The problem with wine is that it breeds wine snobs. We are not wine snobs. We love wine. Rare is the night that a new bottle isn’t corked around Broad-Green Estate and a glass with any lunch worth having is customary, too. We are particular about what we like and what we don’t. A big yes to French syrah, a big no to Australian shiraz, even though they’re the same grape. We know the difference, sometimes on sight and smell alone, between major varietals (though Chardonnay, which can be manipulated into almost anything these days, often fools us.) We reserve our right, in decent restaurants (hard to find in this city), to ask for small pours to sample; we solicit opinions from knowledgable waitstaff (harder still) but don’t always follow them. Amanda and I are also compiling a very substantial collection of futures to open after aging for a decade or two, and I maintain that, yes, there is something to all that nosing and swirling and decanting and tongue-smacking. But we are not wine snobs. My wine-tasting vocabulary extends as far as such words as, “yummy”, although I confess that the scrupulous avoidance of wine-tasting terminology could be viewed as a form of pretension, too. I also believe that it’s undeniably true, as the enormously likable and sensible Billy Munnelley says, that “we live in a golden age for wine” where there are a ton of great wines for under twenty dollars and a lot of good ones for under ten. Our everyday go-to pours are screw-top bottles from Italy, France, and, yes, Niagara, and they all come in under twenty bucks, positively a steal when one considers that the cost of psychotherapy ranges upwards of $150 an hour.
An aside for my American readers, who are probably thinking that twenty bucks is a lot to pay for a decent table wine. Indeed it is, at least in a civilized place such as, well, anywhere in the United States of America. Not so in Soviet Canuckistan, where government-owned provincial monopolies are the order of the day in all provinces except one. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is the biggest single buyer of wine in the world. They have a good gig. It works like this: Ontarians pay taxes to maintain a crown corporation that sells wine back to them at inflated prices. In other contexts this is known as a “protect racket.”
Now, concerning the matter of beer. The words “wine and beer” are often uttered together but the experience of consumption usually is very different. Unfairly is beer denounced by wine drinkers as nitwit juice, mass produced in watery forms such as “Coors Light”, to be swilled one after another by fellers with big guts, who like football and eating nachos and hitting on the woman from the next trailer over when she’s visiting to watch the game on the big-screen they’re paying down over eleven years, while meanwhile their wives are in the same room, half-passed out on the sofa from too many vodka coolers at four o’clock in the afternoon while their gaggle of kids, all precisely eleven months apart, scream like monsters running from room to room shooting at each other with squirt guns loaded with bleach. This is unfair stereotype, as Coors Light is consumed by many hockey fans, too.
Moreover, good beer also has its partisans and its snobs. I myself have just downed a rather engaging, bitter and spicy little lager from San Francisco. (Put this in the “Did you know?” file, readers: your noble author almost always consumes some sort of alcoholic beverage while blogging. Can you tell? Hint: the passive-aggression meter goes up depending on the time of night and number of beverages consumed.)
A few weeks ago, the commissars at the LCBO decided that it was in the public interest to remove from their shelves forthwith and forevermore a beer called Smashbomb Atomic India Pale Ale, produced by the cheeky Flying Monkeys brewery (formerly the Robert Simpson brewery). Their reason? Because the name of the beer might promote violence. Read that again, dear readers. It might promote violence. Two observations, if I may. First, of course it will promote violence. It’s alcohol. Second, it’s not the name that’s the problem. It’s the alcohol. From the window where I type, I watch every morning as a group of homeless and/or destitute men gather in front of the LCBO, waiting for it to open, so that they can rush in and buy the cheapest bottles of swill they can get their hands on, and the LCBO sells it to them quite obligingly. But I can’t buy an India Pale Ale because the LCBO is afraid I might go and go and build a nuclear weapon in my kitchen. Good Lord. What goes on in their tiny, tiny brains?
A few days later, I discovered that a local bar and grill that serves serviceable food pours Smashbomb Atomic on tap. It was a done deal. In a fit of rage against the machine, I had a pint at lunch and went back for another the day I wrote this. Take that, Liquor “Control” Board of Ontario! I am drinking the beer because you took it off the shelves. It’s good, incidentally. Positively terrific with fish and chips.
And did I give in to fits of violence? Did the name of the beer make we want to go out and smash or bomb somebody? Well, no. But, after lunch, I immediately went home and decided to turn against everything good and decent in Western civilization and violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a hobby project.
Oh, dear. Did I just get myself flagged by a number of security and intelligence services? Probably. Hey, guys: I was just kidding. It’s a joke. Let me make it up to you. Have a Coors Light on me.