Gut Instinct: Stressing the Point

It’s a steamy, armpit-soaking afternoon in sandy Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where a booze-store salesgirl with skin like scuffed loafers is asking an awfully frightening question:

“Would you like to try Bud Light Lime?” she inquires, her smile brighter than bleached bones. She stands in front of a skyscraper of Bud Light Lime cases, as tall and misguided as the Tower of Babel. “It’s as crisp, delicious and low-calorie as Bud Light but with the flavor of natural limes!”

“Is that a good thing?” I ask. Though I’m vacationing at a pal’s beach-accessible bungalow, Connecticut is a long way from the lime-squeezed pleasures of Acapulco.

“Try it!” Orange Skin encourages.

“But…”

“Try it,” she repeats, pouring a thimbleful of fizzy blonde liquid.

As a child I never took candy from strangers, but I did devour supermarket samples as eagerly as religious zealots accepting a crunchy Christ wafer. Saturday-morning grocery-store excursions were a culinary Christmas: Like jolly St. Nick’s, doughy women distributed cups of salty Chex Mix, Jimmy Dean sausage circles impaled on toothpicks and mini, melting scoops of Breyers chocolate ice cream.

“Like another sample, sweetie?” they’d ask.

With widened eyes and quickened heart—a response repeated upon glimpsing my first breasts during Just One of the Guys’ prom scene—I mouthed, “Yes.”

“Now tell your mommy how much you want her to buy this,” they’d say, loading my greedy mitts with freebies, filling my stomach with misplaced longing.

“I’ll give it a shot,” I tell Orange Skin, no less susceptible to free’s power at 29 than at age 10. I seize the Bud and sip. The carbonation tickles my taste buds and my throat. It’s effervescent water—the Bud Light I know and loathe—chased by a cloying citrus current, which smothers my tongue like a pillow-armed serial killer. The flavor’s the bastardized offspring of lowbrow Americana and an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise. If spittoons still existed, I would’ve filled one with disgust at such blatant pandering.

See, mega-brewers are catering to America’s growing Latino contingent. To worm into their wallets, conglomerates have unveiled brewskis like the Miller Chill (flavored with lime and salt) and the Chelada (Budweiser, Clamato, salt and lime). The latter tastes like a carbonated Bloody Mary and, it pains me to declare, is hardly un-horrible. Compared to turpentine.

Then again, microbrew mavens aren’t the target drunkard. Besides the Latino set, lime suds are marketed to folks who despise beer’s flavor (and perhaps lack the fingers to squeeze fruit) but enjoy transforming into slurring, self-important train wrecks. Instead of blindly craving doctored beer, ask why the beer requires a citrus injection. Would you dare drop fruit into an inky Guinness or cool Brooklyn Lager? Lime masks inferior flavor. Unadulterated Corona—as a lager, it’s no classier than Natural Light—is a skunky catastrophe.

“What do you think of the Bud Light Lime?” Orange Skin asks. She grins again, a response likely as autonomic as breathing.

“If the world ever ran out of floor cleansers, this would make an excellent alternative,” my Midwestern manners will not let me reply. Instead, I blurt, “Wow, it almost tastes like real lime. Almost.”

Her peepers light up like a pinball machine. She smells sale. Or my lack of deodorant. “You can get a cold six-pack in that last aisle,” she says, pointing toward a fridge. “Or a 12-pack.”

“Thank you,” I say, pushing my cart away.

“You’re going the wrong way,” she says.

“Thank you,” I say, pushing my shopping cart toward the refrigerated aisle. I open the cooler and remove a growler of Southampton, Massachusetts’ strong, aromatic Opa-Opa Buckwheat IPA. I snag a 22-ounce bottle of Massachusetts’ Berkshire Brewing Company’s chocolaty “Shabadoo” Black and Tan. Connecticut’s crisp, summer-quenching Cottrell Old Yankee Ale hits my cart next, joined by Thomas Hookers’ generously bitter Hop Meadow IPA.

“Now that,” says the cashier boy, as I unload my cart, “is a seriously delicious haul of beer.”

I beam with pride and envision the weekend. The brew will vanish, as will my anxiety. I’ll relax and act like a human being. I’ll refrain from elbowing subway passengers, screaming at taxi drivers and sighing audibly while waiting at the bank.

“Did you get the Bud Light Lime?” Orange Skin asks, as I cart my liquid Quaaludes outside to the awaiting car.

“Of course,” I lie, growing calmer with each passing step.