The Winter Olympics are almost over, which means that I have just become aware that the Winter Olympics are actually taking place. (For those of you who don’t personally know me, I live at the last outpost of the civilized world and only encounter news of the outside world when I am physically at The Backyard Ale House, where the bright lights of the soul-stealing magic mirrors they hang on their walls assault my senses with news of the world at large) While the summer games get the lion’s share of society’s love and affection, the winter games are far more interesting because of the utter insanity of some of the events, which were clearly created by a supervillain trying to recruit the best henchmen available for his evil army. Many of the events are overtly designed to either kill the participant or to assist the participant in killing someone else and fleeing the scene, which is a spectacle that even women’s gymnastics simply can’t compete with. In celebration of the games that everyone is already sick of, I am going to pair my favorite Winter Olympic events with an appropriate beer, because there’s nothing quite like arriving to the party late and drunk. And so, without further ado, I give you my favorite winter events, in order of ascending fondness:
Curling is the kind of sport I would invent if I only had rocks, brooms, ice, a couple of friends, and lots and lots of Scotch on hand to get me through the winter. It’s basically shuffleboard on ice, and it was invented by the Scots in the 1500s (probably) as a way to keep themselves from going mad with boredom. While death is rare in a Curling match, its emphasis on socialization and drinking (the losing team is expected to concede the match if it realizes it has no chance of winning and is also expected to buy the winning team a drink) make it pretty amazing. Also, you don’t need to be in good shape to play it, making it the ideal sport for middle-aged alcoholics who enjoy standing in the cold for a few hours. It’s this spirit of egalitarianism that makes Curling interesting, and, while I have never participated in a Curling match, I am fairly certain I could round up three random dudes and capture a bronze medal, which is much better than I would fare in any other Olympic event. As a Scottish game, Curling should be enjoyed with a Scotch Ale, a style whose malty flavor and high ABV lends itself to winter weather. (Oskar Blues’ Old Chub is a good place for the uninitiated to begin)
Skeleton is an event designed to test the intestinal fortitude of its participants. It hurls the human body down an icy track on a “bony” sled at speeds reaching 80 miles per hour, and it expressly forbids the use of brakes or steering mechanisms. Instead, the participant speeds head first and uses the momentum of his head and shoulders to guide the sled, because that is not the craziest thing ever imagined or anything. While it supposedly takes its name from the appearance of the sled, somehow, I like to think the name “Skeleton” is derived from the fact that a person choosing to participate in “Skeleton” may very well end up a “skeleton” in a “graveyard” if they’re not “careful.” Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is the perfect beer for Skeleton; at 18% ABV, it will get you drunk enough quickly enough to think the sport of Skeleton is anything but a terrible idea.
2. Ice Hockey
Everything about Ice Hockey is utterly insane. First off, players strap blades to their feet which allow them to cut into ice, the frozen form of water and nature’s least forgiving surface, and travel at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. They carry large sticks they use to slap a rubber puck around at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, and the puck can easily kill a man if it hits him in the right place. And then, there is the fighting: in nearly every other sport, instigating a physical fight with another player would result in the ejection of the aggressor from the game and might even result in a multi-game suspension as well; Ice Hockey, of course, laughs in the face of modern athletic consensus and condones fighting, keeping it real by paying homage to the barbaric roots that run deep in all sports. Simply put, Ice Hockey allows humans to travel at artificially enhanced speeds on a surface we still have not truly mastered while handling a deadly object with giant sticks, and it allows grown men to fight each other with minimal consequences. It’s awesome. And, because of its well-known association with Canada, any Canadian beer will pair particularly well with a Hockey game. (We carry Labatt Blue and Molson Canadian, both of which are American Adjunct Lagers, if you’re interested)
1. The Biathlon
The Biathlon does not pretend to be anything other than a way to practice murdering people. It was invented in Norway as a way to train its citizens in the deadly art of murder, and it was originally called “Military Patrol,” which would have been a great name for a first-person shooter NES game from the year 1985. Participants in the Biathlon are trained to shoot a gun and then flee the scene of the shooting as fast as they can; if they added a third leg where they disposed of the evidence without a trace, they could call it, “Murder Patrol,” which would have been a great name for a 70s punk band. It would not surprise me if the athletes who compete in the Biathlon make their livings as professional assassins in the off season, particularly in colder climates, where their cross-country getaway skills would come in handy. If you’re competing in the Biathlon, I would advise either drinking nothing at all in order to keep your senses razor sharp, or drinking something much stronger than the strongest of beers, like straight vodka, in order to quiet the screams of the hundreds of people you have no doubt dispatched to an early grave. (Ketel One is always in season, according to Phil, our resident Vodka Champion)
And, with the games set to close tomorrow, I find myself regretting that I once again did not watch a single event in its entirety, despite my clear appreciation for the events listed above...maybe, in four years' time, they'll include something I simply cannot help but watch, like a public execution, or an outright duel to the death: with games like Skeleton and the Biathlon, they can't be far behind.
See you on the flip side.