As any of my fellow writers can attest, on any given day you'll get several dozen (hundreds?) of press releases that are of no real interest to you, and after a while your eyes are trained to just glaze over them as you hunt for the handful that might be of some use, i.e. screening invites and the like. As I'm not a full-time writer, and only really write about horror, I rarely get *any* that really apply to me (no, I will not attend a screening of your documentary in New York), but last week I got one that stuck out: an offer for a Game of Thrones beer called "My Watch Has Ended". Per the press release:
My Watch Has Ended is brewed with two-row base malt, specialty grains such as oat flakes and chocolate malt, plus maple syrup and fenugreek, an herb with a maple-like aroma and flavor. Hopped with Hallertau Magnum and Styrian Golding varietals and fermented with an English ale yeast, with aromas of sweet maple and caramelized sugar, the beer pours a rich mahogany. Notes of cocoa and toffee and a smooth, velvety mouthfeel finish dry, with gently smoldering roast.
Sounds pretty delicious, right? But here's the thing, and I told the publicist as much: I have no sense of smell, and as a result, my sense of taste is severely diminished as well. This peculiar ailment is called Anosmia, and there are multiple ways one can get it, though how I did remains a bit of a mystery. One cause is receiving a sharp blow to the head, something that happened to me when I was only a toddler (I was pretty clumsy as a kid, and also as an adult) that also left a little scar on my tongue from biting it in the process. But you might also just be born with it - my accident happened before I would have been aware of having or not having the ability to smell my own stinky diapers, so it's possible getting whacked on the head had no effect on the matter. I think I was about six or seven when it became clear that I couldn't smell, when a skunk sprayed a tent we were in while camping and I didn't detect anything particularly foul. Before then I just figured I wasn't doing it right, or maybe it was a sense that would come later.
It's so relatively rare that whenever people discover I can't smell, they tend to ask "Anything? Not even (something I assume smells real bad like, er, a skunk)?" and the answer is no, I can't smell anything. The sense just isn't there, so it'd be like asking a blind person if they could at least see the Sistine Chapel or if a deaf person could hear a Jim Steinman song. The taste thing is a little trickier to describe, especially since I have no frame of reference for what this or that would taste like if it was operating at full capacity. From someone who lost their sense of smell later in life, they once described it to me as food always tasting the same way it did when the senses worked correctly and they would eat during a severe cold with their nose all blocked up. Since the two work hand in hand, your olfactory nerves are doing some of the heavy lifting for what you taste, but since mine aren't working, I miss out on a lot of the effect.
Thankfully, it's not like everything tastes like flavorless lumps to me. I can taste salt, sugar, sour, bitter, etc., plus the odd specific flavor like peppermint. Those things along with the texture of a food is how I determine whether or not I like it, though what it boils down to is that if you put enough salt on something I'm sure I will enjoy it unless the texture alone is a turn off. I realized recently during one of our beloved Scott Wampler's "Twizzler or Red Vine" related tweets that my preference for the former has nothing to do with the taste as they come across as identical to me - I just like the way the ridges of the Twizzler feel on my tongue, so I prefer those. I get Pumpkin Spice coffee (and cereal, and pretzels, and Kit Kats...) throughout the fall not because I love the flavor, but just to partake in a tradition enjoyed by others at this time of the year - I honestly can't tell the difference between it and plain coffee.
And for the most part it's a risk-free disability; I can tell when my milk has gone sour (though I have to have it in my mouth first, since I can't smell check) or if something is undercooked. But I can't deny that I don't worry about a potential gas leak killing me someday if I were to be left alone for too long a period, and as I get older and my memory gets hazier than it used to be, it is quite upsetting that I am unable to retain strong memories of things like my mother's cooking or rocking my newborn son to sleep, because aromas play a big part in how those memories are stored (and conjured). Photos and my own brain cells will have to do all of that work for me when a loved one dies - remember when Annette Bening grabs her husband's sweater in American Beauty after he was killed? I didn't even understand that until someone explained it to me!
So all that said, how was the "My Watch Has Ended" beer? It was... fine! It was very dark, and I prefer light beers usually, so I could tell it was "different" because it was a bit heavier and thus I couldn't drink it as fast (also, it had a slightly higher alcohol content than an Amstel Light or whatever I'd usually be drinking, so two glasses gave me a nice little buzz), but all those wonderful sounding "notes of cocoa and toffee" were totally lost on me*. As the press release suggested, I had a steak with it, and I can confirm it did taste ("taste") pretty great with it, certainly more than the water I'd usually be drinking since I don't really drink much else besides a small cup of coffee in the morning. And I had no dry mouth this morning, so it passes that all important test.
Therefore, if you end up getting this or any of the other Game of Thrones beers (this is the 15th in the line, and there will be a collector's set coming with the "Take the Black Stout", "Fire and Blood Red Ale", and "Winter is Here Double Wit" flavors, plus a commemorative glass), I'd like to humbly ask that you not take for granted that you can easily detect all of the flavors within. Unlike sight and sound, most tend to take their smell and taste senses for granted, because it's just not something that's easily noticed. It's not like I ask people to taste my food for me or help me pick out an air freshener for my car, the way we've all helped someone who couldn't see cross the street or wrote down a phrase for someone who couldn't hear us say it aloud. Sure, there are a few benefits to it (you never need to apologize for farting in my presence), but there's a lot I know I miss out on and probably more I don't even realize. Long story short, if you get this or any other beer based on a TV show, don't just laugh at the novelty - enjoy the flavors it provides, because not all of us can.
For more information, visit ommegang.com
*My wife tried it and can confirm the maple taste, however!