After weeks of dead ends and a dearth of clues, police finally got a break in the case. New evidence surfaced in the form of a liquor bottle found at the scene of the crime.

Allen’s Coffee Brandy, to be precise.

“Excellent,” said the lead detective. “We can now narrow our list of suspects to one half the population of Lewiston.”

That’s right, Columbo. For the umpteenth year in a row, Allen’s has proven the top-selling liquor in Maine.

Take that, booze snobs. You with your Tanqueray, your Pinot Grigio, your brown pumpkin beer with just a hint of berry. The reigning champ is still a squat little guy from the hood.

Scorned at the clubs and the high end parties, he reigns on city porches, in dark alleys, in drafty apartments with slanted floors. Behold, the champ and lift a soiled, shaky hand to his greatness. Best with whole milk while you’re out on probation. Drink it with someone you love and laugh at that restraining order.

More than 100,000 cases of this syrupy goodness is sold in Maine each year. And while the glory of it belongs to the whole state, I like to believe that it is the serious drinkers of Lewiston that push Allen’s to the top year after year.

Here, coffee brandy is the delicious cornerstone of a well-balanced breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Known in some circles as ghetto champagne, you will be hard pressed to find a more versatile drink than Allen’s. It’s cheap. It’s infused with caffeine to keep you awake through long afternoons in drug court. Mix it with milk for a poor man’s sombrero. Pack on Allen’s pounds to get you through cold winters and protect you in knife fights.

Police have nothing but respect for the drinker of Allen’s, too. I asked a seasoned veteran for his thoughts on the phenomenon and he didn’t hesitate to reply.

“One of the most undesirable women that a cop wants to face is a woman who’s intoxicated on Allen’s,” he said, with clear admiration and fear. “She is completely incapable of reason. She is feeling no pain. And she is generally as large as you are if not larger.”

Is there nothing this dark elixir cannot do?

But you epicures will hear nothing of it. You would not sully your lips, tongue or liver with such a low brown concoction. Just one sip of it might pickle your kidneys, you delicate thing, and the damage to your reputation might be irreparable.

Me, I have no such standards or any measurable amount of culture at all. As soon as I learned about Lewiston’s embrace of Allen’s, I tried some at a Christmas party.

“Smooth,” I declared at once. “If this were a staircase banister, I would slide naked upon it all night long.”

It was mostly the caffeinated liquor talking, but really. I found the stuff quite delicious when mixed with milk. By the second glass, I discovered a complete disregard for all known laws and an absolute willingness to dance in places not typically known for dancing. Like the police station compound or a hospital waiting room.

But that’s me, a guy who cuts his own hair and still thinks of bologna as fine dining. I polled a random selection of people who answered quickly in spite of the pain involved in random polling.

“Moo moo juice,” said one.

“Fat ass in a glass,” responded another. “Rank stuff only hicks drink.”

“Runs like water in the town I grew up in,” said still another. “If you’re stumbling into the general store at 9 p.m Friday night to buy four gallons of milk, I can pretty much guess you’re not making cereal.”

“Trailer juice,” said the ninth person to respond to the poll, two minutes after I put it out there.

“Liquid panty remover,” offered a young lady, who did not elaborate on why she thinks so.

Responses to the question were so fast, I find myself wondering why some people despise a drink so many others clearly love. Is it the beverage itself that draws such scorn? Or only the image of it?

In Lewiston, Allen’s is more than a drink, it’s an emblem. You’ll find empty bottles of the stuff standing guard at crime scenes. Where sin and vice are rampant it stands like a flag. Scorned by the elite but embraced by the serious drinker, Allen’s Coffee Brandy remains a formidable player in our socioeconomic neighborhood.

To you, the pinky-flipping highbrow, I say get yourself a jug today. Take a step toward the dark side and find out what “bottoms up” really means.

Mark LaFlamme covers the police and court beats for the Sun Journal.

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