Friday, January 4, 2008


I used to be scared of some beers. Guinness Extra Stout shocked me the first time I had it. Heineken Dark, too. I got over it, and learned to love 'em. Old Peculier we laughed at and dumped. Dumped. I should do penance... Orval took some getting used to. Hefeweizen...that clove, that banana, what the hell was that? Now I buy them by the keg. Thomas Hardy's, wow, the first one I had was not a good experience, but man, did I love it once I got it.

After all those realizations, there was still one beer that spooked me, intimidated me, "got the skeer on me and kept it on," to paraphrase N.B. Forrest. EKU 28 Kulminator Ur-typ Hell. EKU 28, the Malt Bomb, the icy German challenger to Samichlaus for world lager domination. It was like drinking a ghost, and if you've read Tim Powers, you know what I mean. Or Douglas Adams, for that matter: "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?" "Ask a glass of water."

EKU 28 was huge, powerful, a jackbooted sturmmann of malt and alcohol kicking me right in the teeth. I'd heard a definition of a "good" doublebock being one that gave you no clue of how strong it was until you tried to stand up: by that definition, this was very bad doublebock indeed. I used to keep a bottle in my fridge like some kind of life-affirming threat.

Then one day, about thirteen years ago, after drinking pretty wild stuff over the course of the previous ten years, I got a wild hair up, and I cracked open that bottle. I poured it -- ruddy gold, thick-bodied, and cold as winter wind -- and tasted it anew. Whoa! Happy German! This was no storm trooper, no Teutonic Knight, this was a steamroller hauling an oompah band, eight fully laden Oktoberfest waitresses, twelve guys with pipes and steins wearing lederhosen, and a pipe organ on a big wooden wagon, Bavarian whoopee on wheels.

The beer, of course, hadn't changed; it was me. I was finally up to double-doublebock speed, a beer speed of approximately 7R, again referencing Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ("R" being the maximum safe speed for a given situation). I could feel myself getting wazooed in the course of that single bottle and, seated in front of my computer and logged into the old Prodigy Online service, I proceeded to open a second one.

After I spent the next two days apologizing to people online that I'd insulted while marching through Oompah-Oompah Land, I realized that despite the consequences, I'd made a friend. The sumo style of EKU 28 was just the thing for some occasions; a need for anti-freeze, for instance, or a long snowstorm. I'm oiling up for a walk with the dog in cold windy weather right now.

I've become quite fond of deep-winter doppelbocks (and yes, I'm quite aware that someone, somewhere, is angsting something fierce that EKU 28 isn't a doppelbock... bite me. It's what I'm drinking today) as a tonic to push off the cruel cold, and the realization that January is upon us, the very depth of winter, with months to go before the leaves bud in green (and the pollen comes out, and the mud returns, but who thinks of that in January?). Doppelbock is an elixir of life squeezed from the malty sprout of birth, the green essence of spring in the quickening of grass. If there were household gods, if there were spirits, if a beer deity existed...surely this would be his potent ichor.

And it has god-like power, friends. For when I drink EKU 28, when it floods my heart and flashes all the lights in my mind, I know that I will live

Wow. This stuff really got right on top of me. I'd better go walk the dog...but first, I'm loading Alte Kameraden and Wien bleibt Wien on my MP3 player. Damn. Does anyone else see something silly in writing about doppelbock and calling it "The Session"? Whew. Might have to have more when I get back.

The Session is all about doppelbock this month, hosted by Jay Wilson at Brewvana. When you're done here, double back and read the rest.


Frank said...

Doublebocks for 'The Session"? Works for me when its cold and wet out. I'll have to look for the Kulminator, give it a shot. For now, I'll go enjoy a Wobbly Bob at UBW.

Rustmeister said...

Heya, Lew.

Just found your blog, looks good!

sam k said...

1976. I'm working at Centre Beverage in State College, PA while attending Penn State. I buy a case of Yuengling's Lord Chesterfield ale in the tall green returnables and take it home to my roommates. We each open a bottle and are, all but one, repulsed by THAT FLAVOR! What the hell is THAT?

My dad worked for 35 years at the late, great Jones Brewing Company in Smithton, PA. I was weaned on Stoney's beer and still love the regional mainstreams: Stegmaier, Straub, Iron City, Genesee. No apologies.

This, though, was a different animal. I gave the case away to the roommate who appreciated the experience. It took a long time for me to embrace that flavor, and it's now an active part of my life, and I'm a better man for it. Thanks, Dick Yuengling, Sr.!

Because of this blog, I'll celebrate my heightened sense of beer appreciation this weekend with an Otto's Ottonator Doppelbock fresh from the tank. Maybe three. Thanks, Charlie Schnable! Thanks, Lew Bryson!

God Bless America, and Hoppy New Year to all!