Hard drinkin’

Heard about this on the radio this morning, and I wanted to blog it before I forgot about it. On the front page of the Bulletin today there’s a picture of three people floating the river (a popular summer activity here in Bend)—which by itself is no big deal. However, the focus of the article that accompanies it is on the excessive alcohol consumption that goes along with the river floaters.

Back to that picture. Three people floating the river with booze in hand. Here’s the picture:

People floating the Deschutes River with drinks in hand
Photo courtesy of The Bulletin

I’m not against drinking, rafting, drinking while rafting necessarily, but damn! That’s some hard drinkin’ in the picture. The guy on the left is drinking some kind of hard liquor, the middle guy a beer, and there’s at least two more bottles visible with them. The girl has a Jagermeister. I like Jager and all, but that’s way too hardcore for me.

Besides, everyone knows the proper way to drink Jager is chilled, ideally right out of the freezer ;).

Elderberry Wine

Glass of homemade elderberry wineFollowing up yesterday’s Wine Stories post, today I opened up a bottle of the elderberry wine and tried it.

It’s not bad!

It’s much more like a sherry than anything else. The aroma is quite good, almost exactly like what I’d expect a good dessert sherry to smell like, with a strong hint of brandy. The flavor doesn’t live up to this, though; there are a bunch of different profiles going on in there: a sweet-ish sherry, some fusel alcohols, mild-but-tart fruit, a mead-like dry character (my wife suggested it reminded her of mead). They clash a bit, but all in all it turned out much better than I could have hoped.

Wine Stories

I occasionally dabble in making wine and thought it would be amusing to write down some notes about my homemade efforts. I’ll start with a disclaimer, though: I am not a wine connoisseur by any means. I have enough knowledge, as they say, to be dangerous. I do enjoy making it, however, even though it takes quite a bit longer than beer.

I have five bottles left of a batch of rhubarb wine that I made about five years ago and I’ve taken it upon myself to work on drinking those bottles up over the next few months as a sort of sideline contribution effort to the moving process. For a homemade fruit wine (an unconventional fruit at that) it’s not at all bad, and in fact won a second place ribbon at the Deschutes County Fair a few years back.

It’s best served very cold, and has a very dry and very neutral profile, surprisingly pleasant. Not astringent, not sour (as one might expect from a rhubarb wine). I have no illusions about its quality, however: it is very much a table wine and I wouldn’t open a bottle as a main attraction for guests, but would keep it on-hand for anyone interested in tasting it.

The very best wine I have ever made was my last batch, a Cabernet Sauvignon that I made for my wife from a kit. It turned out to be surprisingly high quality, despite my reservations about “kit wine.” This is a wine that I would serve to guests as the main wine, and have. The only complaint I can make against it is that it seems to turn astringent after being opened for a couple of days more quickly than a wine from a professional winery; I surmise that wineries must add more preservatives to their finished products.

I also have five bottles of an elderberry wine I made about a year before I made the rhubarb wine, but to tell the truth I have no idea what it’s like because I’m a bit afraid of it. What happened was I acquired about four, four-and-a-half pounds of fresh elderberries from my aunt and, following a general recipe in my winemaking book, decided that I would use all of those elderberries in a one gallon batch of wine. Four pounds of elderberries is a lot to put into a single gallon, but my reasoning was that I would be making an elderberry port wine, a dessert wine with higher alcohol content.

I let this wine ferment and age in glass for about a year before I got around to bottling it. When I finally bottled it (probably about the same time I bottled the rhubarb), I poured myself a small taster to see what had been happening to it over the course of the year. To my great surprise, it turned out to be the most astringent, puckering, strongly un-sweet example of a wine I had ever tasted. I nearly poured it out entirely; the only thing the kept me from doing it was the amount of effort and time I had put into it up to that point, and besides, what’s the harm in bottling up five extra measly bottles?

A little subsequent research into the use of elderberries uncovered the fact that elderberries, in normal proportions (no more than two pounds per gallon), make quite a harsh wine that takes quite a bit longer than a normal wine to age and mellow to a drinkable quality. D’oh! So I haven’t opened a single one of those five bottles in five years, largely because I don’t know how long I should wait to let this wine mellow, and if—if—it is going to mellow and turn into a decent wine, I’d hate to open one now as a crapshoot on the off chance it might be ready.

But you know what? I think I’ll open up a bottle tomorrow to see what it’s like. Crapshoot be damned. :-) I’ll blog the results, too.

Hooch

I don’t drink much anymore. I haven’t really had the inclination to drink much since the kids were born (which is a good thing), and truth be told, I’m not really into drinking when we go out without the kids either.

Not that I’m against drinking, by any means, nor do I want to sound like I’m passing judgment a là “drinking is bad.” No. It’s more like the desire to drink has melted away, along with any sense that I actually have time to drink anymore, and as a result, my alcohol tolerance is way, way down. The other big factor deterring me from intoxication— more so than ever before— is the hangover.

That having been said, I’d like to pass on some general advice and thoughts about imbibing and hangovers, and how to avoid them.

First and most importantly, drink lots of water. I cannot stress this enough. Your body uses up a tremendous amount of water when dealing with alcohol, and this is the most important factor in hangovers: dehydration. As a rule of thumb, I try to drink a glass of water for every serving of alcohol. This saved my ass a week and a half ago: when my best friend was in town for my daughter’s birthday, we stayed up late Saturday night catching up, and ended up drinking a pint of beer (some of my homebrew), 2 shots of tequila and a shot of Canadian whiskey— all in about an hour’s worth of time. By all rights, I should have been sick as a dog the next day, but I drank 4 or 5 large pint glasses of water before going to bed, and woke up with only the vaguest hint of a headache. No other ill effects at all.

If you can, take extra vitamin B, preferably before drinking, but after will do in a pinch. You get depleted of vitamin B when alcohol is processed, and this also contributes to hangovers. Vitamin B is needed by the body to process sugars, and the lack of water and sugars getting to the brain is a large part of what causes the hangover.

I’ve noticed that back in the day, when I would wake up at 5 am with a throbbing, pounding headache from drinking, that if I took aspirin, it would help the headache go away… but if I took ibuprofen, then it wouldn’t necessarily help my headache, and I would start getting queasy. So if ibuprofen seems to kick off the nausea part of the hangover, like it did for me, stick with aspirin.

If you’re drinking beer, stick to microbrews or homebrews; the yeast content and the non-filtered nature of these beers help to replenish the nutrients you lose and lessen the ill-effects. Plus, they taste better!

If you’re drinking booze, I don’t have any good advice for you about what to drink.

Here’s an interesting link: R U Pissed? On their home page, they have a blood alcohol calculator.

Enough of this. I’m going to go home and have a beer in a bit.

Well, duh.

Here’s an interesting study: Drinking alcohol makes the opposite sex look more attractive (Yahoo article; MSNBC is here). Haven’t we all known this for years? You know, along the lines of those T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Beer – helping ugly people have sex since 1883” or somesuch.

I mean, really. That’s what alcohol does. It’s the same thing that makes me really good at pool after 3 or 4 drinks.

And this right on the heels of the Beer is good for you news story. Maybe we’ll be seeing a resurgence of beer-drinking and microbreweries again.

Random web link: Henson.com, the official Jim Henson site. I was looking at this site the other day to find an image of Animal from The Muppet Show, and it seemed kind of cool.