Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chelada Examined

Jimi Hendrix came to me in a dream the night before the Great Chelada Tasting and he told me not to do it. I didn't listen.

As I promised some weeks ago dear readers, over the recently concluded American holiday weekend I assembled a Blue Ribbon Panel Of Experts to sample and review Bud Light Chelada. This was no lightweight group of people, picked at random from the sidewalk. To the contrary, I hand-picked a group of seasoned imbibers. Big D. Mississippi Queen. Streak. LaLa. Gamers, all. They needed to be.

All proper testing requires background research, a protocol, and the publishing of results. Big D hit the web and determined that the term "chelada" is classically applied to any beer served in a glass, with a salted rim and lime. Ominously, the classical definition of this beverage does not mention tomato juice. Or clams.

My vast liquor research library contained no reference to the term "chelada". On the general subject of beer, however, the profound Alexis Lichine states in his New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits that:

Beer is the general term for all classes of beers--draft, bottled and canned, pale ales, lagers and stouts. It is brewed from malt, sugar, hops and water and is fermented with yeast.

Again, no mention of tomato juice. Or clams. Lichine goes on (again, ominously) to say...

Beer quality is largely dependent on the suitability of these main raw materials for the type of beer being produced.

The folks at Budweiser have apparently not read anything about beer, or about Chelada. The can itself states that light beer, tomato juice, lime, salt and clam juice constitute "la combinacion perfecta". The can also says that the liquid it contains has "certified color". Not labeling that particularly inspires confidence in whatever lurks inside the can.

As for the testing protocol, I prepared a clip board for contemporaneous notes and a list of four categories of comments, viz:

1. General impressions.
2. Would you drink this again for free?
3. Would you drink this again for any reason?
4. Does this beverage have any utility at all?

I also seriously considered making all members of The Epic Blue Ribbon Chelada Panel take a shot or two of tequila before beginning the exercise. As a prophylactic you understand. Against what, I did not know. It was just a feeling I had that a prophylactic of some sort might not be a bad idea. In any event, we opted not to dull our senses with preliminary boozing in favor of plunging in straight away. That was also a mistake.

The tasting occurred at the home of Big D and the Mississippi Queen. A place so Epic in nature that they have a vintage Airstream travel trailer in their back yard as a pool cabana. Thus, the experimental karma was strong. But the location of the test required transport of the Chelada from The Epic bar. Such a delicate and rare brew cannot just be chunked into the glove box of one's auto. Specific protections must be implemented. After considerable thought, I wedged two "blue ice" freezer bars into an old sandwich carrier which afforded just room for the drink of honor...

Not the protection one would provide for a rare single malt, or for a kidney, perhaps, but sufficient for the three block journey from my house to the test site. I also packed in some tasting glasses...

...four ounce mega-shots procured after great effort from Trader Vics in Atlanta. I also took along the key ingredient for Phase Two of the tasting...

...as well a some processed dairy products in case anyone wanted to make the Chelada a complete food grouping...

Luckily, none of the Blue Ribbon Panel chose to consume dairy products during the tasting. Interpersonal and hygienic disaster would have no doubt been the result.

The BRP having assembled at the appointed place and hour, sober as proverbial judges, I made the procession to the testing area with the cosseted and cooled Chelada in its carrier. I had considered handcuffing the rig to my wrist like an international diamond courier, but I couldn't find a pally who would lend me the cuffs. After I placed the carrier on a central table, the members of the BRP eyed it nervously but nobody broke and ran. As I said, gamers all.

Phase One of the testing was to open the Chelada and pour the shot glasses full so we could examine the look, smell and then finally the taste of the beverage. The first question of clarification came from Mississippi Queen...

Say, we don't have to drink the whole glass do we?

After being reassured that there was no such requirement (a ruling that seemed to relieve some tension or another that was in the minds of the entire panel...these Blue Ribbon Panel sorts talk to each other before going to work, don't let them tell you that they don't), I proceeded to open and pour.
The aroma of this drink is weakly tomato and nothing else. What strikes you first about the Chelada, however, is not the aroma but how it looks in the glass. Imagine melted tomato Popsicle with fizz. The taste is, well, like a melted tomato Popsicle with fizz. And clams. The BRP's impressions after the first taste...
MQ: [no verbal comment but an undescribable facial shudder]

BD: This is just wrong...why would they come up with THIS?

S: AAAAagggg...I guess I'm not really AGAINST it...but...

LL: This is like a Bloody Mary that sat a long time and all the ice melted. Except for the clam aftertaste, that is...

We stared at each other a moment. I was afraid that if I made eye contact with anyone I would vomit. Nobody accepted an offer of processed cheese product.
Phase two. Add Tabasco to the glasses of Chelada. The BRP gamely took another taste, but with a LOT more hesitation...

