By Wayne William Cipriano
We called it the TASTE TEST OF CHAMPIONS.
Do you remember a 1960s television western about a fellow who called himself and acted the part of a Paladin? Richard Boone played a sophisticated bon vivant who occasionally left the bustling metropolis of San Francisco in the 1890s to make a living as a gunfighter for hire. Have Gun, Will Travel was the name of the television show and the offer printed on Paladin’s business cards.
Our entire family liked the show and watched it regularly but I vividly remember my father deriding Paladin’s professed ability to taste a glass of wine and not only state its grape and vintage but even the locale where the grapes had been grown and by whom!
None us possessed that level of tastebud expertise, but on Thanksgiving, as some of us did claim a certain degree of brewery familiarity, we pledged to settle once and for all, which of the two beer varieties available at the table was best. And, so the TASTE TEST OF CHAMPIONS was on, bringing to bear several lifetimes of brew-quaffing experience, heedless of the sacrifices involved, determined to discover at whatever cost, THE ONE.
The chicks prepared the test for us dudes – similar glasses, similar amounts, blindfolds, silence – all the accouterments of scientific research. First one sample, then a saltine cracker “to cleanse the palate” (I am sure Paladin would approve) then the second sample for comparison, and so on.
Keeping our evaluations to ourselves as we sampled, then resampled, then sampled again we pressed onward for science. Each time the libations were carefully prepared, painstakingly recorded, and judiciously presented by the attentive ladies executing the experimental protocol.
The results? Well, as is the case with all good science more questions were generated than answers produced. Did temperature have a significant effect? Serial presentation? Giggling serving wenches? Previous level of alcoholic intake? Would the judgment “best beer I have ever tasted” been different had there been fewer “do overs”? A lot fewer “do overs”? Who can tell? Who can now remember?
And thus we reaffirmed the preeminent (and in this case most welcome) aspect of good science: there is seldom if ever a final answer, only more questions requiring more research. We now squarely face the challenge that to further broaden the limits of our knowledge we must again, heroically test, test, test.
And, with equal diligence, ferret out more designated drivers.