“You see,” the tour guide said, “all the ingredients are locally sourced where possible and grown on Taiwan when not.” “But,” he added with a laugh, “that’s basically local anyways.” The crowd’s laughter echoed off the large metal canisters and I took a sip of my beer. It had an odd fruity flavor that I’m sure was supposed to denote quality and refinement, but to me tasted gross as fuck. The tour guide spotted my grimace, despite my best efforts to hide it. With an aggressive friendliness, the kind I had left behind when I left the midwest, the tour guide immediately- and condescendingly, enquired:
“I see the unique flavor of our Lambic beer is new for you.”
“Yeah,” I coughed trying to smile through the mixture of bitter and paint flavors that lingered in my mouth.
“Well, that beer has an interesting story.” I nodded, trying hard to contain my expression in the face of the bizarre onslaught on my taste buds. “That’s the first lambic made here in Hong Kong. It’s a Belgian style, ancient, and one of the most storied varieties. Have you had it before in,” he paused, trying to place where I was originally from, “In your country?”
“Um, yeah sure, I think so. I visited Belgium too, I think I had it there, with, you know waffles and fries near the pissing statue and the giant atom thing.” I stuttered under the heat of the gazes of my fellow tour members. They all looked hip and with it and, not unreasonably, assumed on a press and industry tour I’d be the same. They had assumed I was knowledgeable, in reality, I volunteered to cover this for the paper as I never turn down free beer- even if it does taste like sugar dissolved in industrial solvent.
“Well as I’m sure you all know,” cue the head nods of all those trying to impart, with gestures, that they weren’t the same level of cretin as I, “Lambic beers use ambient spores to flavor the mash while fermenting. It usually forms a delicate, sweet flavor that most true aficionados have come to love, not unlike vintages from different wine-growing regions.” Murmured comparisons were passed around, displaying knowledge of both vine and hop- I’m assuming to be redeemed later for cool points or perhaps sexual favors, a stuffed animal at minimum.
“The problem is,” captain pep continued, “Hong Kong is tropical, though I’m sure that’s news to all of you.” Cue laughs at the subtle nod to the fact that yes, we all do indeed have tactile sensations of temperature and this city is indeed hot as fuck in summer. “The spores here can carry both good and bad bacteria.” I looked at my beer wide-eyed and remembered a textbook I’d seen at the library the other week on rare tropical diseases. “To avoid potential issues,” read killing some people, “we sent the spores to a laboratory at HKU to have them analyzed and then choose the ones that would give flavor, but wouldn’t be dangerous.”
“Hopefully.” Squeezed out of my lips before I could catch myself.
“What was that?” The guide asked with a slight, but noticeable glare.
“Nothing. Please do continue.”
“Of course this way.” He motioned with his hand in a respectful way and we were ushered into the next room where I quickly poured my beer down a sink I saw and thought of the nearest hospital to my apartment, just in case these lunatics poisoned more than the taste.