Welcome back to Drinking for Good, a weekly rundown of how much beer (and whatnot) I drank the previous Sunday through Saturday. I’m pledging a buck a drink to the ACLU, and so are our Special Guest Drinkers and their sponsors. Want in on the charitable dissipation? Email ACLbrew@vinepair.com.
Guys, I drank too much again. In last week’s debut Drinking for Good column, I fessed up to a repulsive 49 drinks. Not good, but better than the abominable 60(!)* I poured atop the smoldering embers of my dignity during the seven days that finally ended with last call on Saturday, February 18. I know that’s a ridiculous amount of alcohol to drink in one week. I have a pair of alibis, though. I was on vacation in the underrated beer destination of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and my guest drinker fell through—as guest drinkers do—so I knew I had to pull extra weight for freedom. And thus concludes our new feature “Terrible Excuses for a Good Cause.” Now let’s present the week’s evidence.
*I generally count half-beers as full to make up for counting boozy double IPAs, large pours, and ambitious cocktails as singles, erring on the side of maximizing my shame and thereby my donation.
Sunday, February 12:
This was my first full day in San Juan, and since I didn’t want to expose my weak, northern skin to too much sun at one time, I did the responsible thing and left the beach every hour or so to seek shelter at the beer shop a block back from the sand (I should note that Avenida Ashford’s Smoke It and More is not, strictly speaking, a “beer shop,” but that’s the role it filled in my wonderful life last week). I’d bought them out of Bell’s HopSlam the night before, so I had to settle for starting Sunday with a Founder’s All Day IPA, one of the most important craft beers to debut in the past five years.
I had half a Victory Prima Pils while I waited for the eggplant sandwich lady at Punk Burger Bar to assemble my lunch—I really like Prima, and this one was well within the freshness window, but for some reason it didn’t go down great. No matter, as shortly after returning to the beach I washed away the eggplant and disappointment by splitting a Boulevard Tank 7 with my wife, Emily. A nap later, we hit the other end of the Boulevard Smokestack spectrum with a Dark Truth; last winter I compiled a list of my favorite non-barrel-aged imperial stouts as determined by earnest if haphazard blind-tasting, and I don’t think I ever published it and I can’t find the document, but I know Dark Truth was very close to the top of the list. Next time you’re at the beach, put a cold bottle under your chair while you take your post-lunch nap and it’ll be the perfect temperature when you wake up. When considering the ideal outdoor, summertime/beach beers, we usually think of wheats and pilsners and so forth, but that strikes me as exactly backward—the more a style depends on being served ice-cold, the less suited it is to a day in the sun.
Stopped for a Bell’s Two Hearted from the vape kid on the way back to the hotel room, then slip a HopSlam while freshening down for dinner. Next up was an overpriced rum drink at the fancy resort across the street, followed by one of the best cocktails I’ve had all year, a bourbon-citrus-mole wonder at Cocina Abierta. It was garnished with a chunk of chocolate! Next I chased away that happy memory with a barely drinkable Busch Light outside of a ramshackle pool hall on the main drag. In my defense, I’m never going to pass up a 90-cent beer at a Puerto Rican dive bar, plus I had fond memories of Busch Light from my young adulthood. Either my tastes have changed or the recipe has, though, because this very bad boy tasted like it was brewed with wet hay and dry-hopped with candy corn that had been stored loose in the front pocket of a butcher’s smock.
That misspent almost-buck was a clear signal that it was time to turn in for the night, which we did, right after a couple sips of Hennessy at the bar that’s always playing Beyonce, half a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at a hamburger stand, and a Victory Storm King imperial stout in the hotel’s lukewarm tub. Let’s call it 11 for the day.
Monday, February 13
Monday morning’s beach party started with a Victory Hop Ranch imperial IPA, which is much better than I realized, with the full complement of new-school fruit flavors from extensive dry-hopping with Azacca, Mosaic, and Citra, along with plenty of classic IPA bitterness. As I savored my Victory, I worked on my sunburn and observed the beach-fashion scene, the most notable elements of which were the rise of the scandalous one-piece, with thongs out back and cut-outs all over the front, for the ladies; and body-part-specific color-blocked Speedos for the gents. Everybody looked great, but I may never stop having stress dreams about the demands of being a fashionable young man on a San Juan beach.
