The cult section of the literary world

Thirsty Thursday: Shift Pale Lager

by Ross E. Lockhart

I love a good car chase. They are high-octane affairs, terribly noisy, and almost inevitably feature a crash. Because of that, car chases are best enjoyed vicariously, in a film or a video game (and while it’s a lot of fun to drink and enjoy cinematic car chases, or drive around like a drunk knucklehead in a video game, only a real idiot drinks and drives), though the one time I was actually a passenger in a car chase was pretty thrilling. More on that in a sec.

A few years ago, I was hooked on the video game The Saboteur, which is basically Grand Theft Nazi (and really, is there anything more satisfying than stealing a German fuel truck and running down SS officers in the streets of Paris?). And while the car chases in Bullitt, Wanted, and Vanishing Point are awesome, the stranger the better. Give me The Blues Brothers, Tromeo & Juliet, and Death Race 2000 any day of the week.

My real-life car chase involved my buddy Baxter (many of these sort of stories do) and a girl we’d met at an all-night coffee shop in San Diego (let’s just leave her nameless… it’s better that way). After driving around in Baxter’s truck for a few hours, the girl announced that she wanted to pick flowers, so, with her giving directions, Baxter drove us down to a sprawling, shrubbery-covered complex near Mission Beach. I couldn’t tell if it was a hotel, boatyard, or some combination of the two. We drove around the empty parking lot for a while with headlights off, searching for targets of opportunity and avoiding golf-cart-driving security guards. Eventually, the girl pointed out a massive display of California poppies in front of a dark office, so we stopped, and Baxter and I stood lookout on one side of his truck while the girl clambered over to the flowers and went to work.

Baxter was scarcely halfway through his first cigarette when the cavalry arrived, and six golf carts burst from the bushes and began speeding toward us. “Crap in a hat!” I shouted, and we dove back into the safety of Baxter’s truck, grabbing the girl by her collar and revving the engine. We jerked into motion just as the first golf cart got within spitting distance, speeding forward as the security guard within shouted something about “trespassing” and something else about “state flowers” and “California Penal Code Section 384a.”

We sped toward one exit, then another, as golf carts, covered in flashing lights, blocked our escape routes. We dipped into water at the marina, circled the cluster of buildings, took a shortcut through narrow passageways, rent-a-cops in souped-up golf carts on our tail. “Haul ass!” I shouted at Baxter, punching his shoulder so as to encourage him. About that point I realized that our passenger had left her pants behind at the scene of the crime. “You were wearing pants when we picked you up?” I asked, hoping to verify that I hadn’t just gone nuts. She nodded, braiding the flowers she held in her hands.

“I’ve got an idea,” said Baxter, speeding along. I hoped it was a good one, looking out the back window at the four golf carts lined up behind us, wondering where the other two had gone.

“What’s that?” I asked. I figured it was best not to mention my concerns.

“This,” said Baxter, cutting the wheel sharply to the left and driving through a cluster of trees and shrubs. Greenery slapped against our windshield, and the wheels spun, but somehow managed traction, and we jumped clear of the bluff onto a wide driveway. Escape was within our grasp, but two golf carts blocked our way. A security guard sat in one. The other was empty, the rent-a-cop approaching us, brandishing a nightstick.

“Gun it!” I yelled, looking through the back window as the remaining golf carts burst from the underbrush after us. Baxter shifted into first, floored the gas pedal, and the truck lurched forward. He shifted into second, then third, as we roared past nightstick, who lifted his weapon and threw it at us, then ever-so-lightly tapped his golf cart as Baxter shifted into high gear, screaming past it and out onto city streets and the all-encompassing safety of the freeway.

Eventually, we dropped the girl at her place (“That was just a little too intense,” she’d said), then made it back to Baxter’s house, where we stashed the truck and hid out until morning, convinced we’d unwittingly committed the crime of the century. The next morning, we stepped out into the light, convinced by the clarity of sleep that we’d somehow dreamed the previous night’s events. But there was a ring of braided flowers on his dashboard, and, in the bed of Baxter’s truck, undeniable evidence. One standard-issue, rent-a-cop nightstick.

So tonight I’m having a Shift Pale Lager, a brand-new canned offering from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing.

Shift pours pale yellow with two thick fingers of frothy, sticky white head that lasts awhile and leaves notable lacing behind. Lemon and pine on the nose, hoppy, with a malt backbone and just a touch of coppery lager yeast. Grassy floral hops on the tongue, crackery, sweet caramel, malt, and tart apple. Bitter–but not too bitter–with balanced carbonation and medium body. Pilsner-style refreshment, crisp and smooth, with a dry, clean finish. With a 5% ABV in a tall boy can, Shift makes an excellent session beer.

Suggested literary pairings, with car chases:

Crash by J. G. Ballard. Ballard’s magnum opus of sex, scars, and car crashes. If you’ve only seen the David Cronenberg film, you don’t know the whole story.

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht. Set in the troubled Ireland of the 1970s, Liam becomes a wheelman for the IRA. With a punk-rock soundtrack and some of the most intense car chases ever committed to the printed page, this one’s a winner. Plus, author Stina Liecht was just nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Tentacle Death Trip by Jordan Krall. The literary equivalent of the Hot Wheels Octoblast track set and a hip-flask of Motor Whiskey, Tentacle Death Trip is pure post-apocalyptic, ultra-violent muscle-car madness. Think Death Race 2000 meets Mad Max by way of William S. Burroughs’ The Place of Dead Roads on the way to H. P. Lovecraft’s R’lyeh, but with Krall’s unmistakably bizarro pulp sensibilities.

What’s your favorite car chase?

Ross E. Lockhart is the managing editor of Night Shade Books. A lifelong fan of supernatural, fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, he holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA). In 2011, he edited the acclaimed anthology The Book of Cthulhu. He lives in an old church in Petaluma, CA, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and the conspicuous absence of dog. Visit him online at

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