My evil plan is working.
Writing about beer means that globe-trotting friends now feel compelled to lug choice brews—beady-eyed customs officials and baggage weight limits be damned—across land and sea to satisfy my beer tooth. Insert devilish cackle here.
My pal Venus spent the last nine months in Paris eating pastries and writing a dissertation on French agricultural history. I spent the last nine months trying not to kill the plants she left behind. When she returned last week, she came bearing beer as a thank-you. But not just any beer. The one that got away: Adelscott. (For the record, she declared it.)
A bit of backstory: I first met this beer about a decade ago, during a séjour in France. Adelscott is brewed there, just outside of Strasbourg, by Fischer, now a subset of Heineken (a pox on all our houses), using peat-smoked malt in the style of whiskey. I don’t know if I liked whiskey back then. Heck, I don’t even know if I liked beer. But something about Adelscott spoke to me. I was young and inexperienced; it was a star-crossed romance; before long I returned home, where local distributors swore nary a supplier could deliver the stuff. Over time, Adelscott became a bittersweet memory, and we both moved on: me to Midwestern microbrews; it, no doubt, to other impressionable young Americans weaned on swill like Budweiser.
So when Venus showed up with two tallboys last Thursday, I put the cans in the fridge straight away to chill. Every time I opened the door, there they were, waiting patiently. Expectantly, like a long-lost lover. And yet something stopped me from popping the top. Would it taste the same? Would I be disappointed?
I broke down last night and cracked open the first can. The beer poured clear and coppery, like a freshly minted penny, with a filmy head that dissipated quickly. A hearty whiff smacked of malt: smoky and sweet. I tipped my glass back and, at long last, with visions of streetside cafes and 10 p.m. Parisian twilights dancing in my head, took a sip. “Tastes like grogg,” said Nate, my trusty co-taster. And he was right: The beer didn’t taste like beer at all—not even rauschbier, or smoke-flavored beer. What it tasted like was water and whiskey, heavy on the water. And what was with that cloying aftertaste?
That’s not to say it’s not worth a try, for curiosity’s sake alone. As for me, I think I’ll keep my shots and beers separate from here on out. The romance may be over—hey, we all need closure—but I’ll always have Paris. I’ll just drink around.
Photograph: Jennifer Wehunt