MQ: Well, it kills the aftertaste...

BD: This is 100% better, but still...

S: I'm only having one sip after this...

LL: It tastes like cocktail sauce now, it needs an oyster in it...

After this last comment, more than one of us clapped our hands over our mouths and glanced toward the sink. Or the door. Nobody accepted a renewed offer of processed cheese product. Having gamely recovered its composure, the BRP sallied forth to the third and final phase of the tasting. Clean out the Chelada/Tabasco mixture, rinse and dry the glasses, refill with Chelada. And add vodka. Plenty of it. This was the most horrid mistake of the day...

MQ: [A shudder that made the first shudder look like a minor muscle tremor.] Really, really awful.

BD: This is taking Chelada a step in the wrong direction...


LL: OH this is REALLY bad...

Mississippi Queen then pointed out what we researchers in such matters call The Great Bloody Mary Fallacy. Namely, that although one would be tempted to describe the Chelada as a Bloody Mary made with beer, the analogy fails because while the vodka in a Bloody Mary adds a pleasing and significant layer of fire and potency to the cocktail, the weak beer of the Chelada adds only a sickening fizziness and a whiff of "fraternity house basement floor a week after the party" aroma which hardly compliments the flavor which coils its way out of your glass. Come to think of it, the aroma does not make the flavor any worse either. When I mentioned to the group that one of my commenting Epicurians had noted the use of the Chelada as a hangover cure, a thoughtful silence fell over the room. Then,

MQ: If you drank one of these hung over, you would throw up forever.

She then posited the sensible notion that wide-spread consumption of the Chelada with vodka would be a "quick way to end spring break forever". The preservation of that venerable American collegiate institution was agreed by all to be a worthy goal, especially when the alternative was drinking the Chelada with vodka in it.

The test protocol concluded, the BRP again for some reason refused a polite offer of processed cheese product and we moved to the prepared questions.

Q. Would you drink this for free?
BD: No way.
MQ: UG. No.
S: No.
LL: No.

Q. Would you drink this under any circumstances?
BD: No way.
S: Well, I'd drink it for money...
LL: I would only drink this during a hurricane. If there was nothing else.

Q. Does this beverage have any utility of any sort?
BD: None. It has no redeeming qualities of any sort.
MQ: It would ruin anything.
S: None.
LL: Well, you could probably boil shrimp in it...maybe...[after the horrified looks of the rest of the panel...]...OK well I said MAYBE

Well, there you have it dear readers. The palates of the BRP subjected to possibly permanent damage, just for you. And for drinking science. In summary, there is no reason to drink this stuff, unless you are lost in the desert and have no other hydration option. Or unless you want to put an end to American collegiate spring break trips. Or unless you have a serious drinking/hangover problem and you want a permanent, and very messy, solution.

I already have another project lined up for the Blue Ribbon Panel. It might be some time before I can publish the results, however, since I am having a bit of trouble getting them to take my calls...


Unknown said...

Post BRP--how about some processed cheese?? Did you consider said cheese as an appetite cleanser, like sorbet?

Q-utility: throw into face of oncoming physical assault
Q-utility: use as paint remover

I think the creators of Cheleda should be handcuffed!
Well, pally, M. Lane, quoting the
Chairman of the Board, "That's Life".
Looking forward to the next round.

James said...

"No greater love hath man than to lay down his taste buds for his fellow man"

Toad said...

You had been warned. I am glad you survived and kept your friends through it all.

M.Lane said...

Barbara, great suggested uses! I think they would both be perfect. One member of the BRP said it was a bastardization of Chelada.

James, I may have to read this blessing to the next gathering of the BRP.

Toad, right you are. I did survive. The jury is still out about my friendships...


Just a dreamer said...

I LOVE the way you spin a tale. JAD

mustangmelatl said...

had been dying to know the outcome of the Chelada tasting. now my tastebuds have been spared for finer fare...

Andrea Kent said...

As I read this it's 1:30 in the morning, and I'm trying to stifle my near-hysterical laughter so I don't wake up my young son. Not succeeding.

Turling said...

That was spectacular. And we appreciate you taking one for the team.

Ben said...

Pure sustained comedy. Pitch perfect.

This is a work of fiction, right?

M.Lane said...

JAD, thanks!

MMel, and I have a feeling better fare is in your future...

Andrea, I'm glad you liked the story but I'm sorry it kept your baby awake!!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

Turling, glad to, but don't get me wrong, I'm not going Tony Bourdain on you... I have limits.

Ben, um, no. I wish it were fiction!


Jagged said...

Love me some Michelada's, aka Chelada.
There are several variations on the drink.
I like the one Bud makes.
(Budwieiser & Clamato Picante)
A little decent un-blended whiskey, followed by a gurgle of Chelada.

South Texas Style.
(grow some Cojones)