BEER has tasted like nectar to me exactly three times in my life: When I was living in Lincoln, Neb., and learned that it could be cut with tomato juice to make "red beer" in honor of the Cornhuskers on home game days. When I was stranded in a motel in a dry county in Georgia's "Deliverance" country and a friend revealed he had a six-pack in his car. And over the holidays, when Boddingtons Pub Ale was first snapped open in my vicinity.
This is one brew that makes it clear what all the fizz is all about. Instead of the usual "all bloat, no buzz" effect, Boddingtons is foam on the top and creamy flavor on the bottom thanks to an innovation the brewer imaginatively describes as a "widget." When one of the bright yellow cans is opened, the little capsule inside injects a bit of nitrogen to aerate the ale as if it has just been drawn in a pub. You get a sense of immediate vibrancy, with no metallic undertone of carbonation, rather than the faint echo of a soda that's been sitting on the shelf past its sell-by date.
The widget, officially known as the DraughtFlow System, is the reason I first noticed Boddingtons at a party. An expatriate from England was blithely opening tall ales from a cute little four-pack while everyone else was constantly trying to find the corkscrew for wine. And whenever he poured a fresh one, he drew a crowd, as much for the foaming show as for the tale of the widget and the design award he said it won from the queen.