Beer, Bombers and Boarding Passes

So I've become a bit of a smuggler. Every time I travel on business, I'm scoping out opportunities to score. I pack my stash away in my luggage, wrapped in socks for security and subterfuge, and hope it makes it through undamaged. I haven't been caught yet.

Of course, my brand of smuggling -- bombers of beer not found in the Texas market, nestled amongst my unmentionables -- is perfectly legal. It took me a bit by surprise, at first, given the TSA's propensity for strip-searching anyone who dares to board with bottles larger than 100 ml. I was actually steeling myself for the grope as I made my way through the checked-baggage line at LAX, about to send 132 oz. of proof-that-God-loves-us through the scanner. As I put my bag on the conveyor and walked toward the security line, I braced myself for the tackle. It never came.

I was, of course, playing by the rules of my particular airline. Southwest allows up to five liters of booze, but technically requires that it be placed in special packaging, all leak-proof this and corrugated that. Socks seem to work just fine, though, as my brews made it safely to my final destination.

The first of my (not really) ill-gotten gains to be opened? Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter.

Walker's Reserve pours a murky Crayola black, with a thick, luxuriously creamy and slightly tan head. It falls quickly, though sticks around in the form of a thick, quilted cap.

Aromas are slightly soapy, with dark chocolate and mild coffee playing in the background. I had to pretty much submerge my nose in the stuff to get much of anything, but did additionally pick up a slight nuttiness and a little bit of creaminess for the effort.

The taste is similar: mild, creamy, with a hint of acidity in the finish. There's a kind of dusty quality to everything, like that bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans your shitty-gifting great aunt gave you for your birthday six years ago, having found them languishing in the remainders bin at her local day-after store. She means well. Send her a thank-you note.

There's a pervasive yet mild bitterness and slight hints of dark fruit. They're muddy and murky, though, as if cloaked in shadow. My tasting notes may be painting an overly harsh picture, but that's just me trying to be exceedingly thorough. Chances are, you won't be paying as much attention to this beer, because it just doesn't ask you to. It's quaffable and affable, just not particularly distinguished.This is the kind of porter I'd happily down with a plateful of mediocre British pub fare, chatting with the wife while the kids play on Black Lab's giant chess board outside.

Except, of course, that I can't do that, since Firestone is not distributed here. Which brings me to another point: The grass is not always greener. Just because we can't get a particular beer in Texas doesn't mean we're really missing anything. I dig several of Firestone's beers, but I'd put a slew of Texas stouts and porters up against this one any day of the week.

Of course, it's not going to stop my smuggling habit. I've already got my sights set on a few potential trips later this year, and have my beer plans all spec'd out. I'm also considering bringing a few good-will-mission Texas brews with me, in hopes of showing non-Texans just how green our grass is.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall