The Beer Queendom...
In the first installment, The Queen decided to drain the moat surrounding
her castle. The moat dweller, banished from The Queendom for demanding the inclusion
of wheat beers, attempted to stop the draining by posting a Cease and Desist order on
the moat drain lever. The Queen reacted by consulting with Honeyman, her lawyer and former lover.
The Master Taster surveyed the beer cellar. It was a magnificent place. The heart of The Beer Queendom, it powered the Utopia the Queen had created. And its elegance gave beer the reverence it deserved. High arched ceilings and backlit stained glass windows combined with high tech temperature and humidity controls to provide both beauty and an optimal storage environment. Row after row of bottles were meticulously labeled and dated—and identified by flags of the countries where the beers were brewed. The flags were his touch, adding color to the room. The Queen was responsible for the labeling. She was obsessive about it. But while it often made the Master Taster feel like a librarian, it allowed him to choose between an aged or a fresh beer. Beer changed as it aged and it was important to get just the right tartness—or sweetness—to match the foods being prepared.
Belgian beers occupied a disproportionate amount of space; there were so many the Master Taster had to organize them by province. He had created a separate section for the Trappist beers—those brewed in monasteries—which the Queen loved. Especially Westvleteren.
A drop of water glanced off the Master Taster’s beret, causing him to glance up. The ceiling was leaking again. It happened every time the Queen decided to drain the moat. The Master Taster wouldn’t mind the excess moisture except that it made switching back and forth between the Travel Channel and Red Sox games problematic. The family wasn’t happy about the leaky ceiling either. The Sea Hag said it gave her migraine headaches and his daughter, a rising star in the WWF, complained of leg cramps. One thing the Brothers at the Christian Academy had taught him was that if anyone in the nuclear family was unhappy, no one was happy. Now that he’d been spending less time on the road, the importance of a happy family couldn’t be underestimated.
Another drop of water hit his beret and fell onto the temperature controlled, tile floor. He had two options: put out the buckets and catch each drop where it fell or forget the hassle and open a beer. He sat down and popped the cap off an Aventinus. The one-man bucket brigade could wait.
The door opened and Border Collie stuck her head into the beer cellar. She looked at the ceiling and shook her head sadly. Upon seeing the Master Taster, she brightened. “Are you ready for the beer fest?”
“Close,” the Master Taster replied. “I’m still waiting on casks from England and some Belgian specialties.”
“What happened to the casks?”
“Apparently they ended up in Hong Kong.”
“Oh, my,” Border Collie said. “How did that happen?”
“The distributor,” the Master Taster replied.
“Right. They confused east with west.” The beer distribution company was known for losing kegs of beer.
“They’ll make it,” Border Collie said confidently. “Just don’t pay for the empties or the Queen will have your head.”
The Master Taster nodded. That was another problem with Blokester Beverage. Occasionally, kegs would arrive empty. He suspected that they were busy drinking the product while getting it ready for shipment, but couldn’t prove anything. Scanning the beer cellar, his eyes fell upon the pallet he’d reserved for the firkins. The Queen didn’t realize how much coordination was needed to run a beer festival. Especially the best one on Earth, which is what she demanded.
“Have you seen Honeyman?” Border Collie asked.
“I think he’s still in the shower,” the Master Taster replied. Whether he was or not, he didn’t know, but it was a safe answer.
After Border Collie turned to go, she noticed the Master Taster’s beer. “That’s a wheat beer,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper.
“Zackly!” the Master Taster replied, reveling in the illicit behavior and confident that his friend wouldn’t say anything to the Queen. Border Collie disappeared without replying and the Master Taster’s gaze fell on his workspace. The small, wood table and chair in the center of the room stared back at him, dwarfed by the spaciousness of the room. The chair had no cushioning or armrests. It was nothing like the Queen’s throne, not really befitting of someone with the title Master. The Queen claimed that a larger, more comfortable chair would result in his consuming too many Trappist beers and watching Red Sox games instead of working. Maybe he would accept the moat dweller’s offer of a luxury throne, especially one with that special deal on satellite TV coverage.
As the sun hit its zenith the retrieved Cease and Desist order began to dry and take on a life of its own. Sides of the paper rose off the parapet floor. A soft breeze began, causing a persistent ruffle. The Beer Queendom was Utopia…almost. The Queen supposed a measure of discontent was unavoidable in any realm, even one so benevolent and open as hers. Malcontents were as inevitable as a servant delivering salad without the dressing on the side. Or forgetting to offer fresh, ground pepper.
What irked her most was the impudence of the besotted moat dweller thinking he could make demands on her realm. One well-placed boulder from the parapet could sink his sorry ship of state, sending him to dwell forever among the empty bottles of his atrocious wheat beers and their banana and bubble gum aromas. The only thing that had kept her from catapulting a rock was her respect for life, even if it was one with so many destroyed brain cells.
Movement distracted The Queen. It was almost time for lunch. What did her chef have in store for her today? And with what beer had the Master Taster matched the food? Managing The Beer Queendom involved a good deal of coordination, especially when subjects were required to work only two hours a day. But giving orders and extracting work from her subjects was The Queen’s forte. And made for a healthy appetite. Hence she took meals every three hours.
