Excavating a beery past, Part II
Recently, my boys dug up an ancient, tin Blatz can from beneath our porch. That little find brought back memories of my long, lost beer can collection. I say lost, but that’s not exactly true. I know where it’s been all along.
There was a time when it became necessary to move all my belongings out of my mom’s home. But living in dorms and apartments during college didn’t provide all the room I needed to display my sacred beer can collection, a prized possession from my high school years. So I boxed my goodies up and took them to my then-girlfriend’s house. Her dad had a big machine shed that I could use for storage.
Yes, I used the word then-girlfriend. Indicating a past dissimilar from my now-girl. When that relationship folded, I never got around to retrieving my beer cans. In time, I accepted that I’d never again see my auction- and garage sale-found fodder. Like there are other fish in the pond, there are other beers in the aisle. I moved on.
Not a week after I discussed that Blatz can, I ran into my old girlfriend’s mom. With our conversation proceeding favorably, my prideless inner beer geek took over: “You know, I’ve got a couple of boxes in that machine shed. I’d be happy to stop by one of these days and get them out of your way.”
This week, I stopped by.
(It was really hard to type that last sentence without about 25 exclamation points.)
Culling through all those old beauties was exciting. And then…I came across a full bottle of Guinness Extra Stout. I’d sorta forgotten about this little guy. As soon as I saw it though, I remembered the night I got it.
I was a junior in high school, and the prospects for finding more beer were a little thin. I came across a buddy of mine, Hedstrom, and he was heading home, and happy to let loose of this Guinness he’d somehow obtained on a “just got paid today” whim. His crew all tried one and hadn’t cared for it–a little dark and beastly for what we were used to at that time.
My friends cracked one open, to similar dissatisfaction. I held onto the last bottle, as a full bottle of Guinness would look really cool in my bedroom, alongside all my old school beer cans. There it sat until I was in college. At that point it went into storage.
For the last 14 or 15 years, this bottle has sat in a really lousy environment. It has been mistreated. Damned straight to hell. Uninsulated, that machine shed spends considerable time in the summer months well above 100F. In the wintertime, well below freezing. Freeze and simmer. Freeze and simmer.
One can tell by looking at it that the prospects aren’t good. Stout has seeped out during the freezes. There’s black crud on the neck, both inside and out. There’s loose black bits in the bottom of the bottle. There’s rust on the cap and dust on the bottle.
Having sat around for all these years, there seemed little reason for me to cellar it further. I chilled it down to sample the next evening. I figured it would be either very cool or suck furiously. Knowing it’s storage history, my prediction leaned toward suck furiously.
It poured with a tan head, which disappeared quickly. The aroma brought intense raisins wafting over coffee. Flavor the same with a touch of rumminess. With a raisinish sweetness, there is nothing harsh happening. It is smooth and delicious. Mouthfeel is lovely, a velvety, thick texture which dries out subtley in the finish.
This was a wonderful experience, unlikely to happen again. It seemed like a low alcohol old ale, or perhaps a recent hand-pulled pint of Fullers London Porter I shared with my wife at The Royal Mile–only better. I was torn between savoring it and slamming it.
The bad news: there’s no more. The reader will have to live vicariously, and trust my judgment. I’d love to share, but I can’t. Actually, I wouldn’t like to share. I want more for myself.
Say what you will about Guinness (I know I sometimes do, these days), it’ll always be a sentimental beer for me, but not because of this bottle. Guinness was one of the first beers that turned me onto the roasty, darkness–porters and stouts. And for that it’ll always have a special place in my heart. For my time in Ireland, always the memories and atmosphere. For this one bottle, an unforgettable few sips.