The Quite Bearable Lightness of Boozing

As I sipped last night on a dram of 46.1% alcohol Mackmyra First Edition Whisky, I mused on the nature of alcoholic strength and the unlikely conflict and confrontation it has caused of late. My thoughts left me wondering why so many members of a purportedly democratic group like drink aficionados – beer drinkers who can appreciate a powerfully hoppy IPA and an equally malt-driven Trappist ale, whisky fans who can take equal pleasure from a pot-distilled Irish whiskey and an aggressively peaty Islay malt – insist on seeing things in such stark shades of black and white.

Simply, in the situation I described yesterday or the scorcher that this afternoon is shaping up to be, a light ale or lager is precisely what fits the bill. Last night, with a bit of cheese at its side, the uncut beauty of the Mackmyra was an ideal tipple. Later tonight, on my condo balcony, it might be better a 10% alcohol double IPA or vanilla-soaked single barrel bourbon. Tomorrow, when I meet up with friends after work, I might reach for a chilled glass of 17% alcohol Lilley Blanc, or a bracingly dry Tanqueray martini.

Sometimes, lighter is better, and it needn’t be absolutely below a certain percentage of alcohol to suit. (Said he avoiding the use of the dreaded “s-word.”) Sometimes, big and beefy and boozy is better. Three pints of 6% alcohol pale ale might leave me feeling only mildly buzzed, while sending a lighter-weight, over-stressed soul over the edge. It depends on how I’m feeling, and the time of day, and the weather, and what I might be eating, and where and with whom I’m supping, and all the other factors that relate to the enjoyment of alcohol and make brand- or even booze-loyalty such a silly concept.

It’s all good, folks, unless, of course, it’s not.

One Reply to “The Quite Bearable Lightness of Boozing”

  1. Steve, I agree, and did with your posting of yesterday. I am at the point now though where I refuse to accept – unless I have the choice – a 6% pale ale when I want one at 4%.

    I simply add a neutral soda water to make the 6%, 4%. The siphon in a bar or some inexpensive brand at home works perfectly for this. If you swirl the drink well the carbonation level “re-sets” and I guarantee you no one would know the drink was adjusted with water in this way. Will it be exactly as if the brewer brewed at 4% pale ale to begin with? Perhaps not, but what does it matter? I will still taste fine (usually). It’s like adding water to whiskey, and I’ve also sometimes made a beer stronger by adding vodka. It’s a drink, you can do these things, just as you can add an assertive APA to a bland pale ale to pick up the hop character or to a mild porter to make a black IPA. Brewers, including some craft brewers I believe, brew on the basis of high-gravity brewing, so why I can’t I continue the process? It’s not something I do all the time but as a “field expedient” it works very well to make the drink suit the occasion. Even saliva in the mouth is a diluent…


    P.S. I also add ice to beer sometimes in the summer and this was done in Quebec 200 years ago and elsewhere.

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