Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thoughts on drinking

Awhile back my good friend, Tim McCormack, wrote an excellent post on why he doesn't drink. I agree overall with his reasoning and support anyone who choses to follow it. Though now that I've been of legal drinking age for a year, I thought I'd share my thoughts on alcohol.

Overall I fall strongly into the drinking for flavor group in Tim's break down. I like things that are either subtle or strong. I like spicy food but also find a bowl of white rice with a little seaweed to be rather tasty. I'm odd like that. I like textures. What Tim dislikes about wine is actually what I do like about it. I can taste the charcoal that it was aged in, the fruit and tannins. The depth and texture of a nice meaty red wine can make for a very relaxing end to a day for me. That applies for my other two favorite alcoholic beverages: sake and stouts.

Sake is a much more subtle beverage with a strong taste of alcohol to it. Most sake is between 14 and 15% alcohol by volume, making it little more than the average wine. This stronger taste I attribute to it being brewed from rice as apposed to fruit which might muffle the underlying alcohol. Either way, the flavor has the punch of stronger drinks without the actual high levels of alcohol. Once beyond that initial kick there are many finer fruit flavors and textures that I find rather nice. It is also one of the few brews that can be served either near freezing (popular in the United States), room temperature or warm (the only other worm alcohol I'm aware of and tried is mead, which is nice near the holidays). All three have varying effects on the flavor but depending on the brand and the conditions (I recently had some warm sake with soft-shell crab at Kyoto for my birthday and found it a great mix) they are all good, though room temp is the least satisfying all around.

Stouts are more a return to my love of red wine. They are meaty, full of texture and have complex flavors. For someone that doesn't smoke, I'm all about toasted smoky flavored things (one of my favorite teas is lapsang souchong). Stouts are black do to toasted barley added to them, which also gives a kind of coffee flavor to them. Basically, think of a kickass loaf of sourdough bread with a strong cup of black coffee and you're in business.

Star Hill Amber Ale is also quite tasty.

I mostly only drink wine with dinner or around the time of dinner. Frequency is pretty erratic but usually I'll have it on the weekend when the family is all together. I tend to dislike white wine on principle. It lacks the few health benefits of red wine and usually has a more sour thin flavor to it that I don't go for. There is also desert wines, which are nice, but again I don't really like the idea of sweet alcohol (mead being the exception). Other fruit wines are nice though on rare occasions. Sake is a special occasion drink for me, I could see getting sick of it easily if I abused it. So I probably have four to six bottles a year at most. Stouts are a similar bag. there are times when you want one and times when you don't. With me, those times can stretch as long as three months. I occasionally buy a six pack but usually an imperial pint is all I actually want and is much cheaper. In all above cases I'm an evening drinker, though stouts can sometimes be an afternoon drink with the smaller bottles when on vacation. I'm all for blender drinks like Pina Coladas in the afternoon as well, but mine are usually easy on the rum. I have a light tolerance of rum which annoys me, since it is about 40% alcohol. Wine, Guinness: Extra Stout and usually sake are all drinks that let me know I've had enough long before I've had too much. I've never gotten drunk off rum (actually I've only been drunk twice and only one of those times was I really, really drunk) but in the meantime that's still a lot of alcohol going through my system. As a result, try I go easy on it.

Another thing that discourages me from drinking much is that, unlike all the romantic accounts of bohemian writers pounding out amazing novels while chugging rum by the quarts, alcohol shuts me down. I can't write after a glass of wine. I simply turn a blank sheet. So it does nothing for me as a writer, just makes me sleepy. Partially I think this is do to my seldom needing to loosen up where perhaps some writers need to in order to be honest about things. Unless you catch me on one of those occasions where I've been holed up at home and avoided people for a month while being all crazy-artist-like (look for crazy beard and long fingernails as indicators) and am just coming out of my cave, I'm usually a pretty loose guy. Wine's more like horse tranquilizers for me.

So overall I'm not a big drinking for the effect of it kind of person. I like to relax a little, but the fascination with getting shit-faced has never made sense to me. Vomiting is not one of my favorite sensations. This is reflected by my choice of low alcohol beverages that satisfy me in small quantities that are usually stretched out over an hour. I tend to also try and keep my taste in alcohol where I can't budget excessive use, thus decent wine and sake. Back at PVCC, I met a lot of people that would get hammered on nearly a nightly basis. When you factor percentages by volume, the amount of alcohol I've consumed in this last year would be on par with a few weeks for most of these kids. Yeah, I said kids; I didn't ask, but I'm not buying that all of those students were 21.

On the matter of underage drinking, I've often found myself on the side of the pro-18ers. I've always had trouble with people being deemed old enough to go to war, to be drafted and to be executed as an adult, yet still not deemed old enough to drink. At the same time, that argument is made difficult time and time again by the simply staggering lengths of stupidity many underage and legal drinkers achieve just for the hell of it. There are some pretty stupid people out there that simply are impossible for me to defend their right to drink a beer. So, that's where I'm left on that matter. If people want it, deal with this vomit covered culture of doubasses.

Like Tim, I value my mind and thus try to go easy on alcohol. Few people can say they are devoid of bad vices. Weather it's a hookah, a soda, fast food, beer, promiscuous sex or just not getting off your butt, most Americans are slowly killing themselves in one manner or twelve others. Does that make it ok? Not really, but as long as I keep things in moderation and find that the frequency of times that I find myself saying that I just don't feel like drinking tonight continues to vastly outnumber the nights when I say that I could use a drink... I think I'm doing ok.


Blogger Cory Capron said...

I left out a big issue in this: peer pressure. I hate it. Since high school I've known people that drink. I've been the lonely straight-edge guy at the party and don't like to make others feel the same now that the tables have turned.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Jack Landers said...

Hmmm, have you tried any serious Pacific Northwest IPAs? Try a bottle of Stone's 'Ruination IPA.' Now *that* is flavor strong enough to knock your socks off. Nothing else will ever taste bitter again.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

I'll hunt it down. Thanks.

4:19 PM  

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