Wednesday, November 24, 2010


A year and a half ago, when Allegheny County implemented a "drink tax" that pushed the price of a Miller Lite at most downtown watering holes to $4 or higher, I voiced disappointed acceptance. Sure, this was around a 33% increase, but I also understood what a lot of the dissenters around Pittsburgh didn't: We still have it a lot easier than people in other parts of the country. I've barhopped on the West Coast and the East Coast; in the Midwest and the Southeast; deep in Texas and just outside of D.C. My liver and I have gotten around. And, with only a few notable exceptions, the average price of boozing in Pittsburgh is dwarfed by the price in most other towns.

For example, buying one of these in Chicago will set you back about 80% of your nightly Pittsburgh boozing budget:
Go ahead and get the double take out of the way: The beer that Goose Island is releasing Friday costs nearly $45 a bottle. Yes, you read right. Good thing it's a 22-ounce bottle.

Eagerly anticipated by beer geeks for months, Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout will be available at 9 a.m. at Binny's Lincoln Park location in bottles and on draft at 10 a.m. at the Goose Island Brewpub on Clybourn Avenue. Those are the only two places you'll find it through the weekend; next Monday it will be in many liquor stores that carry Goose Island's higher-end labels.
Since TJ's back in his hometown this week, I'm counting on him to make his city's forefathers proud by smuggling a crate or two of this stuff back east. After all, how else is a guy supposed to wet his whistle around here when it costs a whole $4 per bottle?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Four Times Loko

My Facebook status, as of about 10:30 this morning: “I’m in love. And her name is Four Loko…”

Rewind to yesterday afternoon. My friend Steph was coming back into town late that night, and her first order of business would be chilling at Soba in the ‘Side. Pakistanimal and I decided, therefore, that it would be prudent of us to be there. And if we were to do some pregaming at my place before heading over, well then all the better. And then close to 5:30 pm, Pak called me with a wicked thought.

Pak: “What are we drinking on tonight?”
Me: “Well I was going to pick up some vodka."
Pak: “What about Four Loko?"
Me: *speechless for a few moments*

By now you’ve probably heard the horror stories. The unfortunate deaths of a few college students who were drinking the energy drink with a 12% alcohol content have sent the media into a tizzy. In a few short weeks Four Loko has become the modern day absinthe, with tales of hallucination, danger, and destruction surrounding it at every turn. All of which has led states to start enacting bans on the demon drink. The FDA has even now gone so far as to outlaw any product that combines caffeine and alcohol, and the makers of Four Loko have vowed to change the formula to comply with the new regulations.

All of this, though, didn’t truly make me worry about the effects of the drink. A teenager chugging 24 ounces of Diet Dr. Pepper is going to do harm to himself, and talking heads on news channels love nothing more than to create drama where none is necessary. No, what caused my anxiety was something much more impressive. Dupa and Armo had tested Four Loko out themselves the previous Friday night, and both gave it a harrowing review. “I had two and a few beers,” Armo reported. “I had trouble with thought, vision, taste, and shapes.” When Pak sought Dupa’s advice on Loko, his response was, “One can, and you’ll be nice. Two, and you’ll die.”

A chance to test something this lethal was just too good to pass up. “Let’s do it.”

My buddy Bearcat suggested I do a running diary throughout the night—yet another idea that was just too good to pass up. When I got home from work I fired up my computer, opened a Word document, and began recording history. The following is (most of) my dance with destiny, as transcribed last night, as well as pieces that were pulled from my Twitter feed and text messages.

6:45 – I’m cleaning up my apartment with the fervor of a college freshman cleaning his dorm room before the hot girl from his PoliSci class comes over to study. “Everything must be just right when Miss Loko gets here!

7:45 – The Loko sisters have arrived. First dinner, then we’ll get cozy. Chick-Fil-A—nothing but the best for our girls.

7:55 – (via Twitter) “Eating some Chick-Fil-A. [Pak]: ‘This could be my last meal.’”

8:06 – Pak cracks open his first one while I’m still shaving. His first words: “Woooooo!”

8:22 – Cracked it open, and smell groped my nose before I could get it to my lips.

8:48 – (via Twitter) “I find it more worrying than reassuring that it says 'We ID' directly on the can.”

8:53 – Pak’s still less than half of the way through his can, and he’s miles ahead of me. I’m drinking with the same level of fear that an old woman drives with. Interesting.

9:29 – Text convo with Steph:

Me: “I’m almost one can in, so that’s probably the last witty thing I’ll be saying tonight.”
Steph: “Can?”
Me: “Four Loko.”
Steph: “Oh good lord.”

9:40 – Each of us finishes his 1st can, and each of us crushes it in triumph. And then…each of us agrees to a slight break before cracking our second. This might be what they mean by the phrase “laughing at the Devil.”

9:47 – Pak: “I’m fucked up! And I don’t even know why I’m fucked up; I just drank an Arizona Iced Tea.”
Me: *laughing* “An Ari-…What is that, mind over matter?”
Pak: *pause* “Exactly.”

9:58 – Broke the seal. Going to be a long night.

