I remember the 1989 brew best: Wisdom Ale, with Fig Newton cookies, rosemary, thyme, sage, peaches and sunflower seeds. There was also ceremony: irises were laid on the cover to the brewery’s open primary fermentor. There are always reading from wise books of the ages. The herb selections were from Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. That beer had a magical effect, because after the first sip I felt wiser, though my newfound wisdom was gone by day’s end.
There was the very old Longevity Ale (1990) and that was even better—now I could live longer. That effect has lasted to this day: I’m still alive.
In 1991, there was Invisibility Ale. I have a hard time remembering that one, because I may have turned invisible. The herbs were designed to make one scarce to the eye, a non-problem to one’s neighbors, and totally invisible (amaranth, chicory, edelweiss, mistletoe, poppies and some other secret stuff). Did I mention Grateful Dead music (“Stella Blue” by Jerry Garcia)? It may have been a week before I became visible again.
The 1992 Hallucinator Ale was downright scary, as was the ingredient list. The first sip set me to giggling. Suddenly I felt older, wiser, slightly invisible—and giggly.
All at once, I knew the secrets of the universe, but I forgot them immediately and decided to bark at the moon. It was high noon and I was completely discombobulated. Some of the herbs: althea (protection, psychic powers), angelica (protection, healing, visions), lavender (love, longevity, happiness, peace), mint (love, money, psychic powers). Well, you get the picture. That was a rich (but filtered) marinade to add to a beer.
When Pat McNurney, Edgefield grounds manager (who had collected the herbs), actually sipped from the marinade, Mike McMenamin tried to protect him. But his cry, “Pat, stop. Don’t drink that. You’re too important to lose,” was too late. McNurney recovered in a few weeks time, but I still feel giddy.
For the first eight years, there had always been a bottle from a case of Lanson “champagne for connoisseurs only,” acquired from an old brewmaster of the now long-gone Blitz-Weinhard brewery, in France, in 1945, just after WWII had ended. The ‘45 was a banner year for that champagne and we may have consumed the last of that great vintage on the planet in 1996.
My notes from the 2012 meeting are unreadable, but I think that confab featured something like 73 additions, including samples of more than 30 McM and other brews, and many, many wine samples and distilled beverages. One had to be very, very careful that day.
But that wasn’t all that went into that beer. Tiny printed copies of an ad were added to the tub: “Beer is Not Alcohol.” I like that one. There were various other additions including songs, poems and who knows what all.