It's the Karl Long Challenge. Let's go.
The Background: Every year, to celebrate their anniversary, the three venues in Beijing of the Great Leap Brewery host "The Karl Long Challenge". Participants to the Karl Long Challenge get one full day, from open till close -- to drink 15 -- fifteen -- one, five -- pints of Great Leap Beer at all three venues. If you finish, you get a t-shirt. It's on again for this Saturday at GLB! Costs 300rmb to enter.
You get a "passport" that looks like this. They stamp you on the way.
Drum roll. Brrrrr! The beers are thus -- a murder's row of wheats, IPAs, Blonds, Porters, lions tigers, bears:
-Banana Wheat (5.5% ABV)
-Cinnamon Rock Ale (6.2% ABV)
-Chesty Puller American IPA (6.3% ABV)
-Dan Cong Dark Ale (6.7% ABV)
-Danshan Wheat (5.5% ABV)
-Edmund Blackhouse Porter (4.9% ABV)
-East City Porter (5.2% ABV)
-Honey Ma Gold (6.3% ABV)
-Hop God Imperial IPA (7.9% ABV)
-Imperial Pumpkin (7.8% ABV)
-Imperial Honey Ma (8.0% ABV)
-Iron Buddha Blond (6.3% ABV)
-Little General IPA (6.5% ABV)
-Pale Ale #6 (5.5% ABV)
-Three Door Tripel (9.5% ABV)
The provenance of the namesake of The Karl Long Challenge -- this mythical "Karl Long" figure -- has been lost to the effacing tides of history. Some say he was a former waiter at Great Leap Brewery (basically, an errand boy for grocery clerks). One day, he tragically fell down an elevator shaft into an industrial wood-chipper, turning him into a fine red mist of clumsy regret. Some say he was an early customer of GLB, who frequented the pub's early run. One fateful day, he lustily drank 15 pints himself in one sitting, and then proceeded to get into an altercation with another patron who bore a striking resemblance to Melissa Joan Hart. (TV's Sabrina the Teenage Witch.)
It matters not. Truth is relative. Truth is what you make of it.
"But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by heavens I tell you, it had gone mad."
The Karl Long Challenge returns to Beijing this Saturday at all three Great Leap Breweries. In anticipation of the hallowed, barfy occasion, YOUR SmartBeijing correspondent did the whole fuggin' thing last Sunday. Yeah, I did that summabitch. For sure. Read on, gentle reader, for my trek to the heart of dark beers.
If you want the Coles Notes version, the Karl Long Challenge is this.
Like EXACTLY this:
They say a gif is worth a thousand words. This really does sum it all up. All the themes are right here: There's a wacky athletic element to it. Probably there's some way to train for it to make it go better. Possibly there's strategy? There's themes of triumph, failure, self-harm, glory, madness, and hilarious defeat. It's all about shooting for the stars. It's about taking it to the top. Pushing the limit.
And in the end... yes, in the end... it gets real, real sticky, my friends. It gets real sticky.
Great Leap Brewery # 12
We begin our journey at Great Leap Number 12, which incidentally has secretly been serving brunch for all these years. Brunch. It's a thing. Also families.
I know: revolting.
Picked up our card...
...and started with the Banana Wheat.
A Note on Strategy: So there's a couple ways to approach drinking 15 beers in one day. Initially, I was going to spread it out over 12 hours, from 1pm to 1am closing time at #6, drink about a beer an hour, and chase each with a glass of water. I also tried to line my stomach with bread the morning-of, just to give myself a bit of a cushion. My training consisted of drinking Olympic levels of vodka sodas every day for 36 years.
Another strategy was to drink the stronger, heavier ones at the start, and then breeze over the finish line with a few of the session beers at the end.
So that was my thinking.
After two beers (2), I was hammered and my strategy went right out the window. After two beers, strategy just became "yell at everyone and everything, and get those damn pants off while you're at it, come on."
PANTS = FUCKING BULLSHIT, pretty much encapsulated my strategy.
GLB #12 is a weird place during they day though, so brace for it. That's my only advice at this point. Great Leap Brewery #12 during the day is full of people who are, like... awake during the day and shit. Check out these two Italian guys, obviously having a friendly disagreement on who the most Italian guy on the entire planet is.
Too close to call.
This short chick was just DUNZO. Seriously. Kept falling all around the bar like WHO WANTS SHOTS.
