Pints of Non-Perfection

Some years ago the Horlacher Brewing Company of
Allentown, Pennsylvania marketed a beer named
“Perfection” in an obvious ploy to induce those seeking
a perfect pint to search no further. The “Perfection”
brand was sold in the same package as the Horlacher
brand with the only difference being the substitution of
the name. Even the script was the same. Although I
never drank Perfection, in my early days as a beer
drinker I had a few Horlacher’s and therefore can
vouch that if the cans of Horlacher and Perfection held
the same contents, “Perfection” was NOT an
appropriate name.

Part of the joy of beer drinking is the eternal search
for the perfect pint while secretly hoping it’ll never be
found, giving a justifiable reason to keep trying more
and more beer. Searching for the perfect pint is similar
to traveling the Yellow Brick Road on the way to the
Emerald City, for while the ultimate goal is a highly
desirable prize, the snags and pitfalls one finds on the
beer quest are equally as horrible as the Winged
Monkeys or Wicked Witch of the West.

Bad beer experiences can be classified into several
different categories: cheesy marketing, bad taverns,
bad breweries, personal prejudice, spoiled beer and
mistakes. I’ve had a few rounds with all of the above
and will therefore digress from my usual admiration for
the sudsy stuff to relate a few here.

First: beware the Christmas season! Starting in late
October when all of us begin to anticipate the huge
and warming beers of winter, brewed by dedicated
craftsmen in microbreweries, unscrupulous “beer
marketers” begin to cackle and rub their greedy hands
together while getting ready to foist their undrinkable
swill on the unsuspecting public. These are beers
cheaply contract brewed for a marketer who knows
nothing about beer, and come with ornate labels, little
pamphlets explaining the finer nuances of beer styles
and special “holiday” packaging such as small wooden
crates stuffed with four bottles of beer and wood
shavings for special effect. These things look great
under the Christmas tree, but they are best kept
intact and unopened to be part of Christmas
decorating for years to come. The contents are bland
and sometimes undrinkable due to aging.

Sometimes brewers have good intentions even though
they don’t know what they’re doing. Any beer lover
looking for a couple of laughs over a pint or two would
do well to visit and type in
“Gettysbrew”. I’ll say no more. Read the reviews for
yourself.. I haven’t had the misfortune of pinting at
Gettysbrew, but on a trip to Acadia National Park a few
years ago, I did manage to have a lovely dinner with
my family at Jack Russell’s Brewpub (aka, Main Coast
Brewing Company) in Bar Harbor, Maine, where the
excellent food, beautiful “downeast” atmosphere and
efficient service could not make up for the sampler of
beers presented before dinner, from which I usually
select the pints to be had with the meal. These were,
without a doubt, the worst tasting beers I’ve ever had.
A blonde hefeweizen was indistinguishable from an
Imperial Stout. The lemonade I had with dinner tasted
pretty good.

Some beers are properly served and are huge sellers
but we beer geeks look upon them with disdain. I
refer, of course, to the mass produced “lite” beers that
are promoted by pit bulls, frogs, and leggy volleyball
players in skimpy bikinis. Taste and body are non-
existent. I had always thought that nothing could have
less taste than Coor’s Light until a year ago, when at
the Newark Bears’ opener, I tried an Anheuser-Busch
World Select Lager. After a sip I ran back to the
concession stand and asked if they had mistakenly
filled my cup with Poland Spring. They replied that the
Poland Spring is only dispensed in plastic bottles so
what was in my cup must have been the A-B World
Select. No matter what world I came from , I wouldn’t
select this! It’s definitely the one beer to have when
you’re having more than none!

Right here in New Jersey we had the largest brewery
ever to make uniformly horrible beer, the Eastern
Brewing Corporation of Hammonton, marketers of
hundreds of economy, off-brand, and defunct label
beers. The flagship brands were Old Bohemian, Old
Bohemian Ale, and Old Bohemian Bock which seemed
to be differentiated only by the amount of food
coloring added to each.

On Staten Island was the R&H brewery, independent
before being absorbed by Piel’s in the early fifties.
Although I was far too young to have imbibed any R&H
before it’s demise, my father assured me that R&H
were not the initials of Rubsam and Horrmann,
founders of the brewery. He was of the opinion that
R&H stood for “Rotten and Horrible”.

