<P>everyone enjoys the small print on the stone brewing company products,right? (the guy who writes that stuff must have a thesaurus as dog-earred ,smudged and pawed-over as the phone book at JFK international). i wasreading the arrogant bastard bottle right there in my local booze store--being careful of course to not move my lips as i read, giggling as thecooler door hung open on a hot day last summer. but then, i saw it... itwas a remark near the bottom in small print, a footnote as distressing as aminus sign next to your bank balance: "you're not worthy" the bottleinformed me.<P>jeez. so it's come to this, i thought, down on self- esteem anyway, now i'mtaking shit from bottles of beer. just imagine reading something like: "mygod, you're a loathsome fucking dung-beetle" printed on the next bag ofcrispy barbequed corn whoopers you buy. would you stand for that? i guessthey'd have to be pretty damn tasty corn whoopers.<P>i assumed that this abject status would preclude my being able to purchasethe product. i dutifully--and with understandable embarrassment--passedthis intelligence on to the cashier as i simpered forward with myadmonishing and spendy indulgence.<P>"i'm apparently not, uh, worthy... that's what THEY say, anyway..." iwhined.<P>she scorched me with a the kind of look engineered to ward off jehovah'switnesses and panhandlers, a look so hot and unsympathetic it damaged myretina. but she took my four dollars just the same--with a haughty snapthat gave me a paper cut. so i figure i must be worthy. but wait, there'smore:<P>listen, i knew fritz maytag when he was still pearl diving at some greasyspoon down on the wharf in san francisco in '35. he was a goofykid--couldn't wash dishes worth a shit-- but i had a friend for life 'causei used to bring him six packs of pilsner urquell. he loved that beer, andwanted to know everything about it.<P>"gosh-a-rooty, mr. bierjaeger, what's that--(hic)--great tangy grapefruitytaste?"<P>"that's the hops, young fella, big fat saaz hops--big as your fist--frombohemia. drink slowly now, and savor it..."<P>"hops...", he'd mummer with reverence.<P>"by the way," i queried, "who's that new kid over there, that unsightlysquid drinking the near-beer?"<P>"that's my pal, bert grant, he's the new busboy."<P>"well, share a bottle with him, too, will ya kid?"<P>years later they got into brewing a little bit, and i was happy to send themsome samples of the new hearty domestic hop variety we were working on atthe department of agriculture. they made pretty good use of those prototypecascades. funny how things turn out. bert said later that he was thinkingof me when he named his porter. that was nice.<P>yeah, then there was the time i pulled a bottle of ripple from the underagelips of a pimply michael jackson back in '46 and hooked him up with hisfirst doppelbock. going back a little further, i recall one frigid nightin st. petersburg: the czar, peter tchaikovsky and i laughed and dreamed upfantasy beer recipes--our scribbled cocktail napkin notes eventually becamethe first imperial stout. (peter ilyich wanted to add vodka to the recipe.what a doofus). somehow, i managed to feel worthy back in those days...<P>but, today--to taste this beer that i'm ostensibly not worthy of, i set outan etched crystal goblet, a venerable and delicate fabergé piece-- the onethat mark twain and i shared that night before the franco-prussian war whenwe were tasting aged lambics in cavernous belgian beer cellars withfranciscan brewmasters--gnarled old codgers so etched with age and wisdomthat they looked like gnomish tree trunks. (we all resembled tree trunks bydawn). next to this glass, i placed the perfectly chilled and stillinsinuating bottle of arrogant bastard before me.<P>then, with a carved ivory bottle opener--a curious and lewd artifact givento me by a very inebriated ernest hemmingway (i'd helped him edit one of hissilly novels), after one of our infamous bamberg rauchbier binges in '24--ipried the top off the arrogant bastard. the mood was right: mingling with asummer night's zephyr and mummering crickets, the air was filled with theplaintive notes of an obscure billie holiday session that norman granz and irecorded after i'd introduced her to lester young (the night we polishedthat case of six year old thomas hardy ale).<P>and so finally the bastard sprang forth, a vivacious tawny torrent oflightly cloudy liquid bravado. the cashew colored head muscled through aquick and elegant kata of fluffy foam, then stepped aside as if gunfighterswere approaching.<P>we went nose to nose, the arrogant one and i. the bastard struck fast--i'dscarcely lifted the glass--and slapped me with a puissance of mango rich hopresin, linzertort and brandy, all raw and ready to flambé. i shook offthe blow and sniffed again, but sinuous undulating notes of orange pekoe andhemlock sap left me reeling-- and yet strangely euphoric--like i'd beenpacked in a barrel of hop flavored massage oil with sandra bullock androlled down a steep slope.<P>i managed a sip, but again lost my footing as a huge caramel sweetness blewpast my left, chattering tangy hops dragged their claws down my right. asdiminutive stars and cartoon tweety birds circled my head, a fogbank ofalcohol descended on the part of my cerebellum associated with randomcognitive recall, like what planet i currently reside upon. as i flailedhelplessly, the hops sprang on me again and bit me like a rabid wolverinelaunched from a catapult! texas ruby grapefruit on the tongue, a radiantbuzz and a grin were what remained of my senses, i was blabberinginsouciantly as an infant, blithely as an inebriated angel, with thetranquility of an eagle aloft.<P>okay, so yeah, the beer is good. way good. but i still say i'm worthy.oh, but you, YOU'RE probably not. and, um, could you stop moving your lipswhile you read? that's sooooo annoying.