Thursday, February 25, 2010

Some Guy’s Adventures through the Pint Glass

Day One: The Origins of the Beer Mystery Case

Like most Americans, for years I’d heard about the mesmerizing and mostly mythical Beer Mystery Case in the usual legends and bedtime stories, but until very recently I had never actually seen one in person. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered a Beer Mystery Case waiting patiently in my office a few days ago—a gift from a grateful if somewhat too-generous friend who has stashed some of her extra furniture in my basement.

I was immediately taken in by the Case’s cagey label (“What’s in the box? I bet it’s tasty and smooth!”) and its tantalizing hint of the potential danger within (“No returns! No peeking! No kidding!”), and without hesitation I swore to myself that I would fulfill the promise of the Beer Mystery Case by savoring each and every unknown drink within and, if the fates smiled on me, getting stupid drunk1 in the process.

As I continued to consider the Case, however, I came to the conclusion that both the truth and the joy of the Great Adventure of the Beer Mystery Case shouldn’t be mine only, but rather should be shared with the world. Not literally, of course—I’m not interested in any of that “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” bullshit—but by chronicling all its sights, sounds, flavors, and drunken stumblings for posterity. I hope that, much like the expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott, Sir John Franklin, or George Mallory, my foray to the unknown—in this case, a humble effort to get plastered—will, in some small way, broaden and enrich the human experience.

Unfortunately, while I have sixteen years of experience as an enthusiastic beer drinker (or thirteen years, if my mom is reading this), I am far from a connoisseur, and my analysis will likely suffer as a result. In my nine years of college I didn’t really aim to drink in bulk, but even now, my purpose in drinking is to socialize with friends and enjoy familiar tastes, rather than to sip slowly to savor and analyze a bouquet of new and subtle flavors, or to exercise an aficionado’s extensive command of descriptive language.

But what I lack in vocabulary, I more than make up for with plenty of, uh—whatever that word is. So with that in mind, and having been inspired by melancholy Dane Sven Kramer’s Olympic record in the men’s 5,000-meter speedskating (rather than his disqualification in the 10,000 a few days later), the following are my observations about
  1. Carlsberg, brewed in Copenhagen, Denm—shit, hang on a second, I'm out of beer. I should have started drinking after I started writing, not before. Now the bottle is empty, and I haven’t observed a damned thing.

As luck would have it, though, the Beer Mystery Case contains a second bottle of
  1. Carlsberg, brewed in Copenhagen, Denmark. This beer, as my sources inform me, is what’s called a “pale lager,” and indeed my first reaction was to wonder if “Carlsberg” was Danish for “Bud Light,” which is, of course, American slang for “tap water.” The first sip of Carlsberg, however, proves to have both a robust flavor and hints of alcohol content,2 quickly putting to rest my suspicions about its wussiness.

Carlsberg is refreshingly light without being thin, smooth, not too filling, and very drinkable.3 If you’re a less-experienced drinker getting your hands on Carlsberg for the first time, its flavor and approachability definitely increase your odds of inadvertently drinking well beyond your tolerance and coming to your senses several hours later in an unfamiliar house, with your pants on inside-out, making out with a coat rack that’s far less attractive than you initially thought.4

Of course, depending on your particular goals for the evening, this can be interpreted as a positive or a negative.

Some notes on packaging: while most beer bottles are wrapped by an adhesive paper label, the body of this bottle is bare, adorned only by the word “Carlsberg” molded into the glass itself, spelled out vertically from bottom to top. This turns out to be a problematic design decision; the curious drinker has to decide between deciphering this cryptic message and not pouring beer into his lap. Note to self: find dry pants.

Final analysis: I have yet to develop a ratings system for the Beer Mystery Case, and, having finished two drinks, I won’t bother to try. My official and legally binding rating for Carlsber’s pale lager, therefore, is one (1) speedskating gold medal and a single (1) bronze in, um, freestyle moguls.5

Please check back frequently6 for the next installment, in which I will describe one of my favorite drinks—unless it’s something I hate, or one I’ve never tried before. I just don’t know—such is the beauty of the Beer Mystery Case.

For more of Some Guy’s Adventures through the Pint Glass, check here: Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6

1. Several times.
2. “Robust” is the kind of word that I figure a real beer reviewer would say, so I’m going to use it a lot. Other highfalutin and/or pretentious words I hope to work in as if I genuinely knew how use them include “oaky,” “undertones,” “bouquet,” "fruit bomb," “vituperative, “splenetic,” and “hammered.” Only one of those actually makes sense to me, and I don’t know if any of the rest actually apply to beer drinking, but I like how they sound.
3. I use “drinkable” here despite being fully aware that the notion of “drinkability,” as the center of an advertising campaign, is probably the fourth-dumbest idea in the history of marketing.
4. I know this because I . . . yeah, I heard it happened to, uh, some guy I know.
5. I hereby reserve the right to adjust my rating steeply downwards tomorrow, if the headache already developing behind my right eye turns out to be a hangover.
6. And tell your friends. Unless you hate us, and think this is a waste of time, in which case, tell your enemies.


  1. Excellent review! Almost makes me want to try one...almost.

  2. Just you wait, there'll be more reviews where that one came from . . . right after I convince myself—after the long and far-too-fun weekend that just ended—that I ever want to look at an alcoholic drink again.

  3. Poor Some Guy. Goes and has a big weekend, drinks like he's in his 20's again, and just can't hang - or get back on the bandwagon. Sympathies from all.