I first visited New York City in 1993 with a girlfriend at the time. Her grandmother lived in Edgewater, NJ, and we had friends in the East Village and Brooklyn. (I could write a 10,000-word reminicence of that trip--hoo boy.) Among the several thousand things I wanted to do was have a slice of Ray's Pizza. Ray's is not a pizza chain, it's a state of being. All over the city, people have pizzarias named Ray's--Famous, Original, World-Famous, etc.--but they're all independently owned. A conspiracy of Ray's, brotherhood among competitors, a way of confusing the tourists. I was in the city less than an hour when, after a walk due south from Port Authority, I stopped in at a Greek-owned Ray's for a slice of offbeat kalamata olive. Ah, finally, the suchness of Ray's.

All of this brings me to Widmer's new Drifter, the first beer I've decanted since getting this spiteful flu of mine. As you can see in the detail of the label at right, there's the curious adjective "Original" in the title: the Original Drifter Pale Ale. Original? In the case of Ray's, we can understand the jockeying: claiming the ur-status does not ensure quality, but there are certain bragging rights (though the claim does not make it so). Among a sea of Ray's, "original" has context. To my knowledge, however, there is no such glut of Drifters. In this way, the "Original" is a mite odd. Especially when you consider that the beer is only now just debuting. (No doubt marketing wished to offer an instant classic, burnished with age.)

As to the flavor and whether it's different from the W '07 that preceded it: I can't say. My flu-soaked body chemistry played cruel tricks, turning the beer into a glass of poison. It seemed almost to burn. If this were an Eastern European novel, I would worry that some kind of cosmic cruel trick was being played on me. But it's just a virus.