When you deserve a beer

The business I work at has been in the process of moving which means I’ve spent many, many days hyperactively packing, toting, labeling, and generally doing work that is more physically demanding than I am used to. It’s been especially challenging because I’m still very new to the job but have stepped into a bit more responsibility. Growing pains and all that–nothing serious, mind you, just long days where new parts of me ache.

So it was that after a day of packing I went ’round the corner to The Beermongers and had a pint. One I felt I was owed by the Universe, if you will.

The Beermongers is an interesting space; a place that sells beer and serves it in equal measure. Yet it feels open when you walk in, more casual and relaxed than a store. There’s only one television and there are seats to ignore it. But if you’re interested; hockey is on-and that’s already awesome.

In order of coolness, sports I want to see on the TV when I go into a bar: hockey, football, everything  else sucks hippo balls.

I was in for a special treat this day, however. I walk into the bar and a tall, lanky, bespectacled man behind the bar greeted me with a grin saying, “Better give this guy good service-he’s a blogger.”

He introduced himself as Josh, who co-brews with the fellow who runs Beer Around Town, a blog I’ve been reading a bit more because as homebrewers, they confront some of the issues I do while brewing. And as it turns out, he recognizes me from this blog-which is a really nice boost at the end of a long day.

He’s also super-nice and we easily fell into conversation between his pouring of beers and my drinking them. He gave me some suggestions to help me with carbonation and I’m going to try some of them (stirring the beer when I add bottling sugar) but am more reluctant to others (putting the beer into a bottling bucket and then bottling because I’ll be using so much water! and I really try to be conscious about this.)

Shortly after that I met a Scot who told me he installed the bar and a woman who was a former OBC member, and we talked about being social, brewing, and…well, bar talk. The kind you can do with strangers in the right environment.

So I pretty much recommend the Beermongers, not only as a place to purchase beer for your home (which it clearly needs) but also as a place to sit and drink a beer. The atmosphere is casual, the space loose, and it’s an easygoing spot.

(I forgot to write down what beer I got to drink though. D’oh!)

20% of foam is beer

esb/ipa blend

Or so I’ve been told. Which is a really good thing because my latest ESB/IPA mixture has come out…foamy.

It’s still a good beer. Nice malt presence, hops are there in the nose initially-but not so much on the finish. Granted, this is because it’s too effervescent but at least there’s a reason.

And that reason has been bothering me all damned year. I just can’t get the carbonation to behave consistently in the beers that I brew. In this case, the foam just wipes out anything on the palate beyond the initial sweetness and that detracts from what I want to do with this beer.

Back to the drawing board.

The Local: Egyptian Room

egyptian roomThe nice thing about The Local is that despite my car being stolen, I can still engage in this exercise. So I head out to the Egyptian Room.

I walk in and I can’t figure out what’s on draft. The taps are hidden against a black wall, and when I sit at the bar I feel like I should be in a hurry to figure out what to drink.

The Simpsons is on; auto kudos. But every time I come into the Egyptian Club I feel like I’ve entered Swamp Thing’s Blue World. The lights are tinted so everything feels drenched in blue light and let’s face it, I don’t belong here. More than the sports bars or the vanity projects, this place is not for me. Nothing personal, it says, we just don’t care.

That’s not to say that the Egyptian is a bad or somehow an inferior bar. There’s Session in the bottle, Mirror Pond and Hefe to drink, the wall-o-hol is pretty extensive. It’s big, so you can find a place to hide and talk, or play pool if you like. There’s a maze-like quality here, where I feel I can get lost. Hell, you can watch the Simpsons. I feel like I could end it there and everyone just ought to get it.

The best bars do this. Either through home-replacement or by design or winks-and-nods, they let you shift from one face to another, liquid sex to aloof hipster, gawky reader to punchline master. That chance to bring out a new genie in a shelter is why we leave the house. Or why I leave the house. A chance to have an adventure without the dangers of being lost. A way to have the familiar while smiling at the strange.

Still. The wise man knows when he is out of his element, knows when to tip and move on. It’s time for me to fly.

