This weekend Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I are going to Original Portland to drink great beer and pretend not to notice how cold it is, because that's the deal you make with yourself when you go to Maine in January. Weather aside, O.P. is a fantastic tourist's city because it's fairly walkable and affordable, and you can't swing a dead moose in southern Maine these days without hitting a top-notch small brewery.*
*The comments section below would be a great place for you and everyone you know to say, "Man, if I ran a big food site I would definitely pay Will Gordon to write about Allagash and Zephyr and Maine Beer Company. That would be a great article that more than justified the outrageous expenses he would incur by drinking enough to make sure his research was sound."
Boston to Portland is a very easy trip made easier still by the happy coincidence that a bunch of you guys live there and have come through with good suggestions in the past. See you all at the Great Lost Bear for lunch Monday. But the one sticking point to this particular mission is that there's a big, important football game that needs watching Sunday night, and great local beer selections and great television situations tend not to coexist in the same bars, so a compromise will likely be in order.
I want the Patriots to win because I want the Patriots to win, but also because I don't want to spend the Super Bowl rooting against the team that got there by beating them. I prefer my rooting interests to be based on love for the Pats rather than hatred for the Ravens. I'm not a super-positive person, but I don't like to express my joys in terms of contrast to my pains. I don't trust those people who tell you that Milwaukee's great because it's better than Cleveland, or that Sierra Nevada rules because it's not shitty, watery Bud Light. Drinking a Sierra Nevada in Milwaukee sounds like a really nice way to pass an afternoon—there's no reason it needs to entail criticizing the poor saps drinking Bud Light in Cleveland.
Emily and I are on the same page with this, so we spend very little time discussing things that displease us. But since we do the majority of our eating and drinking together, I've needed to memorize the very short list of things she doesn't care to ingest: Mushrooms, black olives, second cheeseburgers, red wine. I like all of those things, but red wine's the only one I truly miss. It's one of the suspected triggers for Em's occasional migraines, though, so I don't push the issue. Instead, I just take my red wine in concentrated form. I find that a couple stiff half-pints of brandy a month is sufficient to tame my cravings and make me the most supportive husband I can be.
I recently happened upon a bottle of Christian Brothers Frost White Brandy, and while I have no idea what color grapes are used in its production or what part of the wine-reddening process allegedly haunts my lady's brain, I figured this could be a nice compromise brandy we might both enjoy on the bus to Portland Sunday morning. Christian Brothers ages this for 18 months in oak, yet it's still perfectly clear, so it's definitely magic and therefore probably a migraine cure. Unless it sucks, in which case I don't need a hook to sell Emily on it. Quick, to the bottom of it!
Christian Brothers Frost White (70 proof, $8.99/750 mL) calls itself "grape brandy with natural flavors," but it smells like flower-juiced vodka. The scent is not unpleasant but also not in any way evocative of grapes. I'd guess maybe orange blossom and lavender; I've seen reviews that cite rose petals. Pretty!
Alas, it tastes straight-down-the-drain awful, which means I wasted $8.99 and a story about Portland, but at least it allows me to maintain my record of perfect matrimonial honesty. This isn't the sort of thing one lies to one's wife about. This is the sort of thing one yells at the Internet about. The best thing about Frost White is that the harsh, cheap alcohol—feels more like 140 proof than 70—numbs your tongue, which protects your taste buds from some of the burnt-fruit flavor. Don't buy this garbage.