Bottoms Up

We hope that you’re all planning to get out of this mud (or at least into mud in more favorable conditions) for spring break, but regardless, there’s nothing that goes better with two weeks of class-free debauchery a la MTV than alcohol. In fact, the majority of said debauchery would remain locked deep inside each of us without the “open sesame” that a good beer or wine provides.

Whatever your spring break plans this year, be sure to incorporate some quality beverages: with spring comes romance, and strong need for social lubricants. (Speaking of lubricants, the Record has received numerous requests recently for a sex column. We don’t do that, but we’re sure that someone out there would: keep the pressure on.)

This week, we tried to find good first-date drinks, with mixed success. As your mother says, “Let’s hear the bad first.” So, here goes: Magic Hat’s Fat Angel Ale.

Adam: Tastes like bitter herbs.

Steve: Like Passover!

Adam: Or Easter – let’s be nondenominational.

We had high hopes for this brew, given pro-Hat word around campus and the eye-catching, graffiti-inspired logo. But as soon as we opened a bottle, our expectations plummeted:The pleasant pop precipitously gave way to poop smell. We quickly poured, and the odor abated, but that first impression stayed with us. The beer itself was on the darker side of ales, its color more plain brown than sparkling amber. Though sometimes lauded for its frothy head, the bubbles from our beer reminded us of Alka-Seltzer.

Still remembering the brew’s strong smell, we braced for the first sip. To our bewilderment, we got Janet Reno instead of the Sarah Jessica Parker we were expecting. Overall, the beer’s taste can only be described as bland. (Granted, that’s better than if it had tasted as it first smelled.) There’s truly nothing fat (or phat) about this Angel: weak-bodied, with little complexity and a bitter aftertaste, Magic Hat’s offering leaves something to be desired.

In deconstructing its flavor, Steve felt that Fat Angel was merely “beer flavored with beer,” with a slightly sweet beginning, nothing in the middle, and an end about as satisfying as that of “Chasing Amy.” Two things were fitting about the beer, however: its label and its cap. The six-pack featured a devil pig befitted with angel wings, hinting at the confused nature of the brew’s taste; the cap asked, “How did you get like this?” mirroring our own question of, “How did such a bad tasting beer get to be so highly-touted?”

Next, we tasted Columbia Crest Chardonnay Great Estates 2000. We were psyched for this wine, as it was rated #16 in Wine Spectator’s recent “Top 100 Wines of 2001,” and we weren’t disappointed.

Steve: I prefer the 1932 vintage.

Adam: This winery started producing in 1985, Steve. Are you drunk?

Steve: [zzzz]

After proper chilling, we uncorked the bottle. The screwing (of the cork) unfortunately emitted a sound similar to those floating out of cheap motel rooms on hot summer evenings – prime time for youthful jumping on beds (what, you expected something else?). While not developed into a full bouquet, the wine’s nose offered spicy flavors of paprika followed by a rich but subtle note of chocolate. Its color was a nice light golden and its legs were strong and shapely (Marion Jones meets Tina Turner), indicative of its alcohol content. Tasting this Chardonnay brought it even more favor in our eyes. We were seduced by its crisp beginning and delighted by its complex, full-bodied middle; the wine’s oaky finish sealed the deal.

Not all commentary was positive. Steve found the wine certainly inoffensive but less than challenging; Adam felt that its buttery texture was slightly overpowering. Both of us remarked that this wine’s flavor was sweeter and more strongly laced with alcohol than that of most Chardonnays we’ve tasted.

Overall, though, we were impressed by its balance and sophistication, especially given its low price. Wine Spectator concurs, awarding the wine a score of 90 out of 100: “Rich and creamy, a plush mouthful of peach, pear, nutmeg and cream flavors that wind themselves nicely all the way through the generous finish.” Elaborate praise. But, really, it’s just a bottle of wine.

In conclusion: bottoms up for Columbia Crest Chardonnay Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2000. This is an excellent wine for a first date: not too edgy and not too soft, smooth and warm, it will help you make a good impression without making a huge commitment (financial or otherwise). As for Magic Hat’s Fat Angel, we can’t recommend it.

Perhaps following in the tradition of other “fat” beverages that have fallen out of favor with these columnists (like last time’s Fat Bastard Shiraz), given its strong scent and unimpressive taste, Fat Angel has the capability to turn a fun hookup into an immediate breakup.