RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Features
The Rise and Fall of a Ratebeer Fanatic
NOW WITH CAPITAL LETTERS
May 22, 2003
<P>Dogfish Head Raison D'extra. This beer is quite expensive. The most expensive I've ever seen for a beer that ain't even aged. I saw the price and said "you've gotta be fucking kidding" and stalked out of the store. But you know they aren't kidding, no, and they knew I'd be back. I couldn't forget it, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I know that for that price, it's-- it's-- it's the mind-fuck stuff, oh yeah, it's uncut, pure. 20.5% abv, baby. I had to find the cash.
<P>Maybe you don't understand. See, I rate beer. And that's some serious shit. I need to rate every beer on the planet--and do it in a hurry before Josh Oakes does. If you have to ask why you should stop reading now and join the Mormon Tabernacle 'cause you're not Ratebeer material. If somewhere out in the Dungbuckle Province of Outer Mongolia two Tartar nomads brew up a kettle of camel cud and goat butter, slap a label on it and call it beer, I've got to find it and taste it. If we get word there's geological evidence of beer locked in the ice on Mars, I'll by God get there, suck on a piece, and you know that I'll have my spiral notebook.
<P>Even as a kid, I was different. Take, for example popsicles. Sure, every kid enjoys popsicles. I was fanatical about 'em. I rated popsicles, I sniffed 'em, measured 'em, held 'em up to the light. Always had ten or twelve types squirreled away in the freezer, aging some, doing a lot of blind tastes. I saved the sticks and sold them for firewood everytime I'd amassed a full cord. I quickly came to have disdain for the big commercial brands, the bland market-tested Kool-Aid pops and Eskimo pies that the other kids were sucking down in their ignorance and plebeian indifference to things refined. Peasants.
<P>I'd discovered the daring new companies which were springing up across America in the seventies to produce some raucous, bold products. There was Hippo-Hotchies of Vermont who made a Doppel-goo goo berry eis-icle whoopy bar, patterned after the bomb-pops made by the British army for troops stationed in India. Huge, potent enough to withstand the tropical climate, with nine sticks-- with a 10.5% quinine mixture for malaria and a helmet harness so in combat a trooper could operate his weapon with both hands and still have that icy refreshment standing by. My first 5.0 rating--that shit was burley, dude.
<P>Growing up and family life were difficult, I never did fit in, I was just green-bottle skunked I guess. I got into some trouble along the way. You know, most people don't understand the single-minded dedication and sacrifice it takes to achieve excellence. One time when I was nine I discovered that my mom had been dicking with the refrigerator's temperature settings and some of my expensive Belgian fudge-sicles got freezer burned. Fucking slut. Okay. Maybe I overreacted. I said so at the hearing and apologized for everything. Anyway, all that's another story. Suffice it to say that soon I'd moved on to bigger things. I'd discovered beer, and even greater demons were awakened.
<P>Like a lot of other Ratebeerians, my problem started with casual usage of some weenie beers-- you know: Heineken, Rolling Rock, Pete's Wicked, I thought Michelob was the goooood stuff--I was a retard. But I was able to fund a pretty steady consumption just with the dimes and quarters I kyped out of park fountains and my mom's purse. But stealing wasn't all-- by the time I was a teenager my parents had kicked me out: I was sassy, my bedroom was always a mess, I shot my kid brother Bob... Or maybe it was Ed, shit, I don't remember, one of those assholes. The one that drank my last Sierra Nevada pale ale. He totally survived and yet, I still got blamed for the whole thing. He heals up, but where's my beer? Huh? Fucking gone-- and right--I'm the bad guy. Whatever. Listen, yer never gonna please everybody. Later, I hocked my grandma's walker for a bottle of Shakespeare stout, yeah yeah, that was a good score. Now I was learning fast. Anyway, I was kicked out-- so the folks were out of the question in my ever wider search for cash to acquire more beers. I'd not only burned that bridge, I'd pissed poison in the river.
<P>I made money for awhile doing odd jobs, stuff like pouring Dundees Honey lager or Blue Moon into empty bottles of Samuel Smith's ales or into Aecht Schenkerla bottles along with a teaspoon of Liquid Smoke --and selling 'em to high school kids for double the price. Some rated the shit on Ratebeer and gave real low scores and got kicked off as trolls. I had to move on.
<P>I hit my first convenience store at age nineteen (with ski mask and an Italian 9mm that is), i got about twenty bucks. The clerk was an NRA member I guess 'cause he got verbally abusive and then produced a weapon. Bad move cowboy. I stretched him out and left him blubbering with an ugly flesh wound in the baby food aisle.
<P>The least shitty beer they had was Fosters, and otherwise a whole refrigerated wall of Miller and Bud products. Just to be a prick I emptied a full magazine into that mass of swill: boom, bash, clatter! I howled with laughter. But then the weirdest thing happened: after a moment of glass flying and bottles bursting, foaming and dripping and stinking, right before my eyes all that beer magically morphed back to the way it was before I'd opened fire. Huh. Nasty. How do they DO that?
