Saturday, April 16, 2011

Great Lakes Burning River, bottle

This week, while my brother and sister-in-law are on vacation in Florida, I've been watching their cats.

Their names are Fluffy and Furball. Just kidding. They're Newman and Vargas, taken from the Seinfeld character and his Bizarro-world counterpart. I've previously chronicled my responsible dog-sitting, but this is my first experience with cats. I thought cat-sitting would be much easier since I don't actually have to do anything, other than bear their presence and scoop the litter box (which, incidentally, feels less demeaning than I expected). And it is easier, from that standpoint. But I'm always concerned--overly concerned maybe--with the comfort and happiness of the animals under my watch. The dogs give me instant feedback; their needs are greater but more obvious. The cats? I can't figure out what--if anything--they need from me. In that sense, their self-sufficiency is disconcerting; I worry that it's concealing some deep emotional need on which I'm utterly failing them, my cat sense undeveloped as it is.

As I type this, in fact, Newman--as he's been doing all week--is purring and weirdly rubbing his body against the side of my monitor, occasionally trying lick or nibble at my fingers. What the heck do you want, cat? I pet him, but, see, I don't even know how cats like to be touched. And now he's sort of digging at the bed under the corner of the laptop. What a weirdo.

When my brother brought the cats over on Sunday, they came with a sixer of Burning River and some homemade strawberry ice cream. I won't lie; the ice cream was probably the bigger score--not that I don't love Burning River, but as a weekday vegan, ice cream is an indulgence I'll rarely afford myself. And the fact that something is homemade not only mitigates the guilt of eating dairy and stuffing my face, it actually gives dairy-eating and face-stuffing a feeling of purpose and righteousness that comes with the gracious acceptance of a gift. And so goes the slippery slope of communal sin.

I think of Burning River as the misunderstood troublemaker--complex, layered, masked by an abrasive exterior, worth the patience to really understand him. If you think this analogy is beneath me or any other self-respecting blogger, you are correct. But I haven't been sleeping much, and that's all I've got right now. What I mean, in slightly more substantive terms, is that Burning River is a hoppy punch of a pale, and that's all it will be if you want. But he's really a slightly sweet, dense pilsner with a bitter exterior, doughy, fruity, and faintly toasted on the swirl... shelled by a layer of hops. The grainy side is like rye; the fruit is not citrusy, the bitterness being more earthy like pine than sour like a grapefruit. Raisin or blueberry is probably closer to it.

Grade: Y, for, you don't understand him like I do. Be patient; get to know him.

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