Don’t Fear the Fear
You can call me a lot of things (the overwhelming majority of them negative), but one thing you cannot call me is a beer connoisseur. You say, “potato,” I say, “po … what’s the cheapest thing you have on tap—and oh, wait, is it happy hour?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of people who love craft beer. It’s with those precise people that I have the following understanding: I won’t judge you for wasting 17 minutes of any given day lecturing me on something called a “hop,” and you won’t judge me for regularly shotgunning warm Natty Bohs at the age of 33.
On weeknights. In dress clothes.
This is to say nothing of the fact that I’m hopelessly in love with Flying Dog’s The Fear. If I could afford to drink fancy craft beer eight days a week, I’d drink it a lot more than I do. Or, well, there’s that and there’s the fact that it’s only available around this time of year.
Among the other things only offered around this time of year? Football. Leaves. NBC sitcoms that last no longer than three episodes. School. Candy corn. Less daylight. Apple cider. Hooded sweatshirts. And the thing worse than them all: pumpkin beer.
And that list included “candy corn.”
Anyway, because I love The Fear so much, and because The Fear is technically a version of pumpkin beer, I set out to find some other candidates that could stare The Fear directly in the eye and … well, you can finish that cliché yourself.
One very unpleasant clerk and two liquor stores later, I walked away with the only two very large bottles of pumpkin beer I could find in Maryland in the middle of August (hey, we have early deadlines): Southern Tier’s Pumking Imperial Ale and Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale (brewed with Rogue Farms Dream Pumpkins to boot!). The former came in an atypically big bottle, while the other came in something so orange I needed eclipse glasses just to drink it.
“This is going to be good,” I thought. “Not only is this beer cold, but it also costs more per bottle than what I’m making per word right now (which, to be fair, is nothing). And if we go by the old adage that if it’s expensive, it’s high quality, then this stuff is going to change my life.”
And change my life it did. I wasn’t halfway through the Southern Tier bottle before I could feel my body temperature rise and my nose start to run.
“I’m sweating,” I texted a coworker after she asked how things were going with the experiment.
Then I found the all-caps function on my cellphone and fired off these perfectly reasonable messages:
“I MAY DIE.”
“NOW MY BACK HURTS MORE.”
And the kicker …
In short, the beer was just so … pumpkin-y. In fact, it was so pumpkin-y, I very seriously considered not finishing the bottle and canceling this column. It was like I took a bite of a pumpkin and knocked it back with arsenic. The flavor was so sweet I wanted to make a dentist appointment. It wasn’t until the 8.6 ABV kicked in that I could stomach it. But even then, the sweats kept coming and the nose kept running.
The worst part was that after the experience of the Southern Tier concluded (mercifully), I had yet another, very bright bottle staring me right in the face, daring me to pop the cap.
Fortunately, the Rogue Farms Dream Pumpkins proved to be not nearly as sweet as their predecessor’s, and Rogue offered, at the very least, something that resembled a real beer. Far from a warm Natty Boh, but clearly the easier of the two to throw down the gullet.
So, what’s the lesson learned? Well, for one, pumpkin beer can go pound sand.
For two, Southern Tier, whose ale I really wanted to like because I have a history with the brand, can go right ahead and stop producing its seasonally atrocious Pumking.
For three, what the hell does “Pumking” mean?
For four, this better not mean I’m allergic to beer, because that’ll jump right to the top of Colin’s List of Issues, just above “When will they bring back the grilled onion hamburger at McDonald’s?”
And for five, let’s raise a glass to The Fear. For we now have proof that the only thing to fear is anything but The Fear itself.