You ever read any Greek mythology? No? O.K., then have you ever seen the movie 300? Mythology is kind of like that, except instead of Gerard Butler sexily kicking a guy down a well, there’s bestiality and lots of complicated riddles. It took humans a long time to invent mini-golf, so for like 10,000 years reciting tall tales was the best way to spend a weekend.
In ancient Greece, myths weren’t just about entertainment. They were also a crucial educational tool for a largely illiterate society. Can’t read a book but want to know why the sun goes away at night? There’s a myth for that. And where do echoes come from? Why, horny nymphs, of course! Everyone who’s ever heard a myth knows that one.
The Greek myth I’ve been thinking about lately doesn’t explore the incalculable machinations of the cosmos, and it doesn’t attempt to explain earthly phenomena. It’s not much of a morality tale, which is surprising given its proximity to that jolly old toe-tapper, “pushing a rock up a hill forever because you don’t want to die.” No, the fantastical fable that’s been on my mind is about something simpler than Sisyphus, and perhaps crueler. It’s about being thirsty.
As the story goes, Tantalus, son of Zeus and Pluto, fell out of the gods’ favor. There are competing explanations as to why: Either he stole ambrosia from heaven and served it to mortals, or he couldn’t keep the gods’ secrets, or he killed off his own son to test their powers of observation (as one does). As punishment, Tantalus got a one-way ticket to Hades. Fruits hanging overhead were always just out of reach, and every time he bent to drink the water that surrounded him, it dissipated. This is not a good way to spend eternity.
I was thinking about Tantalus not because I’m a big time weirdo who likes to sit in the dark and dream up metaphysical torture methods while atonally plucking a violin — which is totally fine if that’s what you’re into, by the way — but because I was reading about Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale. In defiance of common sense and nutritional science, this beer is apparently imbued with hydrating qualities.
How could this be? Part of the reason drinking beer is so great is because alcohol is an intoxicant. (It also tastes good, gets stuck in your beard and makes you look tough.) Alcohol inebriates by dehydration — your body recognizes a foreign substance and promptly throws some water on it, thereby causing you to urgently expel all liquids at the nearest porcelain throne or sports arena trough. Do that enough times, and you can goof up your kidneys, or just find yourself with a classic hangover.
I mean, I think that’s pretty much how it goes. I’m not a doctor. I barely even know any doctors. If you have any pressing questions about curing hangovers or other maladies, please consult a licensed medical practitioner, or proceed to your local McDonald’s Fast Food Hamburger Restaurant in an orderly fashion.
SeaQuench Ale aims to evade all M.D.- and Mickey D-related needs by eschewing the sugar and booze that characterizes most beer for salt, citrus, and a relatively small proportion of alcohol. Could the resulting beer actually be less dehydrating? Or would we drinkers remain modern-day Tantaluses, forever attempting to quench our eternally renewing thirst? I bought some SQA and attempted to figure it out.
Dogfish Head isn’t purporting to hook its customers up to an IV full of saline; it’s just saying, hey, maybe you won’t feel all squished up like roadkill after drinking this beer flavored with salt and citrus. It’s a modest goal, but I think they succeed at it. With Sea Quench Ale, I wasn’t getting dry and drowsy. I didn’t have a cottonmouth situation to deal with. I drank a couple during the day and didn’t have to mosey on over to the couch. I didn’t get a headache. All in all, that’s not too shabby, right?
On Quenching Thirst
Why is beer pitched as “refreshing,” ever, to anyone? I don’t drink beer to refresh my palate. I don’t drink it in order to stop being thirsty. If I want to simultaneously drink beer and quench my thirst I will, appropriately enough, grab both a beer and a glass of water. Drinking a beer to quench your thirst is like eating a burger because your throat itches.
Still, I will say that my mouth feels wet after drinking Sea Quench. While other beers can leave me dry, the mouthfeel of SQA might be described as “moist”. And by God, I think that means it’s a quencher.
Ultimately, a beer has to taste good if you want people to drink it. And SeaQuench? I give it an 8 out of 10. I would gladly stand in a pool of it for all eternity, and have a falcon peck it out of my liver each day, and roll a big keg of it up a hill in Hades. In the meantime, during this lifetime it’s like 10 bucks at the store, so I’ll probably just drive over and buy some.