The Queen spotted a soft ripple in the water. What appeared resembled one of those multi-mirrored contraptions she had used as a kid to peek around corners. She wondered if his pathetic excuse for a periscope would be followed by the moat dweller’s floating flotsam. It usually emerged while he sat on deck pretending to be Nero of the Deep. Zero was more like it. She considered tossing the frog legs down on him. Then remembered that brunch had finally been taken away.
The noise of a throat clearing caused her to whirl away from the moat. It was the Border Collie. “The Master Taster’s ceiling is leaking.”
“Is it bad?”
“It’s reached the beer cellar.”
The Queen groaned inwardly, the taste of her morning strawberries curdling with the knowledge of a flaw in the design of the moat. She had gone over the engineering plans herself so it must have been the sub contractor, Happy Hour Construction. They had been more concerned about the beer they were drinking than the size of the drainage pipes. “Stop the drainage!” she snapped angrily. It was probably better. As much as she enjoyed the moat dweller’s discomfort, she needed to keep the cellar in shape for the upcoming beer festival. And who knew what lay on the moat bottom? An outhouse? A toxic dump? The pungent odor of banana and clove from the hundreds of wheat beers the moat dweller and his know nothing band of misfits consumed each night? Despite the amusement that exposing the charlatan would bring, she had to think of her subjects’ well being.
Suddenly a loud blast sounded. The moat dweller’s boat was rising out of the muck. She could never figure out why he announced his appearance since no one in The Beer Queendom paid attention to him. He was like the child who had an urgent need to be seen and heard, the one on the plane that everyone wished would shut up and go to sleep.
Oh ho ho and a bottle of wheat!
Its palate-cleansing flavor just can’t be beat!
We drink it here, no need to invade Takrit!
Oh ho ho and a bottle of wheat!
The moat dweller’s emergence song brought a smile to The Queen’s lips. Despite her irritation with his wheat beer fixation, their politics were similar. They both despised the rulers of the Outer Realm. It was the Outer Realm, in fact, that forced her to open The Beer Queendom before she was ready. Unable to tolerate living under so despicable a regime, she allowed immigration before she’d perfected the castle’s plumbing.
Once again a blast of noise caught her attention. The sorry ship of state had risen with the idiot sitting on deck in a contraption that made her easy throne look like a palace. She swore she could see a strand of seaweed hanging off his ear. That didn’t surprise her; the Queendom’s botanist had mentioned excess weed growth. Natural succession would dry up the moat if a few well-placed boulders didn’t.
Diebold, Diebold, hey hey hey!
How many votes did you steal today!
Here’s a wheat beer for your CEO!
Diebold, Diebold, big money ho!
The Queen reminded herself of the humor factor in having the moat dweller outside the castle walls. Even if his ideas weren’t based in reality, they were entertaining. He probably didn’t even realize that the moat had been draining and he was inches from the mud, dodging catfish.
A howl caused her to glance down one more time. He did have seaweed hanging off his ear! It looked like it had been put there purposefully, as if he was wearing a garland. How ridiculous! He was trying to imitate Julius Caesar but looked more like SpongeBob SquarePants.
Lunch arrived. A kriek-sprinkled endive salad was matched with a small glass of Orval. The spiciness of the beer contrasted perfectly with the acidity of the kriek salad. Her Master Taster had done it again, despite his soggy morning. This was certainly a better start than frogs’ legs. As the servant began to wheel the empty tray away she hissed. “Where’s the fresh ground pepper?”
War! What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin’! Say it again!
War! What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin’! Say it again!
The moat dweller was funny now and then, but publish a book of his poems? Not in her Queendom. Despite her many programs fostering local talent, it was a project she had rejected. Maybe it was the way he had submitted them, tossing the poems at her feet and telling her to organize them because she was good at that. Who did he think he was, Charles Bukowski? The phony fabulist not only refused to recognize that his words were best left at the bar stool, he expected someone else to pick out the alcohol soaked pieces of originality from the plagiarism. How could anyone sort out that left brain? Or what was left it.
The Queen suspected that her rejection of the Moat Dweller’s book proposal was the real reason he had revolted. The wheat beer ban was just an excuse. How could anyone stand those ridiculous flavors? And the poems did need work. While she liked some of them, they were really more like rugby songs to be bellowed in the local bar. They were better left as oral tradition.
Dismissing any regrets, the Queen thought about the schedule she had set up for tonight. Two local bands were going to play, followed by The Iguanas, who had agreed to finish off the night under a shower of fireworks. It promised to be a wonderfully entertaining show. And a chance to test the new sound system she had installed in the amphitheater. She wanted the music for the beer fest to be fine-tuned and sound systems were the biggest headaches. The fireworks were an added benefit. The Universal Beer & Peace Carnival. She liked the sound of it.
Next issue, fireworks, Russian mail order brides, and the plot to smuggle an easy throne into The Beer
By los Testigos de Cerveza
Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain Brewing News