifically, I want to know what the few best and worst beers are and the odds of getting each. After my last experience I needed to know the facts before taking a plunge. I should have immediately considered alternatives when our server stumbled through an answer that offered no real information, but hindsight is 20/20. Without thinking, like in movie slow motion, I blurt out, “ALLLRRIGGGHHTTT, I’LLLL TRYYYY TTTHHHEEE MMYSSSTERRRYY BEEEEEERRRRR.” Within moments, I was staring in disbelief at a frosty version of the bottle pictured below:
Pomegranate Wheat beer?!? Pomegranate Wheat?!?!?!? How could she do this to me? My concern heading into the MB selection was clearly evident as I pestered her with questions, and I was simply floored that she had the cohones to bring me a fruit infused wheat beer with my VERY FIRST CHOICE. I’ve never claimed to be a beer expert or connoisseur, but I drink regularly and while I have preferences, I’m open to trying new things. I realize the MB is supposed to be a random selection, but I would have thought (and hoped) that our server would have noticed the playful looking brown bear juggling pomegranates, been aware of the overwhelmingly sweet flavor this beer contains, and thought to herself, “Hmm, I’m serving a 26 year old heterosexual male that just ordered a strong Belgian Ale and he seems distressed about this whole mystery beer process…maybe for the longevity of our business partnership I should reach back into the ice cooler and see if I can grab something a little less fruity and a little more ordinary.” In all honesty, a Southpaw or Busch Light would have been a welcomed sight at this point.
Despite my initial reaction, I proceed to drink about 1/5 of this Saranac concoction and in an effort to remain true to the integrity of this blog, will offer my best analysis (Saranac, by the way, brews some decent drinks, is an environmentally friendly organization and sponsors some legit concerts including Government Mule and moe…so Saranac, my apologies in advance as I don’t mean to slight your entire organization).
A nanosecond into my first sip, I feel the urge to quote ex-Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green…“THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!!” (those of you not familiar with this classic tirade, PLEASE check out this youtube link www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_N1OjGhIFc). This beer is intensely sweet, made even worse by the unhappy marriage between the pomegranate flavoring and wheat taste. After the initial sweetness subsides, a bitter aftertaste follows. Several others at the table sampled the brew and while a few approved (mostly women), no one thought it was good enough to finish and it remained half-empty (that’s right half-empty, not half-full) until the waitress kindly took it away. For those who know me, I am not one to waste alcohol…I regularly kill unnamed wounded soldiers at a party despite having a fridge stocked with alcohol. This beer was the exception though…
I’ve probably rambled long enough and before offering my parting thoughts, I’d like to first thank Mr. Beer for the chance to contribute to his growing body of work…I’m a recent (but avid) reader and am honored to be the first guest contributor on the Beer Blog.
Moving forward, here are my feelings…take them, leave them, do what you’d like with them. Stay away from the Mystery Beer. It’s too good to be true. To believe that you can get drunk off $2.75 Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and Red Stripe all night long is akin to the minimum wage worker that spends their disposable income on Lotto tickets or the elderly lady that deposits her social security check into the slots. On all accounts they’re sad situations and slippery slopes worth avoiding at all costs. Echoes from my college Economics 101 professor ring loudly…there is no such thing as a free lunch. Bars are in business to make money, and I believe the mystery beer is a clever technique in their “maximize profitability” bag of tricks. My hunch is that the mystery beer cooler contains the bar’s mistake orders, non-sellers and beers that “have been sitting around here for too long.” Sure they sprinkle in a few gems, but it’s no different than casinos and scratch-offs, which happen to be some of the most lucrative business enterprises. Ingenious really, and it completely suckered me in twice. Much like the mythological Sirens (http://www.pantheon.org/articles/s/sirens.html), the temptation and appeal of what could be was overcome by the harsh reality what is.
Next time I may order a Heineken, a Budweiser, or any one of Mr. Beer’s insightful recommendations. I will not however, fall for the dirty trick that is the Mystery Beer and suggest you steer clear as well.