World’s Worst Cocktail, Best Beer — and Whale Poop
As a veteran reporter and columnist with more than thirty years experience, I’ve often found myself in harm’s way. By which I do not mean I was trespassing on the private road of that name in Belgrade. I mean I’ve been in situations where the threat of violence against my journalistic person was a possibility to be taken seriously:
- A Ku Klux Klan rally in Rumford Point.
- A clandestine meeting with a fugitive from justice in a Westbrook alley.
- An average Saturday night in Portland’s Old Port.
But I never expected to face the most terrifying moment of my career while idly pursuing a humorous tidbit for this blog.
It began innocently enough. I ran into a bartender friend of mine in a South Portland brewpub. He told me a story about a regular customer of his who always orders “a large Crown and Coke, with a Bud draught on the side.”
“That must be the worst combination you’ve ever served,” I said.
“Oh, no,” he replied. “I know of something even more disgusting.”
Right then, I should have heeded the alarms going off in my mind. I should have paid my tab and walked away. If I had, my mind would still be at ease. I wouldn’t be awakened in the dead of night by hellish dreams. I wouldn’t fear the sound of a cocktail shaker in action.
I would never have heard of:
The Burnt Trailer.
The BT is a mixed drink served at the Great Lost Bear in Portland. It is composed of — perhaps it would be best if you made sure there are no children looking over your shoulder at the computer screen, because I wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining some young life, as mine has been ruined — equal parts of Allen’s coffee brandy and Moxie.
At the mere thought of it, my whole drinking life flashed before my eyes.
“It’s just about as Maine as you can get,” said Sarah Mason, a server at the Bear, who admitted to having tried a Trailer. “It was very sweet,” she said. “I don’t know if I’d have more than one.”
There’s at least some good news in this. Mason said the BT is “definitely not our most popular drink. A few adventurous souls order it once in a while.”
They don’t order it more often, because they’re probably never heard from again.
A few days later, I mentioned this dubious combination to the bartender at my local watering hole in Carrabassett Valley.
“We don’t carry Moxie,” she said. “And I think you’d better leave now.”
I was consoled in this dark hour by the arrival of the September-October issue of Imbibe, a slightly snooty magazine that often features recipes with exotic cocktail ingredients (sherry vinegar, anyone?), but wouldn’t be caught dead suggesting a drink containing either Allen’s or Moxie. The featured story was a list of the 100 best bottled beers in the world.
Some were predictable: Sierra Nevada pale ale, Anchor Steam.
Some were unexpected: Pliny The Elder, Eel River Organic IPA.
And two were from Maine.
Allagash White got named to the list of dessert beers (“a natural with cookies, shortbread, apple pie or a wedge of spice cake”). And Allagash Tripel (like the White, a product of Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland) was picked as one of the “beers to serve to your friend who claims to be a beer snob.”
I’ve never actually met anyone who admits to being a beer snob (although, on a few occasions, I’ve been accused of being one myself, an insult that has been known to earn its author a smack in the head with a PBR bottle). Imbibe suggests serving the Tripel “at cellar temperature with a Moroccan-style tagine or a creamy coconut curry.”
I tried it once with a cheeseburger. It was fine.
Although, sometimes, when the fever is upon me, I imagine going into the Great Lost Bear and ordering a Burnt Trailer with an Allagash Tripel on the side.
I think I need professional help.
It’s not just the inappropriate cocktail combos, doctor. I also have an obsession with whale poop.
It all began when I was reading an August 22 Bangor Daily News article about whale studies in the Bay of Fundy.
Quite a ways into the story, I learned that researchers had been collecting whale feces — they even had a dog trained to sniff it out (talk about dogs with lousy jobs) — but their examination of the stuff “has not been as fruitful as scientists once hoped it would be.”
It’s poop from whales. How “fruitful” did they expect it was going to be? Were they hoping to come up with an exotic cocktail ingredient that would amaze the editors of Imbibe (“I call this concoction the ‘Moby Dick’”)?
These questions kept running through my mind, doc. I needed a break. So, I went to a ballgame.
There I was, minding my own business, sitting at Hadlock Field in Portland, watching the Sea Dogs play on August 23, when all of a sudden, this bizarre creature appeared. It was bright red, had big eyes, long antennae and pinchers. I thought it was a giant red ant, so I tried to smash it with a bottle of Allen’s coffee brandy that I’d smuggled in.
Sometime later, a very nice police officer explained to me that I was charged with assaulting “Crusher,” the new mascot of the Maine Red Claws. The Red Claws, he said, are an NBA Development League team that will begin play in Portland this fall. They’re affiliated with the Boston Celtics and another team, possibly the Charlotte Wombats, although I may have that wrong, being a little woozy from the pepper spray.
You can see video of “Crusher” here, doc.
It’s an ant, right? I’m not crazy, am I? It’s not like I was mixing Moxie with that Allen’s, was I?
The cops say I was?
Lock me up, doc, and throw away the key. It’s the only way to save me from that stuff.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just don’t write anything that will upset him.