A Bottom Shelf Boilermaker for Black Friday

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


It's trite to divide the world into diametrically opposed teams on any given issue. We're not all strict partisans of red or blue, cat or dog, pork or some other stupid meat. It's intellectually lazy, not to mention disrespectful of the human race, to make blanket declarations about "this kind of person" versus "that kind of person." Despite what the small army of zealots on either side of any debate will have you believe, the majority of us reside somewhere closer to the center on most matters. The distorted perception that the species is hopelessly split down an unoccupied middle ground stems from the fact that moderates don't march. We don't write position papers, we don't shout on cable news, our cars don't have talking bumpers. We just go about our business, staking out our positions and conducting our own lives accordingly while being respectful of those who considered the matter at hand and arrived at a different conclusion.

It is in this spirit of conciliation that I have come to accept the ubiquity of mayonnaise in modern American life. I still don't know why anyone would put mayonnaise on anything that could be better served by mustard or sour cream—which is to say, everything—but I finally realize that I don't have to know why. I just have to keep asking my sandwich handlers to please skip the mayo, with the understanding that they will listen to me maybe a third of the time. And the other two thirds of the time, lunch still gets eaten and the show still marches on. (Sure, I spend the rest of the day in a murderous rage, but that's a story for another time, probably an upcoming arraignment after my next ill-advised trip to Burger King.)

But even though I pride myself on maintaining equanimity when confronted by members of nearly all opposing parties—Whigs, Bull Meese, mayo slingers—there is one faction of American society with whom I could never make common cause: People who choose to get up at midnight the day after Thanksgiving in hopes of trampling their way to a half-price Tickle Me Pokemon Dream Car. Those people are nuts. I will eat mayonnaise in a pinch, but nothing could compel me to go shopping on Black Friday. But even though my opponents on this issue are deeply disturbed, they're mostly harmless, so I won't try to curtail their rights. I'll just pity them as I enjoy my Friday off.

Emily has to work Friday, so I'll be a sport and get up to make coffee and pretend to be starting my own productive day, then once I see her out the door I'll wander around the apartment getting in my own way for a couple hours until I decide, "Heck it, the Cantab's open," at which point I'll get ready for my biannual visit to the cruddy morning-drunk bar in Central Square.

The Cantab's the depressing kind of dive—as opposed to the scary kind of dive or the charming kind of dive—especially at 9:30 a.m. Actually, I can't speak to what kind of dive it is later in the day, because I can't imagine going once other bars are open. But a couple of mornings a year a man finds himself in need of a little straightening juice before he faces the world, and on those days the Cantab's just the thing.

But like I said, it can be a little depressing, especially if the TV over the bar's showing one of the more somber episodes of Matlock, so I'm going to put a little happiness into my step before I leave the house. I'm going to start the day with the official Bottom Shelf Black Friday Boilermaker*. In honor of this fake holiday, I've decided to go with two of the better Black boozes on the low end of the market: Malibu Black and Carling's Black Label.

*I'm using the most liberal definition: A shot of liquor chased by a beer.

At 70 proof, Malibu Black is essentially double-strength Malibu coconut rum liqueur. I don't care for the base model, so I was surprised to enjoy my free sample of the Black. The extra alcohol tones down the suntan lotion effect, but the Black's still super easy to drink. In addition to being generally less ridiculous than the original Malibu, Black hints at other flavors along with the coconut. I'd swear I tasted some tropical fruit, maybe pineapple, but that could just be my tongue projecting things. Either way, Malibu Black is leagues better than regular Malibu.

As for the chaser, erstwhile Canadian cheapo Carling Black Label is now brewed in Milwaukee, but it didn't put on any airs after crossing the border; I got a 15-pack for $11. It's a typical adjunct lager in many ways, but it has a two-tone character that sets it apart from the pack. It starts sweet and ends sour, and while that's not necessarily a good thing, it's an interesting thing, which is enough to justify the modest price.