<P>But with the proceeds of my heist, I got a Rochefort 10, mmmm yeah baby. Oh, and a pack of Lucky Strikes and an educational adult periodical called Humungo Hooters; hey-- I'm human. But that was the last time I ever spent money on anything besides beer, because after the epiphany of that Rochefort I vowed total purity and shaved my head with the bottle cap. And those were some halcyon days too, boy, I had my first big trade with Legion242, I was in the 100 beer club. Yeah, when I got that gold crown by my name, I, sniff, i knew I'd found my REAL family.
<P>My ratings were attracting some attention-- 'cause I always got into that special Zen mind place before writing-- I was true and faithful and it showed. I let the power of the beer speak through me, I lit my candles and bowed toward Belgium, I wore my garland made of 200 Ayinger Celebrator plastic goats, burned an offering of hops and ate a page from a Michael Jackson book (yeah, the Michael Jackson with a real nose). Soon, I'd collected fan letters from the likes of Gusler, Ecrvich, Silktork, MartinT, Muzzlehatch. Things were stratus-friggin'-pheric my man.
<P>At the same time, just to feed my habit, I had to hustle. I got in with a pretty cruel syndicate out of Minnesota dealing a bunch of Cave Creek Chili beer around some frat houses. You know, KEGS of Cave Creek with like, a huge six pound chili pepper in each keg-- I mean, they looked like chili peppers, I think one might have been a rottweiler fetus or something. Later, I heard some dude fucking died man, but the money was good-- I was in Hog Heaven for awhile, I mean Avery Hog Heaven. Yo! I topped five hundred in the ratings with a matched set of red white and blue Chimays.
<P>Another scam that a lot of the Ratebeer guys know well is how to fake a batch of Budweiser for bootlegging. I ripped off a few palettes of empty Bud bar bottles from a back lot at a beer distributor. Everybody has their favorite recipe, but I found that mixing four hundred quarts of cheap club soda with one bottle of Stone Ruination makes a pretty fair facsimile. But wait-- obviously THAT doesn't suck-- it's just watered down Ruination-- you still need to steep it overnight in some lined barrels. Forget the "beechwood", tho, what a fuckin' joke. I found dry dogchow works best. Then, my secret ingredient: for color and aroma mix in a gallon of horse urine-- if you can get Clydesdale, that's the best, but really any domestic equine-bovine species works. In fact, once I used llama piss and I got no complaints. Actually the danger is accidently making it better than real Budweiser, that's pretty easy to do, so be careful. Pure grain alcohol to taste. Finally, a filter, funnel and a bottle capper and you're good to go. Huge profits.
<P>But winter came on and it was getting rougher to keep up: the cost, man, always the cost: bigger beers, bigger trades. With the bucks I spent on one month's postage I coulda mailed every Bud drinker in Morrow County Ohio off to Australia--and if you knew what fat asses most of 'em are, you'd see that's some serious freight (and man, I'd have some pissed off Australians on my hands too, heh-heh). Lord: Delerium Nocturnums and De Dolle Stille Nachts and Hair of the Dog Freds! Six, eight, ten bucks a pop. I wasn't drinking more, quantity-wise, but the price of an evening had quadrupled. I was dropping money like a Brink's truck with a hole in the floor. Plus, my tastes were getting extreme and uh, a little kinky. Even some of my doper friends freaked when they heard that I was experimenting with Dogfish heads.
<P>Pretty soon I was living on the street. I was having a slow January and had only rated about twenty beers (quite a few big Belgians had taken the jingle out of my purse). So I gave up the apartment and moved under the Interstate 71 viaduct just up from the train station: I staked out a pretty nice cardboard box: not a lot of room, but with a view, I could concentrate on my ratings. Sure it was cold out, but with no job something had to give (Immort ale goes for fifteen clams a six).
<P>Oh, I know what you're thinking, man, I hear the question yer gonna ask: "how the fuck was I cellaring my beer"? Well, don't sweat it, Michael Beaumont, 'cause I had a workable fridge stashed under a rusty car body by the tracks. I ran about a hundred and eleven extension cords out from the back of the Salvation Army donations warehouse to my little bootie stash. I had some gnarly sheet metal and wino barf and dead pigeons for camouflage piled on there, so usually nobody bothered my goods. Plus I was usually nearby packin' heat. One time a hobo found some of my discarded Unibroue bottles and came sniffing around, suspicious like... I had to suspend his animation, so to speak, and deposit him on a flat car bound for points south. He had a buck seventy in his pocket: enough for a single of New Belgium Tripple. Cool.
<P>Of course I didn't shower, or change clothes, and with a little practice I'd learned to make one square of toilet paper last about a week. But then, I didn't eat either, except what I found in discarded fast food rubbish blowing down the Interstate. Hey, beer IS food, ask any monk. And real hard core raters don't care about hygiene or non-beer sustenance anyway: in the time it takes to brush your teeth, bam, you coulda rated a beer. Get it? But, but, sometimes, sniff, sometimes, sure, I did let some serious shit lapse. Sometimes the tasting glasses weren't entirely clean, and, uh, I was running out of synonyms for "amber"; worse, it looked like "beerweenie76" was going to pass me in the ratings club. I still hadn't tasted a beer from Lesotho or Kyrgyzstan. I was down, desperate, way behind on trades to Hennes and Indra, one time I mixed up some notes and called a pilsner "a decent session ale..." I knew I'd hit rock bottom when I sold a pint of my own blood just to rate a Sam Adams Oktoberfest way past the freshness date. I hadn't logged off Ratebeer since last September. God, I was an animal.
