Today I will be combining both whiskey and beer, in a discussion built surrounding the venerable National Bohemian.
Natty-Boh is something of a cultural phenomenon in the mid-Atlantic, specifically Baltimore. With a long and storied past that has been covered at great length elsewhere on the web, this once brewed in Baltimore beer was at a time distributed nationally. After falling out of national favor, it lingered as a budget beer in Maryland for decades, eventually ceasing local production after the brand was sold, moving out of state, at some point spawning the awful “boh-ice”, and generally being relegated to a place alongside Narragansett and Lone star as a local oddity/novelty brand. After a resurgence of interest in the brand starting in the late 90’s into the early 2000’s, its iconic imagery spread throughout the city (great old marketing campaign posters, and a snappy cartoon mascot helped), and the brand relaunched in full – though it is still made out of state. Now it has become un-escapable, with expanding distribution, and availability on draught after a number of down years of existing bottles and cans only. I’m pretty sure that in some parts of Maryland they’re even tattooing children with Mr. Boh’s face at this point. It’s an inevitability that they’ll get one someday themselves anyways.
Speaking of children, I have a coming-of-age tale brought to you by Natty Boh that seems appropriate to tell at this point in our examination. It was the late 90’s, I was 15 years old, approaching 16, and needed to log some forgotten number of hours driving with an adult to qualify for a driver’s license. My father, being a generous man came to me one afternoon and said “drive me to the liquor store, and I’ll sign off on an hour.” You must understand, this was a 10-minute trip, so his offer of getting a full hour signed off on was a sweet deal, and of course I agreed. So we got into the car, drove to the store, and while in line he gestured at the cooler next to the register filled with single loose cans of Natty Boh “why don’t you get one for yourself”, feeling like a total badass I said “ok!” and handed one to him to purchase for my own. While on the brief drive home, windows down, summer sun shining, he handed me my single beer while rifling through his own bag of freshly acquired brews and said “here ya go.” I was floored, I had made it, I was all grown up! I could do whatever I wanted! I cracked it open, took a sip and ::SLAP:: beer gone, dad now has it, and is saying “pull over.” I did, confused, as he informed me “you were just drinking and driving dumbass.” I drove home thinking it was a dirty trick, but it worked to enforce the notion that just because someone says to do something doesn’t make it a good idea…this magic moment was brought to you by Natty Boh.
Boh comes in bottles, cans, tallboys, 40’s, and draught, and will consistently, without fail, give you a hangover that will make you wish for death if overly consumed. It will also give you the absolute rankest farts this side of rotten eggs. With a flavor ranging from corn when ice-cold, to yeasty when less than ice cold, one thing that can’t be said about this lager is that its lacking in flavor. It’s unique (although Trader Joe’s “Simpler Times” Lager tastes very close), and not without charm, but there’s better cheap beer options. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I might have one here or there, but after however many gallons consumed over the years, the affair is over and it’s no longer a staple in my fridge but rather a throw back enjoyed with friends before moving on to some other drink.
At this point if you’re still with me, you’ve got to be wondering, where does the whiskey come in to play here? Well, I was recently privy to sample some home distilled National Bohemian whiskey (which is totally illegal and I do not officially condone in any capacity as the proprietor of www.biscuitswhiskeyandbeer.com). What’s that? Liquor made from triple distilled Natty Boh, oak aged for mellowing and flavor? That doesn’t even make sense! You’re right, it doesn’t, and that’s why I get such a huge kick out of the secretive TBM Distiller’s Boh-Shine. It’s technically a whiskey based on the ingredients used to make the beer from which it is distilled….don’t argue this, I looked it up. Coming in at 45-50% ABV (I’ve been told the bottling is less than an exact science…TBM being bootleggers and all), if you take a whiff out of the bottle, there’s a slight familiar smell, with oaky-char overtones. This is a loud, brash shine. It’s got a very slight beer taste, but is surprisingly sweet, mostly oak in flavor (must’ve been a heavy char on the barrel), and while stiff, not un-enjoyable for sipping over ice. For a novelty item of dubious legality, this was a fun one. I’m sure it took a TON of crappy beer to make one little bottle of this stuff, but I think it’s better that way, a true labor of love, and a gesture towards an old familiar friend, Mr. Boh.
Here’s to you Mr. Boh, we’ll meet again…and again, and again.