Did like two Jaggers with her and then never saw her again. Stuck me with the bill. If you're reading this, you owe me, lady.
Met this guy who my brain told me was the living embodiment of the color brown. Like the color brown itself gained corporeal form for a brisk chat on the patio. Was freaking out like OMG COLOR BROWN WHY ARE YOU ALIVE AND WHAT ARE YOU SAYING TO ME!
Turns out he writes for The Economist, which I've never heard of.
After that I broke my phone...
...and got into a van with strangers and children to the next place.
Great Leap Brewery #45
Here we are. Great Leap # 45 AKA "The Pizza One."
Here's where I'm at beer-wise:
Four beers. Four damn beers. And I'm blitzed. That's the thing about these Great Leap beers, they're pretty strong. It's not like drinking 15 Carlsberg's or whatever. I'm a fan of them but jeeezus they play for keeps. And they fill you right up. It's like drinking a sock. It's like drinking a sock full of breadcrumbs, porridge, and my shredded university diploma. And the shame... the damn shame of it all weighs you down.
Checking the notes I took on the drinking experience, I've got, let's see... yep, just one entry:
"Find new job. No mor. NOmoree."
Not a lot of insight here.
So, number 45. Right in here is where my soul's caps lock key got jammed into the "on" position for the rest of the night. Right here's where someone's elbow hit the caps lock key on my soul, and that green light was on for the rest of the evening. There was no coming out of it.
Got into a huge, blow-out argument with this chicken leg...
...over who's the best Star Trek captain.
(It's Picard, obviously. Sisqo, pfffth. What do you know, chicken leg! You're just a chicken leg!)
I don't know what order I was doing these in. Look at these damn names. Cinnamon Rock Ale. Iron Buddha Blond. Danshan Wheat. Imperial Pumpkin. Fuckin' String Cheese Incident. Don't know whether I'm drinking beer here or trapped at the worst fucking hippie jam band festival in all of rural Colorado. Worst line-up ever.
"We got Imperial Pumkin comin' up on stage next and they're gonna take us all on a righteous groove around the block. Anyone who brought their own acoustics, feel free to hop up on stage and join in on the jam love."
EHHH. EFFF. MUUH.
Then we got an Uber to drive 9 times around the roundabout on our way to GLB #6.
On the way there, there was all these Dutch diplmat-looking dudes standing outside the theater waiting to go in to see the opera and I leaned out the car window and hit them up with HEY SUIT CONVENTION BROS, GO BACK TO YOUR SUIT CONVENTION.
Not my finest work, I admit.
Great Leap Brewery #6
A wiser food critic friend of mine once opined this about these very sorts of challenges:
“It’s like a gang bang. The first three or four, you remember, but after that, it’s just a blur of flesh and limbs.”
Very gauche. But very true. That's exactly where we were at for our final beers at our final destination, GLB # 6 in Gulou. It's all just a blurry gang bang.
I actually did take one note, between beers number 12 and 13. One journalism-type note at this point. It reads thusly:
"Feel so sucky it's like an out of body experience. Like the suck has sucked me out of my sucky body and I'm hovering in a suck void -- a void of suck -- between this current suck and the next suck to come, whichever sucky form it shall take. It's a suck-out of body experience."
[Edited for clarity if there's any in there.]
GLB #6 is a real popular place, full of all these poor people about to witness a very depraved thing. It's bumpin! They've done a little renovations or something.
Take a knee, Beijing.
Now, this is the moment, this is the completion moment -- this is the moment of catharsis -- this is the moment of resolution which we've been building this whole article. It's been snatched out of time. I did finish the 15 pints, of course. I did indeed. Just under last call or so at #6. You can believe me or not. The Truth doesn't matter.
But this is really the story of THAT GUY.
This is the story of our search for THAT GUY.
You know... THAT GUY at the center of all our souls. THAT GUY which compels us to evil, greatness, and madness. This is the story of THAT GUY who is always with us at every moment and always an eternity away.
You know THAT GUY. You know him well.
THAT GUY is the heart of darkness in all of us.
Presenting THAT GUY: he's the guy with the mohawk who will take of his damn shirt and funnel his damn 15th beer in the middle of a bar full of polite and normal people like he's the damn beer Kurtz of 2015! Behold his mad glory!
The madness! The glory! The horror! The horror!
BJ, it's been real. GLB's Karl Long Challenge is this Saturday. 300rmb entry fee.