Back in January of 1965, my mother and father bought a dachshund.
My father, an Air Force officer, wanted to name him Lieutenant, after the title character from some TV series he liked about the Marines. The pup was pure-bred, and in the course of registering him with the AKC, Pop discovered that the name Lieutenant was taken; after some hemming and hawing, he and Mom settled on Lieutenant Colonel, a rank in his branch of the Armed Forces that at the time must've seemed well nigh unreachable to my young father. And, of course, the dog's name was immediately shortened to Colonel — an even higher rank.
Colonel grew up to be both loving and tough. He'd play gamely with my older sister and me, but could get grouchy if the play got too rough or went on too long, and was always ready to dig his way under a fence to confront other dogs two and three times his size. He was always trotting home bloody-eared, but defiant.
When he got older, he developed all sorts of problems typical of pure breeds. His eyesight started to go, and he became paranoid. Finally, he bit a babysitter who startled him while he was napping (later, my father would always sharply correct me when I would tell friends that Colonel "tore her face off"), and Mom and Pop made the heartbreaking decision to have him put to sleep.
Colonel was 13.
It wasn't until seven years later that Pop finally achieved the rank of Colonel.
"It took me almost 20 years to catch up to that damn dog," he likes to say, with extremely uncharacteristic profanity and obvious love.
At least my father finally did catch up with Colonel. I don't think I will ever match the distinction recently bestowed on my own beloved canine, even though, like Pop, I'm directly responsible for setting the bar:
Milo The White Trash Terrordog now has his own beer.
For several months now, Roger Crippled Masters has been brewing small quantities of beer in the closet of his guest bedroom. His first real success, the first one he wanted everyone to taste, he named Colby Golden Ale, after his and his ex-wife's late retriever. The beer's label art was inspired by a painting of Colby done by another local musician, Hugh Williams.
The idea took hold, and since then, a couple of Roger's friends' dogs have been likewise immortalized via a namesake brew — a pale ale for Madison, a Newcastle-esaue brown for Georgia Brown. I'd been not-so-subtly lobbying for a stout bearing the Milo moniker for the better part of half a year when he told me it was going into the keg, and into the closet.
And finally, last week, I got the call.
"Come over this weekend," he said. "The Terrordog Chocolate Stout is ready for bottling."
"How much is there?"
"Oh, about 20 bottles' worth."
"Twenty bottles? We'll drink that before we even get it all bottled."
"We can't drink it today. It has to carbonate in the bottles for a week."
I cried a little bit.
Then I went to find out exactly how one makes a bottle of Terrordog Chocolate Stout.
The mixing and fermenting had already been done. In addition to the usual home-brewing necessities — yeast, hops, etc. — Roger had added a series of ingredients to flavor the stout and raise its alcohol content.
"Sugar, brown sugar, baker's chocolate, cherries," he said. "It was more like making a pie than brewing beer."
We rinsed 20 identical label-less bottles (the labels, featuring an impression of Milo The White Trash Terrordog done by St. Pete artist Josh Sullivan, weren't finished, and wouldn't be added until the final step in any case), and sanitized them with an oxygen-based cleanser. As the bottles dried, Roger retrieved the eight-and-a-half-quart keg from the darkness of the closet, set it on the kitchen table, and drew out a couple of inches of dark, viscous, incredibly attractive liquid. Though the stout was still flat, we could get an idea of what the finished product would taste like, smooth up front, with an extremely chocolatey — but not sweet — finish.
Drinking an ounce of it, and not being able to drink any more for a week, was probably worse than not being able to taste it at all.
The bottles dry, Roger dropped in a tiny amount of sugar, which would react with the last of the active ingredients to produce carbon dioxide and carbonate the beer. Then we set about filling and capping the bottles.
Filling and capping the bottles.
Isn't that exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do with a bottle of beer?
True to Roger's earlier comments, what was left over in the keg resembled a badly botched attempt at a recipe for black forest cake. I pointed out there was still a little liquid down in there. He poured the whole mess into a pint glass, and invited me to have at it. I actually thought about it, for a minute.
The bottled stout has been back in the closet for nearly seven days now. Sometime Sunday or Monday, Roger Crippled Masters will call me, and it will be time to crack one open, toast his success, and Milo The White Trash Terrordog.
Why can't I have a beer named after me?
At least I've got 20 years to work on it.