Also: half a Lindeman’s Cassis, a Bell’s Two Hearted, a rum punch at the Bacardi visitors’ center and about two shots’ worth at the highly recommended tasting following the quick tour (the 8 Year was my favorite, other than the ridiculous $160, gift-shop-only number), a rum-based Manhattan at Aqui Se Puede in Old San Juan, HopSlam, Two Hearted, and Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad at Taverna Lupolo down the street (also, chicken parm!), and a nightcap of shitty grocery store cava on the hotel balcony. Hey look, down to 10 for the day!
Tuesday, February 14
Christ, is it only Tuesday? I promised my editor, doctor, and creditors that I’d try to keep these under a million words, so time for a couple speed rounds. Founders PC Pils (very good!), yet another goddamn 10-percent ABV HopSlam before lunch, because apparently that’s my lifestyle now, a mediocre Margarita, more HopSlam, a Founders Kalamazoo Stout (one of my favorite in its weight class), HopSlam, another PC Pils, tequila of some sort I guess?, 2 glasses of Moet Imperial Brut—happy Valentine’s Day!—and then three quick nightcaps at one of my favorite bars, the Stop and Go on Avenida Magdelana, home to a great jukebox, what purports to be the island’s coldest Heineken, and also: Harpoon Hoppy Adventure, PC Pils, and Bell’s Two Hearted. Total: All right, rounding up to accommodate all the 10-percenters, we hit 14–the drunkard’s dozen! The day’s major lessons: I do not like my innards, or Moet.
Wednesday, February 15
OK, my notes indicate that this is the day we finally started to angle this bender in for a landing. Started the day with a pair of HopSlams, because it is delicious and unavailable in my home state, and because I am an unrepentant dirtbag. Then things took a turn for the whimsical with a piña colada served in an actual piña! It made me feel like tropical royalty, and even tasted far better than it had to, pretty light on the added sugar. Amazing how many people feel the need to add sugar to drinks made entirely of rum (which is sugar!) and fruit juice (which is also sugar!). That was it until dinner, which started with a bourbon drink at Parcela, followed by a rye drink at Cocina Abierta, and came on home with PC Pils and Two Hearted at my beloved Stop and Go. We’ll call it 8, though stricter booze-countants could make a case for double figures based on the HopSlams and the cocktails, which seemed … not light. But come on, I’ve come clean enough for one week, haven’t I? Gimme an 8 here. I need this.
Thursday, February 16
Nine drinks, and I don’t want to talk about them other than to say you never want a 4-hour delay in an airport completely locked down by Jimmy Buffett properties. Oh, I guess I can happily report that the final two were Lagunitas 12th of Never on a way-late airplane staffed by kind souls who knew better than to charge me for them. So I traded four hours of my life for $14 worth of beer. Even?
Friday, February 17
Vacation was wonderful, but it felt good to finally wake up in my own bed, with my own cat on my own head, and have something other than HopSlam for breakfast. The day’s drinking didn’t start until midway through the afternoon, with a Backlash Muerte at the People’s Republik with my good friend Bad Jim. This is a smooth and dangerously drinkable 10.5-percent ABV Mexican hot chocolate–inspired imperial stout dosed with cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, cold brew coffee, and hot peppers. Then I evened out the keel with a couple pints of Notch Infinite Jest, a 4.3-percent wheat ale with tons of Equinox, Mosaic, and Citra. I was feeling good as I walked out the door, but a head cold started to creep up on the walk over to Lamplighter, where I wound down the afternoon with a short pour of their new black ale, Simon Says. So there’s a gentlemanly four drinks total, not bad for a guy who doesn’t have to work until Tuesday.
Saturday, February 18
Maui Coconut Hiwa Porter replaced the Backlash Muerte overnight at People’s Republik, so I figured I’d start with the freshest keg in the joint. Not bad, and I don’t dispute its 96/98 score on RateBeer, but I thought the toasted coconut started to really weigh things down about halfway through the pint. So I nursed that one nice and slow while I read my book—Mislaid by Nell Zink, highly recommended—before stopping into John Harvard’s Brewhouse for a fair to middling Spyhopper IPA on my way to meet Emily for at Tasty Burger for a dinner of the Rise and Shine buger washed down by a Tröegs Hopback Amber, which was rendered nearly invisible by the frozen mug. Then back home for a Lamplighter So Much for Subtlety double IPA and a bedtime promise to do better next week.