For some, Christmas is a time of giving – of family, friends and merriment. To others, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. For me, Christmas is simply punctuated by unrealistic expectations and bitter disappointment.
When I was seven, I awoke, bleary eyed – a stomach full of excitement – expecting to find something I had been pining for over many preceding months: Jason, the Red Power Ranger. Yes, I received a Power Ranger that year, only one of a slightly paler hue:
Mum. Dad. I’m a boy.
From that point, my view of Christmas was forever marked by bitter disappointment.
By last year’s festive season, I had forgotten about this transgression when Judd and I became heavily and emotionally invested in the making of our Christmas Ale. The thought of sitting around sipping a full-bodied dark ale, singing notes of fruit and spice, was all too exciting. Christmas in a motherflipping cup, you motherflipper.
We brewed it back in September, our last batch of 2013. It was bottle-conditioned for three long months. Combining ginger, orange peel and cherries with late hop additions, we felt like the Heston Blumenthals of homebrewing.
We mutually agreed to ring in the silly season by cracking open a bottle, only a week before Christmas. The level of restraint it took not to open the beer prematurely was Zen-like and was clearly taking its toll on Judd, whose once boyish good looks had eroded from months of anxiety.
While it sat in the primary vessel, the seasons were changing and the temperatures were already creeping northward. While we waited in suspense for that day, the approaching cruel Brisbane summer was systematically clusterfucking our beer under our very noses.
What we ended up with was a spectacularly shit homebrew. Bitter memories of Kimberly the Pink Power Ranger surged from my repressed subconscious.
Disappointment. Anger. Rage. Shame. Embarrassment.
We chose to unveil our masterstroke, in front of friends, at a party we’d hosted in its honour.
Utterly undrinkable, we are still trying to pick up the pieces and pinpoint precisely what went wrong. Judd has bravely continued to drink this Clusterfucked Ale, out of pure desperation. I couldn’t finish the glass and I haven’t had a drop since.
Our folly was twofold. We allowed grave abuses to be committed to our beer by subjecting it to great swings in temperature. The ale yeast we used shouldn’t have been pitched, nor made to ferment at 28 degrees. Even more heinous, we allowed our expectations to abandon reality and run wild. Sometimes the magic of the Christmas season is a draught that blinds us to previous disappointments.