When you can't turn on the nightly news without hearing yourself utter, "What fresh hell is this?" it just may be time to go back to the basics and find some common ground on which we can all agree. It's time for that universal American comfort food of bar-flies, sports fans, soccer moms, and tortured undergraduates alike. I speak, of course, of buffalo wings and beer.
Buffalo wings were invented, so the story goes, in 1964 by one Teressa Belissimo — and who knows how the Republic got that far without them. While the details are fuzzy, they seem to revolve around a college-aged son, Dominic, and the late-night tomfoolery of either his drinking buddies or some hungry Catholics. Accounts vary.
- Sergii Koval | Dreamstime.com
There was a time when I was someone's college age son, sitting on the Tuscaloosa strip, sweating profusely over a basket of "nuclear" buffalo wings at Wings N' Things and washing the little buggers down with a frosty Miller Lite. It was the first time I'd ever had buffalo wings, and I remember distinctly a sign that read, "Please clear tables in lieu of tipping." It was the first time I'd ever seen the word "lieu." College really is a place to learn.
I'm fairly sure that a steady diet of beer (warding off infection), as well as vinegar-based cayenne pepper sauce (cauterizing my insides) kept me out of the Student Health Center. We could all use some therapeutic sweats to get our heads right.
So I was at Huey's the other day, contemplating the right brew to accompany an order of wings. The truth is that it doesn't really matter, other than a vague instinctual directive to "keep it light." That can mean anything from a Michelob Ultra to some crafty IPA — although I'd steer clear of the really hoppy ones until you've cleaned your basket. That combo is an awful lot to have going on with one's taste buds. And in my experience, the hoppy brews tend to get more so as they warm up.
On the other hand, this might not be a problem if you order your wings extra hot, because you'd be quaffing the stuff down double-quick. Borrowing yet another hand, if you suck down three double IPAs with an order of extra-hot buffalo wings, I'd advise rolling the windows down on the way home. (This is the sort of dialectical masturbation a fella gets into with a top-notch college degree.)
Still, I wanted the perfect buffalo wing beer. My eye went to the Wiseacre tap — a great Memphis stand-by — but it wasn't the Ananda IPA or Tiny Bomb Pilsner, though either would have been winners with a basket of wings. It was Gotta Get up to Get Down — a coffee stout. I just couldn't convince myself this would be a good idea with wings. For some reason, the Deepwater Horizon disaster keeps leaping to mind. Don't get me wrong; it's a good coffee stout. I was at the lake about a year ago, and (I'm not proud of this) I had it for breakfast, where it really hit the spot. Somebody was frying a mess of eggs and bacon, but that wasn't for me. I was being alert and heart healthy. We went skiing after this.
The Scottish Ale seems a bit toasty for hot sauces — like trying to fry ribs after you smoke them. Then, of course, there are the classic domestic mass-produced pilsners. I'm not a big enough snob to say those would be wrong. Just maybe not perfect.
In the end, I went with a Bell's Two Hearted Ale out of Kalamazoo. It's light, but you know its there. There is enough hop to appreciate it without thinking, "My, what a cavalcade of hops!"
And here's that college education again — I like a brewery that would name a beer after a Hemingway short story.