It turns out T.S. Eliot was wrong. The world ends not with a whimper but with a KABOOM. And not a little firecracker one, nor even the sound of a shotgun. It's more like the sound of a nuclear bomb exploding in your head, or Motörhead's "Jailbait" turned up to twelve and funneled through a million megaphones lined end to end Bart Simpson-style.
The end of the world. The bigger bang. Or, as the Quebecois would say, La fin du monde.
On the day that the lambs lie with the lions, we'll be sound asleep in a meadow somewhere (we hope), dreaming of the better world, our darling in our arms, eating artichoke hearts and washing them down with Cheetos, sipping from snifters of blond ale.
Because Belgian-style ale is a great creation, one of the best varieties we know, even if it is dismissed by many beer snobs as overly eager-to-please.
La Fin du Monde is made not in Belgium, nor in France, but in Quebec, by the Unibroue brewery. It's triple-fermented, and in the process the ale's alcohol content is ratcheted up to a powerful 9 percent. Most domestic beers hover at about 5 percent. The extra kick is why aficionados consider it to be a "Belgian strong pale ale." Like the more popular Belgian strongs, Duvel and Delirium Tremens, La Fin du Monde can get a person drunk fast.
You can taste all that alcohol. It hits the nose like a Taser when the beer touches the lips. It's fruity, citrusy, like an overripe orange. It's got some clove and spice in it, which makes sense. Unibroue has harnessed a process created half a millennium ago by monks, who with great delicacy and constant contact with the Lord above created a brew blended with spice that would put them closer to God -- and by extension, the end of the world -- more efficiently. At celebrations, they drank less but got drunk more. What a deal.
The ale arrives in the mouth like the second coming. It's ultra-carbonated, and gets very fizzy very quickly. At the risk of way oversimplifying the experience, we'll go out on a limb: La Fin du Monde tastes real good. Belgian-ale detractors would doubtless complain that it tastes too good, that it's cloying. It's a whore. Okay, so the stuff panders, but that's by design -- and the end result is pleasurable, so who cares?
Saleem's is a funny place to get a bottle of Belgian-style ale, given that the Loop mainstay's Lebanese cuisine is a world away from Brussels (or Canada, for that matter). But the restaurant "Where Garlic Is King" offers it nonetheless, and we're glad they do. The place is right across the street from the Drink of the Week bunker, and it's good to know that when life brings us down, we can make a beeline for some strong-ass ale until the outlook isn't so bleak. Drinking La Fin du Monde, one comes to understand that it's not the end of the world, even if it sometimes feels that way.