<P>Finally I got popped after one of my scams misfired-- a pathetic two-bit heist involving a hot Saturday-night special price-sticker gun and about a dozen mis-marked Traquairs. I tried to check out of the Bev-Mo with twelve bottles of the Jacobite priced at a buck twenty-nine each. That clerk wasn't quite as stupid as he looked, the flaming lickspiggot. May he fester and boil for all eternity in a Michelob Ultra wort kettle. I was busted.
<P>Up before the man-- the judge-- I crumbled, I spilled my guts, told 'em I was rating ten-twelve beers a day, and that still wasn't getting me off, man, that was just to feel normal. When he found out that I couldn't be linked to any of the big ratings consortiums, (you know, like when a buncha guys rate under the same name just to get a huge number--"Austinpowers" is really fourteen slave-tasters trapped and rating in a Tijuana sweatshop), he took pity on my wretched soul and I got hooked up with some treatment and a half way-house. (That's where Venom is, by the way, he says hi ). It's kinda like the methadone program for heroin junkies. They're weaning us with doses of Keystone Ice and electric shock therapy. It isn't pretty. A lot of anguished screaming and gnashing of teeth late at night. The shock therapy is no picnic either. Ya gotta really want to quit, and I swear to god, I did.
<P>But at the home, we did normal things like normal people, I had a glass of Smirnoff Ice once without sniffing it and sneering. I learned that there are people who don't drink at all-- and that barely even seemed retarded or unreasonable. I chatted in real time with real people who didn't look like wet kitty cats or giant roosters or cartoon characters. I was getting my life back. I met a lass with a sweet smile who drank beer from cans (shit, sometimes I think she eats the cans, she's quite a charmer) and I dreamed we'd live in the suburbs where all the houses are beige and the yards as perfect as billiard-table tops; we'd get all of our news from the television, join whatever church is appropriate for our region and race, cook dead animal parts out on the grill in the backyard, we'd get a huge SUV, strap our helmeted children in back and go shopping like real patriots-- and I'd never look back. Then, confronting my ultimate challenge: I bought a six-pack of Miller Lite. I drank it. Somewhere out there Joe Tucker choked on his '94 Rene Cuvee, but I survived. My brain was almost spaghetti -- I even starting using capital letters-- total conformity was at hand! I was on the outskirts of bliss. And then. Then... Dogfish Head Raison D'extra.
<P>It happened that day I was volunteering--taking some young underprivileged drones to the Chicago Real Swill Fest. That's two amazing nonstop days of Miller, Coors, Corona and Bud tasting, and shloshing them on your shirt from plastic cups while screaming at televised sporting events. Awesome. There was even supposed to be a special event where everyone sticks their faces into a tub of beer and makes motorboat noises to see who could make the biggest bubbles, then gets vicious ugly drunk and we see who can say the most asinine intolerant shit-- rumor had it Rush Limbaugh was going to come and judge THAT event. Man! I was psyched.
<P>Passing a liquor store on the way to the convention center, I knew by habit that I had to crimp my eyes and accelerate my pace so I wouldn't be tempted by anything evil. Just seeing a Kalamazoo Bells display one time put me back a month in therapy . I sped past some cardboard ad with a buxom knockout holding a six of Molsons--THAT didn't phase me, (tho their advertising strategy of featuring women with 12% larger breasts than the competition uses is pure genius) But then, there was a chalkboard notice- just a scrawl really, announcing the Dogfish Head Raison D'extra. It was like someone smacked me with a nine pound iced and gutted salmon. I reeled. "That's the totally dope shit", I hissed to myself in my sinister old voice.
<P>No need to recount the maniacal depravity that seized me at that moment--if you're still reading, you probably know it well enough yourself. I did enter the store briefly and was stultified by the price and according to witnesses, I stormed out, and launched myself at the first pedestrian I saw with a conspicuous purse. Figures I'd hit an old granny short on cash but long on pepper spray.
<P>Dazed and demented-- but not deterred, I returned to the booze store looking like the vanguard elements of an invasion force. I don't even know how i got the bottle in my hands and managed to bite through the wire manacled top and glass and cork, or how one store clerk ended up dangling from the ceiling lights and another one in the hospital having my shoe removed from his spleen. But before the cuffs went on and all went dark, I was for just a while awash in the ecstasy of a Vesuvius eruption of yeast and alcohol, apple raisin strudel sweetness amid incendiary strength. Hmm, not a lot of depth to it, though, I rated it a 15. Oh-- and I do recall that the beer was slightly over-chilled. Tsk. Last time I shop there. Fucking idiots.
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