It was somewhere about 9 o'clock when the booze began to kick in.
Was it hubris, which compelled me to attempt to fortify an unremarkable wee heavy with a fifth of cheap scotch? Or was there something else? Had my addiction to experimental beers became so strong I was willing to throw away any inkling of common sense on a KY coated Slip-and-Slide decent into the very depth of what a bad beer could become?
With a mad cackle I kegged the beer, poured the scotch on top and put the gas to it. No thought of blending to taste. No worry about ratios or possible ABV. "Piss on the Reinheitsgebot!," was the battle cry coming from my froth speckled lips.
I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish. Is there some quality inherent to Highland Stag brand scotch which would lend itself to a beer? The peat-smoke character reminiscent of thousands of Scottish peasants coughing up their emphysema blackened lungs is not a nice flavor anyway; could beer somehow make it better?
The carbonated beer was harsh as a Brillo Pad handjob. Scratchy and unforgiving, it wasn't so sharp as a straight shot but there was something unpleasant there, as if each glass had been personally tea-bagged by Groundskeeper Willy. But at the same time, it was not so unpleasant it was undrinkable. The scotch numbed the throat first, and after the first glass the other senses became lax.
Human trials were needed in order to observe the effect on consciousness. So, I invited a couple of college friends, J.R. and Jack, to have a beer drinking weekend. They prided themselves on being West Coast beer dorks but I had to wonder, "Could they even handle the Scotch-Scotch Ale? Would something like this ruin them on beer forever?"
No use screwing around, so I filled big 30 oz. mugs. Initially, they bitched about the taste; throwing around words like: possible infection, fusel alcohol and crappy. A simple challenge to their masculinity and the guys were chugging beer like a baby fresh to the tit.
By the end of the third mug I heard a roaring in my ears. Like the top two valves of a 4-barrel carburetor taking hold I could feel a sudden shifting in time and space as the scotch began to kick in.
The first noticeable effect was a sudden disintegration of cognitive function. J.R. had been regaling us with some story of Portland when, mid sentence, he lapsed into inane gibberish. With gleeful horror I watched his brain shut down to the point he was unable to form sounds into words.
The next stage was fear. J.R.'s lizard brain function realized he had somehow latched onto something which was beyond his control, the proverbial dog tied to a car bumper. He fought to choose an action. "Bed J.R. go. Sleep time is," he said, taking four steps toward the guest bedroom before he collapsed in the hallway.
For Jack the creeping madness came slower, like a touchy uncle watching from the shadows. He laughed at his apparent triumph over J.R. and drank another half a mug of English Oppression Scotch Ale.
The terror came with the darkness. A spinning bed, a cold sweat and a mouth suddenly filled with saliva; Jack knew the sickness was on him. The panic carried him out of the bedroom, through the kitchen, down the stairs and out into the back yard; his hand pressed against his mouth in a vain attempt to hold back a tidal wave of vomit.
Once in the back yard Jack collapsed in the dirt as his body tried to turn itself inside out. Once the first round of sickness passed he was filled with booze fueled remorse and, using drunk logic, as he crawled back into the house he removed his pants so he wouldn't make a mess.
By tracking his trail of vomit, I found him the next morning. He was asleep in the bathtub, wrapped in the shower curtain, and lacking pants.
I had found what I wanted. The proof my experimentation had gone to far. Just because I could do something didn't mean I should. But on the other hand, if someone offers you free beer there is always a catch.
J.R. A Portrait of a Hangover