Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lacking Beer Skills

It was a week ago when I had to perform an arduous backyard task in the heat that I purchased a six pack of Guinness Stout at a local grocery store. I do not drink much beer or ale or stout, so I looked at the purchase as a low-risk “adventure.”

Well the time came to test my purchase. I think I had run a new sprinkler line to hibiscus plants that had never seen much water before. It was at a new house (to me) and there were many such tasks to be completed. After a fairly standard piping job that included drilling a one inch hole through a cement block wall and impaling my forearms many times on mean-looking rose bushes, I retired to the kitchen for dinner. That was when I opened the bottle of Guinness. I split the contents with my wife, who was marveling at the blood running down my forearms and wondering if I would have the strength left to clean up the kitchen.

My wife did not like the taste of the Guinness, so she did not drink more than a couple sips. I was not wild about its unusual flavor, but drank a little more than that. And I finished my dinner.

While I was cleaning up the kitchen (I did have the strength) I emptied the Guinness into the sink drain. As I did, I heart a rattle. Looking inside the bottle I discovered a strange object. It was about two inches long, light colored and rounded at the top. Wings extended from its sides that would allow it to be placed in the bottle, but would expand so that it could not leave the bottle.

Of a manufacturing mind, I decided the foreign object was part of the bottling process, and it had fallen off the equipment as the bottles were being filled or cleaned. I showed the object to my wife. She said it was probably ice and would melt after a while. I waited.

Several hours later, I checked and found the “icy” object remarkably unfazed by room temperature. I determined that I would take the six pack back to the grocer. I didn’t care about the money involved, but I wanted him to notify Mr. Guinness in Ireland that he had a process problem (provided that I wasn’t poisoned).

The next day I found myself in good health. I wrote a letter to the manager of the grocery, describing what had happened. While we could not find the receipt, I was sure he could get a lot number from the sixpack carton that records would show the bottles went to his company and his store. It is good to have these things thought out in advance.

With the sixpack in a grocery bag from the appropriate store, and the letter in my back pocket, I drove to the grocery. I really didn’t want to go. It would be easier to forget the whole thing. But I had told my wife I would take it back and that is what I had to do. I went in to see if they sold the product (it could have been another grocery company, my wife told me). But I knew it was the right store when I looked at the shelves, so I went back to my car to get the bag and its contents.

I figured I was going to help the grocer when he found out there was a product problem. He wasn’t responsible but would no doubt thank me.

It took a few minutes for the manager of the store to come to his counter and find out what I wanted.

“I got a dividend with my Guinness,” I told him as I opened the package and rattled the bottle to show that it had something in it. A crowd gathered around us.

“That’s right, he told me. It belongs in the bottle. Guinness puts it in there to increase the foam. It adds CO2.” With that, he pulled out a second bottle and rattled it. Sure enough, there was something in that bottle as well.

People in the crowd smiled and nodded wisely. I felt foolish as well as naïve as I put the bottles back in the bag. I am sure my face reddened. The letter disappeared in my back pocket.

“I am sorry,” I told the manager. “I wasted your time. I must confess that I don’t drink much of this stuff, so I didn’t know about the insert.”

“Oh, that’s all right. It’s a new development,” he tried to reassure me. But my confidence was gone. I was a failure as a beer drinker, a connoisseur and a process engineer; in addition I was a hopeless leftover from the twentieth century. And all the onlookers knew it.

Deflated, I drove back home. I was going to have to tell my wife.

Maybe I should have stuck with lemonade. I just don’t have beer skills.

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