Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Old Chub: The Not-So-Silver Bullet

Some of you are already familiar with my writings on Old Chub Scottish Style Ale. If not, you may wish to read an earlier piece published by Gone magazine under an erroneous byline (due to the editor's inability to figure out WordPress).

Regardless, the legend of the Chub lives on aboard Kaleviopoeg, a 40' sloop (that's a single-masted sailboat for those who don't know) notorious for its role in off-shore adventures (see SpinSheet pg. 52). Before embarking upon this year's "Sailing Adventure" the skipper suggested an audition for potential new crew by way of a leisurely Sunday afternoon sailing excursion. Seeing as I have a proven track record aboard said vessel, my presence was requested to assist with the "evaluation" process.

As I packed my gear that morning I went down the list of required items: sailing gloves? check; sunglasses and hat? check; sunblock? check; water? check; beer? hmm. Captain Danger, or Cap'n D as we call him, usually lays in a 40-day supply of his favorite thirst-quencher, Coors Light. However it's always wise to bring a little something extra, so that one does not impede upon the captain's provisions...might need to stop at the liquor mart on the way.

Londontown Wine & Spirits, conveniently located a stone's throw from Edgewater, MD's famous Londontown Marina, is a well-appointed package store. They carry all the usual brands of swill, along with a fair selection of micro-brews. Nonetheless, I was quite surprised to find four six-packs of Old Chub lurking under a thick layer of dust on the middle shelf of the "American Exotics" section.

You want to test the mettle of your crew? Arrrgh! The Chub will separate the men from the boys, I chuckled to myself as I pulled out a sixer.

At the register, the cashier inspected my purchase with genuine wonder.

"I didn't know we sold this," she mused. "In fact, I don't think we've ever sold any of it. Is it any good?"

"Umm. Well...I wouldn't go that far," I said, coyly. "I'm not sure how your distributor got you to stock this stuff, but I wouldn't renew your order, if you know what I mean."

She gave me a grim, but appreciative, nod, and completed the transaction.

Ten minutes later we boarded Kalevipoeg, Chub wrapped in a brown paper bag and stashed deep in my backpack. As the skipper introduced the crew I gave them all the once-over to determine who should go first.

We cast off, and were soon under sail. Once things settled down, the captain handed up some cold Coors Light with sandwiches, and I seized the opportunity to slip down the hatch to the galley. Furtively, I extracted the six-pack from my bag and lifted the lid on the ice chest.

"What have you got there lassie?" queried Cap'n D.

"Well, it wouldn't be an audition without some Old Chub," I replied.

"Oh! The Chub! That's a fine idea," he agreed. "Why don't you put some of that right on top, where people can get to it."

We shared a mischievous grin, and arranged the cans in an appealing display. Sure enough, just as we finished, one of the new guys (we'll call him "Phil") climbed down the companionway.

"What have we got here?" Phil asked, peering at the cans, glistening atop a cascade of ice cubes.

"Oh, just some Old Chub that Blanche, here, was kind enough to bring," offered Cap'n D. "If you're nice to her, she just might share!"

Phil turned to me with a big grin. "Really? I can have one?"

"Why sure! I brought them for everyone, but you might want to let them cool down a bit," I said.

He nodded in agreement, and we all went top-side to wait until the magic moment when the Chub reached the perfect temperature.

Forty minutes later Phil had an icy can of Chub in his mitts. He was giddy with excitement and flush with gratitude as he took his first sip. We all stared at him in expectation.

"Umm. Not bad," Phil said cautiously.

"You know you have to finish that," intoned Cap'n D.

"Oh, I fully intend to," Phil replied, as he took another brave swig from the can.

Phil grimaced and set his beverage on the counter. "I'm going to have to drink that one a little more slowly, I think. It's awfully strong."

We nodded gravely, and gave him a look that let him know he wasn't off the hook.

"I'll just take it up with me and keep working on it," Phil assured us.

"Well, that's the test of a true sailor," Cap'n D stated resolutely. "The crew member who finishes his Old Chub. Yes, indeed."

About an hour later the wind picked up, and we were heeled over with the sails close-hauled. Our speed over ground was close to seven knots, and Phil was at the helm. He seemed to have forgotten all about his Old Chub. Unfortunately for him there are only four spaces in the cup holder on the binnacle, meaning one cannot leave a drink idle for long without someone asking about its status.

"Uh, Phil? I know you're driving and all, but what's going on with the Old Chub?" I implored. "Surely you don't mean to tell us that you don't like it?"

"Well, if someone will take the wheel I can try to finish it off," he said, still game for the experiment. "It is very good."

No one believed him, but Cap'n D's son, Evan, was more than happy to drive so that Phil could finish his beer. Phil took another slug of the Chub, and winced as he swallowed.

"Ok. You win. It's not very good. In fact, it's bloody awful," Phil conceded. "Can I pour it out now?"

I sighed. "I suppose you can, but it might well cost you your berth to Block Island."

Phil looked around, shrugged and tipped the can toward the drain. "I give up, nothing is worth drinking this swill. You people are crazy!"

"Arrrrgh, if you be suffering from the grog, you can't possibly stand the watches," growled Cap'n D.

"That's right! 12 hours on, 4 hours off. It's a grueling pace we keep aboard Kalevipoeg," I agreed.

Cap'n D and I shared a look of mirth, as Phil shook his head in a combination of confusion and disgust, and climbed back up the companionway. Needless to say, we never heard from Phil again.

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