So with the year 2014 officially kicked to the curb by young up-and-comer 2015, even Big Bison has decided to switch gears a little. Thanks to some unfortunate circumstances, most of December was nothing but a blur for yours truly. There was something about bears, claws, wrestling and illegal groin-shots, but so far piecing what happened together has been a hopeless task. Still, January is here, and it is time to throw out the pile of party-goers in my bed and trim the forest growing from my chin. This is the internet, after all. I have to look presentable.
Still, there was one thing from last December that stuck to my mind. As Big Bison decided to brave the three-month annual blizzard of Finland to visit his friend, Colonel, he was thrust into situation most unorthodox. The only things I felt were the taser lodged to my armpit, and the bag thrown over my head. The next thing I know, I'm waking up in a great underground bar only spoken in whisper.
Indeed, I had been abducted by the Beer Society of my hometown.
So there I was, sitting next to men in big black hoods who were carrying bottle after bottle to the table, in the name of tasting the great tastes of winter times. No words were exchanged between us, but the message was clear: I had been given a challenge. Judge these beers, and prove my worth. Of course, being a Man (remember, the upper case M is important), I set out to prove my worth. Even if the Illuminati of Beer was after me, there was no way in hell I was going to give up.
Besides, this meant that I had a chance to taste some beers I had never seen before. Like I was gonna let that chance pass me by.
So let me recount those fateful four hours to you, dear readers. Sitting here, drinking local brews and watching Japanese, oiled men beat each other up to the tune of Good Ol' JR, it all seems rather funny. But back then, it was a matter of life and death... and getting drunk.
Name: Saison D'Absinthe
Served: From the tap
Thought: Not actual absinthe (unfortunately)...
There are beers that are strong like a burly grizzly bear, ready to rip your throat open the moment you gulp them down. Then there are beers that are mellow, like a hippie roasting in the afternoon sun of June. However, sometimes you come across beers like Saison D'Absinthe which can only be described as "fairy-like." And this is not meant as a metaphor for a certain subculture. I save those for tropical drinks served poolside.
It might be a bit surprising, considering this beer has a sort of smoky, golden color, but the taste is as airy as a mountaintop breeze. While drinking, it brings forth surprising mental images of Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When combined with the clear smell of wyrmwood in the foam, the only way describe the whole experience is "Conan the Barbarian-like." Mind you, I don't think Mr. Cimmerian himself would have drank this. Probably one of his dozen sidekicks or something.
One thing to note about Saison D'Absinthe is that it's clearly not meant for fast-paced, competitive drinking. The fresh, almost spicy taste and the way the beer fizzles on your tongue means that you've got to maintain your pace with occasional pit stops to cigarettes or other forms of entertainment. This is the reason why it's so good that the whole beer can keep cold in taste, not mellowing out as your hairy hand warms it by holding the glass. In other words, even if you take your time admiring the sights of your local pub (the stuffed deer-head, the pitifully empty tip-jar or the local bum sleeping in the corner), you'll still be able to enjoy this beer to its fullest.
So, if you're looking for something fresh to sate your appetite, or just something you can keep as your companion for most of the night, this thing here might just be your choice. Big Bison, though, requires something stronger from the alcohol he ingests. While Saison D'Absinthe might kick all the way to the back of your throat, it's just not enough. Plus, this is not something meant to be ordered multiple times in a row. Just a word of advice.
Name: S'Feuillien Cuvee de Noel
Served: From a cooled bottle
Thought: Like a liquid Christmas rye bread
Unlike the appetizer that was introduced above, this beer here is last year's brew, giving it some age. As usual with Men and beer, the acquired age only comes as a plus. Therefore, as it was brought before me, even someone like Big Bison got a little bit excited. The bottle itself was very European in design, meaning that the moment I grasped it, it disappeared in my hand. In that sense, this beer is very useful. You can take it pretty much anywhere without those underweight bouncers seeing it.
One thing struck out immediately from this beer as I got it before me. In a strange way, it presented me with a paradox I've been trying to solve to this day: the beer had a clear, significant smell... yet you cannot smell it. For some strange reason, you can feel the fragrance in your nose, but nothing is transmitted to your brain. It's bit like that greasy pizza you order as a take-out as you stumble out of the bar on the wee hours of the morning: you can eat it, but it never gets all the way to your stomach to satisfy you.
As for the taste itself, it was rather familiar for a Finn like Big Bison. The texture of the beer is thick and sugary, almost like a jam. That means it's a bit of a work to swallow, but what sort of Man would shy away from a challenge? Especially when it concerns beer. Now, aside from the texture, the taste is brought out by the malt of the beer. It is bread-like, reminding Big Bison of the typical Finnish rye bread served during Christmas. For those not honored to live in this asshole of the world, it is a good type of beeswax. The type you can actually eat and enjoy. This warm, pleasant taste stays on the tongue long time after you've finished drinking, making it a beer perfect for those moments when you have to gab about some inconsequential stuff to entertain whoever is drinking with you.
So, if you need to socialize, consider this for your Christmas dinner. If you have it good and spend your Christmases alone, then go for something bit stronger. Like before, there is no definite kick to this beer, and despite the nice strength, it still lacks that little something to make it good.
Name: Mikkellen Ris a 'la M'ale
Served: From a cooled bottle
Thought: Wait, am I drinking spritz?
Next up on the list was Ris a 'la M'ale, a clear and very fresh-looking beer. There was a clear smell of fruit the moment the bottle was brought to our table, and it was a welcome change to the more mellow beer that had been brought up before. In that way, it sorta did resemble Saison D'Absinthe, only without the mugwort-style alchemical concoction feel to it. Which is a shame. After all, who wouldn't want to drink some potion made by a mystical druid? I know I've wanted to, ever since I was old enough to read old Asterix comics.
Unfortunately, this beer was no creation of Getafix. Instead, it was like it was straight out of some southern country. Which is weird, because this beer is from Denmark. And what have the Danes ever done? They're like pity-members of Scandinavia, even more so than Estonians. Still, this wasn't a bad try from the farmers down south. As I mentioned, the fruit-like smell brought to mind spritz, which immediately took me out of the snow-topped Finland and to the vineyards of Italy.
The beer itself was like a burst of frizziness, like a cluster bomb of freshness straight into your mouth. And hey, what's more manly than military-grade weaponry aimed at yourself? Not much, lemme tell you. Still, the sourness of the beer works a bit against it. In a way, it doesn't even taste like a beer as it should, but as mentioned before, some sort of weird southern concoction. In summer, this might work as its advantage, but in the middle of winter, it simply depresses you. So, perhaps its a good thing the beer disappears from your mouth just about the moment you've gulped it down. It simply evaporates, leaving nothing behind. So, at the end, you're left with a short summer-like burst and not much to say afterwards.
Pretty much like any summer relationship.
Still, there are worse beers in the circulation, and while it might not be the Manliest of the beers, even Big Bison can understand it might have its fans. But he himself is not one of them.
Of course, that wasn't all of it. We were just about half-way done, and the beers would just keep on coming. Sitting there with these hooded clansmen, there was no way to know what would happen next. But even Big Bison did not think the things would end up as they did, as he and the Beer Society clashed together on a cold December eve, determined to settle their differences through drinking of copious amounts of alcohol.
But... that conclusion will be discussed next time, in Part 2.
This is Big Bison, heading out west again.