The Local: Side St. Tavern

side street tavernI walk in as a Yankee hits the winning home run at the bottom of the 11th against Boston. I seem to have a knack for appearing at the exact moment of triumph. A long haired mustachioed Yankee fan repeatedly slaps his hands together in astonishment and joy, while Hall and Oates’ “Out of Touch” comes on. He complains that there are no Red Sox fans to tease.

Privately, I despair that I can find anything by Hall and Oates online but am unable to get the lyrics to Crooked Fingers‘ Modern Dislocation.

The Side Street is the first place I heard the Buzzcocks or ate nacho tots. Which is about as awesome as it sounds. Oh sure, you could call ’em tatchos but that’s just being cute. Nacho tots; it is what it says. Not unlike the Side Street itself, nestled just off Belmont and 35th.

The review at Barfly isn’t entirely off base; unless you come here semi-regularly, it’s almost hard to imagine how the Side Street made a life for itself. While it’s lasted longer than the four restaurants kitty corner, it’s not on Belmont proper against places that have more beer selections or more elegant dining, so how the hell did this little place stick around?

I overhear the bartender tell a patron she’s been working here for two years. That tells me something immediately; if you can keep your employees, you’re doing something right. I’m drinking a Terminal Gravity IPA, a beer that wants to walk the citrus line of IPA and it’s got enough malt to keep me from souring on it.

So there’s good beer, good pub food, decent music and the employees like it. There’s only one TV and the music isn’t too loud.

Do I really have to make a case for this bar?

My name in print

So after going to the Beer Trials release party on Wednesday, I was rewarded with this:

beer trials book

Pretty neat, huh?

You can’t see it from the cover but I’m credited inside as a tester and Seamus was even nice enough to mention this blog as part of my bio. A fairly sweet deal for tasting beer for twelve weeks.

The book itself I dig. The scoring system includes things like label design so I’m ambivalent there, (edit-actually it doesn’t; see the comments) but if you want to get a proper snapshot of a beer the descriptions are brief and accurate. As a tool for people who may not be well versed in the beer world, I think it’s exceptionally helpful. You can flip through the book, open a page and in under a minute, get a pretty good sense of the beer you’re reading about and if you think it’s worth your time.

Plus, the intro looks to be chock full of good overview information about beer styles. I haven’t had a chance to delve into it but the skimming I did I liked. Again, this seems really helpful for people who want a better beer but aren’t sure where to start.

At the same time, because the beers selected were ones that are widely available in the US, if you’re say, stuck somewhere that doesn’t serve Rogue or Lagunitas or whatever, the Beer Trials can give you a solid recommendation for a beer that is available. Pretty handy.

Plus, it means my Father’s Day gift? Solved.

And on top of it all, I got an emergency beer opening device.

The Local: Claudia’s

claudia's barThe Centennial hops come easy off the Country Boy IPA by Everybody’s Brewing.

Claudia’s has more TVs than a man should see in one space. Plus two poker tables, two pool tables, a trophy case and a projection screen that’s right next to a television.

The guy next to me talks hockey playoffs on the phone.

It’s the purest sports bar I’ve been to, of all I’ve been in along this journey. It’s easy for me to imagine a time when the four flatscreens were huge, hulking ray-tube televisions and smoke filled the air. Claudia’s isn’t just unrepentant about being a sports bar, it’s a haven, a bristling cactus to outsiders who do not love sports like they do.

I approve.

Just like beer bars are for beer lovers, so Claudia’s provides a place for people who want to gather and celebrate more physical achievements of the human spirit. It does it so well, how can I criticize it?

I mean, sure, the beer selection is limited but that’s like complaining Avatar had a hackneyed plot–I’d be missing the forest for the trees.

I have a friend who, after a painful divorce, arranged his work schedule so he could come and watch football every Sunday and Monday at Claudia’s. All day. That was what he did, rebuilding himself back up around something he loved. He only did it for one season but it was what he needed and I like that story for a lot of reasons. Most importantly, though, I think I like it because he went and hung out with strangers in order to make himself well and it worked. A bunch of strangers helped him, whether they knew it or not.

It can be difficult, sometimes, to point to the kindness of strangers in this world.  Yet it exists, albeit quietly, if you go outside to experience it. That’s what a good bar is for.