Accidents Happen

I probably don’t need to say this, but it truly is a wonderful time to be alive as a lover of flavorful beers. In fact, this might be the best time the world has ever known for better beer lovers. Yes, certainly, in our fairly recent past (historically speaking) we struggled through a dark time when much was lost and corporate conglomerates conspired to make our beer options uniform and driven by marketing rather than craft. But today, in the midst of a wonderful modern renaissance of beer, people like us have more options than have ever before been available in one place, at one time.

In the past, your choices would have been based on regional preferences and circumstances. There were a lot of breweries in Cincinnati in the late 19th century, but I bet there wasn’t a whole lot of IPA.

Truly, we are surrounded by an embarrassment of riches.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find yourself just plain embarrassed too, with all these wonderful options. No, I’m not talking about the time you unknowingly tried to shotgun a Sam Adams Triple Bock to impress your date or when you bought that shiny new sixer of Icehouse, certain that you’d stumbled upon a new craft-brewed phenomenon. No, no, even more embarrassing than that (well, maybe), is the dreaded Accidental Intoxication.

In this day and age, the better beer consumer has to be very mindful about what he or she drinks; it’s not difficult to unsuspectingly spend a few hours quaffing a reasonable number of pale ales, only to realize too late that hiding deep within that coppery amber elixer is enough alcohol to bring down a rabid rhinoceros.

And yes, it’s happened to me. A few years ago, one cold winter Friday night, I was feeling celebratory for some reason or another (look! the sun came up…we must celebrate!), so I picked up a 22 oz Arrogant Bastard and a six pack of Great Lakes Commodore Perry to go with my typical Friday night DVD.

I imagine a few people read that and immediately crossed themselves because they already understand what that combination can mean. For the rest of you, allow me to explain. The Bastard is 7.2% alcohol by volume, and the Commodore Perry is 7.5%. So, that night, I unwittingly planned to consume 94 oz of pretty potent potables – which was well above the norm for a Friday night at home.

Unfortunately, back then, I wasn’t in the habit of checking the alcohol content on a six-pack of beer, regardless of its style or origin. I figured that those fancy four-packs had the high-impact stuff, so as long as stayed away from those and anything labelled with the dread phrase Barleywine, I’d be fine.

My head disagreed with me the next morning.

I didn’t drink the entire pack of Commodores, but I did happily guzzle the Bastard and at least four of the six IPAs. I believe I stumbled to bed that night, somewhat alarmed to find that the world just wouldn’t stop moving.

When the Puddinette woke me the next morning – which was frighteningly close to afternoon – she was understandably…um…aggravated and at least a little concerned. She wasn’t a huge fan of the idea that I spent a couple of hours in my recliner the previous night watching a DVD and getting bombed all by myself. Frankly, neither was I; that’s not exactly model behavior of responsibility for a father with four small children. I was just as unhappy about the situation as she was, and dumbfounded to boot. And as an added bonus, there was an unpleasant pounding between my temples serving as a constant reminder of my foolishness.

It wasn’t until a week later that I put all the metrics together and realized my mistake. It was good to find out that the incident was entirely accidental, because I was beginning to worry that my tolerance had suddenly become equivalent to that of the ditzy college cheerleader from a teen comedy movie.

From my experience that night (and the sad day after), I learned to find and read the ABV % on a six-pack before swinging it up on the check-out counter. It was also the last night The Commodore was invited to a quiet evening at la casa de Puddin. Sure, I realize now that he’s the kind of guy you have to enjoy in careful measures, but I don’t think the Puddinette’s altogether ready to forgive him yet.

So as we head into the Holiday party season, I’d like to offer all of the believers in better beer out there this simple public service announcement: while you’re minding your P’s and Q’s1 at the company party or dear Aunt Mildred’s, take a lesson from my cautionary tale in Accidental Intoxication and make sure to also mind your ABV’s.

Nobody wants to be the guy with a lampshade on his head.

Especially now that everyone has a cell phone with a built-in camera and instant access to social media sites world-wide.


1 Who knows why that’s a beer reference?

5 Replies to “Accidents Happen”

  1. “P’s and Q’s” is a reference to Pints and Quarts. English bartenders would keep track of how many pints and quarts each patron had consumed. To remind the patrons how much they had consumed, the bartender would tell them to “Mind their P’s and Q’s”.

  2. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

    I love you guys! When I drop references like that at work, everyone looks at me like I’m either the kid that just busted the grading curve! :)

  3. If you are drinking your beer for the quart, I dare say you should mind how much you’re drinking!

    I’ve made this mistake many times. I’d have a drink at home, walk up to the Dilly and have a couple drinks there, and realize that my “3 drinks” was what most people would consider 6-8 drinks.

    By the way, I think my next homebrew barleywine will be named “Lampshade on the Head.”

  4. Carla, I’d never heard that explanation before; very interesting!

    John, I used to frequent Applebee’s right after my 21st birthday, and would make a night of slugging down 22 oz Killian’s (it was better than nothing). Many a night I’d end up needing a ride home, and it wouldn’t be until the next day that I did the duplication math. Eventually I realized that the pint truly is the perfect size for a pub beer — but I still like the imperial at home ;)

    And I’d be delighted if you really did name a barleywine after something I wrote (even if I can’t take credit for the idea)! Save a few sips for me. :)

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