10:02 – Cracked second can. Tell TJ in phone call “At the funeral next week, tell my mother I loved her.”

10:31 – Less than a quarter through this can. I’m a pussy.

10:41 – Pak: “I’m not between the ‘L’ and the ‘O’ yet [on the can]. F, my L.”

10:58 – Pak: “Tell ‘em, ‘We didn’t land on Four Loko, Four…Lanko…landed on us…’” *breaks into uncontrollable laughter* God have mercy on our souls.

11:07 – (via Twitter) Pak: “This might be the funnest night I’ve ever had! This might be the last night I’ve ever had!”

11:12 – (via Twitter) “Maybe it’s just me, but…I love Four Loko. This stuff…why would you ever ban this stuff? It’s…it’s just great.”

11:14 – Me: “That was fackin…wait, did I just say ‘fackin’?” Oh my god.

11:15 – Pak: “I’m a little scared what this might do.” Kind of late for that, don’t you think? We still have to make it to the bar to meet up with Steph and Biff. Not very optimistic.

11:18 – Pak [on the phone with Dupa]: “You’ve never even been to Poland!”

11:20 – I crush my 2nd can, Pak, pours the final tenth of his out. I win.

11:25 – My mother calls. Not entirely sure of the full conversation, but I do remember (1.) her laughingly saying to Pak “Fuck you” on speakerphone, and (2.) me making certain to tell her that I love her, just in case TJ forgot.

The rest of the night was, predictably, chaos. Loko treats you like a sadistic torturer: The caffeine keeps you up and on your feet while the alcohol relentlessly pummels you. We stumbled our way to Soba feeling invincible. We found Steph, Bill, Biff, and everyone else in good spirits (it felt somewhat similar to the final scene of Ocean’s Twelve, when everyone is meeting up in the private room for the poker party); they found us reduced to shambles. As I stood talking to Bill, I accidentally touched the head of a woman seated to my right. And then I did it again. And then I brushed the arm of someone else with my left hand. “It’s like I’m on ecstasy. I can’t stop touching strangers.” A round or two of shots were done, and Pak was soon sneaking off to the bathroom to vomit. At about 1 am he and I audibled, heading over to Shady Grove. Along the way I fired off a series of drunk texts, all to the confusion—and, in the end, entertainment—of my friend Maria. I don’t remember much about our time at Grove, but I know I sent a tweet saying “Just toasted to drunkenness. It gets no better, it gets no worse.” We had satisfactorily browned out.

I awoke this morning in my bed, not remembering how I had gotten there. Pak shuffled past my bedroom on his way to the bathroom and casually said, “I hate you.” I reached around the bed for my phone and instead found a nearly-full bottle of Gatorade snuggled next to me.

Me: “Have you seen my phone?”
Pak: “I was just about to ask you to call MINE.”

Eventually I e-mailed TJ and asked him to call our phones. Mine was under my bed, for no discernible reason; Pak’s was dead and still MIA. A thorough search of my living room and phone calls to Grove and Soba didn’t reveal anything, and to this very moment it has not been found.

I guess this Four Loko stuff is deadly after all.

Love of the Chase

Chappy with the assist on this one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Patron Challenge

A few thoughts:

1. This is an incredibly reckless waste of Patron. Any true drinker (especially one on a budget) will be as disappointed as I was to see such a delicious nectar tossed aside so casually.
2. How dedicated of a friend/girlfriend/relative does this chick have to be to sign up for her role? If she's a little sister, she's either repaying a favor or banking on cashing this in for one in the future; if she's a friend, she's trying to become his girlfriend; and if she's his girlfriend, she's trying to become his wife. No other scenarios add up. None.
3. If the fact that they're filming this in a parking garage doesn't register as an omen to you (and there's a special irony in him standing in a handicapped parking spot)...
4. Not sure whether to dub his last words a "Captain Obvious" moment, or an "Understatement of the Year" contender. Almost seems like something can't qualify for both of those at once; but, trust, this definitely does.

Kev with the assist.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Booze Tube

I'm not sure if the typical "On the Rocks" reader spends much time watching the Discovery Channel, but that's all going to change now. This Sunday (Nov. 21st) marks the premiere of the cable channel's new show, "Brew Masters", at 10 pm. The series will showcase the founder of Dogfish Head, Sam Calagione, as he and a team of beer aficionados travel the globe in the name of all things hops.

From Brand X Daily:
Though the sheer selection of craft-beer options can seem as dizzying as their alcohol content, Calagione hopes “Brew Masters” will serve as a bottle opener for reluctant viewers.

“You don't have to come to this with a hardcore beer geek background to appreciate it,” he said. “It demystifies the brewing process so a total beer neophyte can gain confidence and buy something out of their comfort zone.”

“Brew Masters” will feature more than just hops and yeast, however. Episodes will find Calagione heading around the world for inspiration for his latest offerings, including “Bitches Brew”— a beer in honor of the boundary-pushing Miles Davis album of the same name.
Seeing as how I just bought my ticket to the 2011 Brewski Festival, this show should be a nice little appetizer while I sit in my apartment rocking back & forth until April.