Just recently my wife and I spent a few days in Antigua
where I discovered Wadadli beer, brewed by the island’
s local brewery. It was our first experience with an “all
inclusive” resort which meant that one could quaff as
many Wadadlis as one wanted , all included in the price
of the stay. This was a good thing because Wadadli
was just another of the thin Carribbean lagers one
finds on these islands. Wadadli is definitely the one
beer to have when you’re having more than a hundred.
(Editor's note-I will now be checking Dan's expense account very
Brewer’s attempts at “something new” often lead to
disastrous results. At beer festivals we’ve all tasted
apricot, cherry, strawberry, and other assorted forays
into the fruit and specialty beer field. But twenty years
ago, when the craft brewing craze was just getting
underway, I bought a bottle of, if you can believe it,
mentholated beer from a brewery of which I can’t even
remember the name. Trying to get a beer drinker to
down this stuff would be harder than than getting a
Camel smoker to light up a Kool.

My worst experience with spoiled beer was when my
neighbor, an elderly Albanian who had just lost his
wife, took to calling me at odd hours for moral
support. Answering a request at two a.m. to come
over and keep him company resulted in my leaving my
warm sack to go next door to be neighborly. To show
his appreciation for my nocturnal services he offered
me a beer, which turned out to be a bottle of Hensler,
last produced in 1957.

I actually took a sip, which was enough to make realize
that I should have declined the offer. The cap and label
are now part of my collection. The beer fed a nearby
African violet!

I’m always amazed that some people in the business
of purveying beer in a public house are so clueless
about what they’re selling. Last summer I stopped in a
nearby pub and discovered that they had McSorley’s
Winter Ale on tap. Even though it was July, I stupidly
ordered one and immediately realized that the beer
was probably not left over from the previous winter,
but maybe even from the one before that. When I
voiced my displeasure to the barmaid she swapped my
pint for something more palatable while saying “I don’t
like beer but it tastes OK to me”.

A style of beer I consider to be undrinkable is Gueze, a
Belgian style fermented by wild yeasts in open
fermenters with cobwebs hanging around and spider
droppings falling into the beer. Though there is no
proof of this, I believe the word “gueze” is derived
from two old Flemish words: “Gue”. meaning “goat”,
and ‘Ze”, meaning “piss”. How anyone could like this
stuff is beyond my wildest dreams!!

I don’t have to go far to report on brewers’ mistakes,
the best of which occurred right in my own backyard.
About ten years ago my wife and kids traveled to DC
for President’s weekend and I found myself with a
whole day on a warm February Sunday to brew what I
anticipated to be two batches of beer. I set up my
Cajun cooker on the deck, assembled all the necessary
ingredients and equipment and got ready to go.
Watching the brew kettle while wrestling with the
Times puzzle was very pleasant until a breeze arose.
The breeze suddenly turned into a heavy wind and
began to blow the flames out from under the brew
kettle. Homebrewers being inventive, I went to a
neighbor’s garbage and retrieved a large box in which
a new dryer had arrived, in order to set up a
windbreak. I was quite pleased with my invention and
filled in a few more spaces before the phone rang.
Upon my return to the deck I discovered a scenario
that could have been disastrous, but in retrospect was
just another funny incident contributing to the brewing
of bad beer. The wind had blown my cardboard
windbreak into the flame, setting it on fire. This
conflagration then not only scorched the deck, but
also burned through the rubber hose connecting the
Cajun cooker to the propane tank. A beautiful flame
was shooting out the end of the hose and scorching
the leg of the picnic bench. Of course the burning
cardboard fell into the brew kettle, which not only
doused the flames, but also created the world’s first
smoked IPA, if you will. The deck needed only minor
belt sanding and refinishing, and the beer only needed
to be strained before fermenting, so all was not lost.
As for the smoked IPA, it wasn’t too bad if not exactly
true to style, and there was actually no hint of the
“cardboard” taste associated with over-aged beer.
(Probably because the cardboard had been reduced to
ashes before it’s accidental inclusion into the wort).

All this talk of rotten and horrible beer has generated a
great thirst for a good one, so I think I’ll pop over to
the Gaslight for a pint of the new delicious Hopfest!


Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
Beer My Way......... proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
anything and everything about beer
by   Dan Hodge