When was the last time you ordered a pitcher of beer? Put salt in your glass? Dropped a shot of whisky into your pint and downed the whole thing in one go? Funnelled or shot-gunned a beer?
The not so distant past of my life is filled with such things and while I appreciate the wonderful experiences craft beer has brought into my life, I sometimes miss the carefree way I used to enjoy a pint or seven at my local, not so shiny, pub.
In my youth until my early 40's, I was an unabashed drunkard. I sought and found refuge in the bottom of many different intoxicants and while I am no longer on that particular track, I have a weird affinity for the smoky, dank dive bars of that era. There was an undercurrent of anger in some, jovial drunken happiness in others and a fine variety of either Canadian or Blue in both. The cheapness of the pitcher should have probably tipped me off to the quality of the beer, but who cared about that when you could get destroyed for $20 and stagger home, off track and blacked out. This was many of my nights in the late 90's and while I wrote about it last year in my post Frankie and Cat Stevens - When I was a Drunk in a Dive Bar, it still rolls around in my head to find a comfortable booth in a questionable local and just have at 'er.
The days of old are usually romanticized to some degree by the nostalgia industry and we all yearn for "simpler" times while slow sipping a $15 Imperial Stout and bemoaning the complications of this modern life. Would I trade my new found love of great beer for those days still being my life? Not a chance, but I do miss them nonetheless. Karaoke, darts and the raucous laughter of my bar fly pals remain a memory that grows only fonder with the passing years as the characters of those long ago days begin to disappear from this planet and I feel like a little bit of me goes with them. There are old drunks and young punks, but for one glorious period of my life I was one in the same and it was wonderful.
While I would love to go out and visit all the dive bars and beer soaked, out of the way, neighbourhood places that dot The Hammer, I know none of them will live up to the memory of what was. The feeling of closeness with a bunch of other down and out working folks who wanted nothing more than a respite from the drudgery of every day life. I'm sure it still exists but I have left behind those days and will let the hazy visions of my nights spent in that warm embrace of nihilism be just that, a piece of who I am and now long gone.
Perhaps a brewery will open within walking distance of The Manor one day or even a half decent bar with a nice tap and bottle selection. That would allow me to return to the days when I sat down and felt like I belonged without having to go so far from home. My undying loyalty will go to the place that does just that and perhaps it will happen before I shuck this mortal coil for that old bar stool in the sky.
A guy can dream, can't he?
28 November 2018
The Crease (formerly Merle's - Getting Haggard)
For most of my life, the basement of my family homes were the designated kid hang outs. We watched TV, played games and generally had the run of the place where we wouldn't wreck all of Mom's knick knacks and could enjoy a perceived freedom. As I got older, it was where we snuck a drink or a kiss and the dark environs seemed to suit my teenage angst oh so well. Moving on in life and living in apartments left me without that kind if subterranean hideout I loved so much and even when we were living in 2 bedroom apartments, that extra room never felt the same. I needed my space and that is a big part of why we bought The Manor a dozen years ago.
|The very first beer wall|
|Early season pints|
|The party of 2018|
22 November 2018
It was bound to happen.
I mean, after all these years, how hadn't it already been something I would encounter?
I drain poured a beer I didn't like.
I know, not revolutionary or uncommon for a lot of folks, but I am a combination of cheap and drunk that has always meant finishing my beer no matter what. I've had my share of awful beer but always managed to finish them quickly and efficiently like the German ancestors on my mothers side would have. The idea that you don't have to completely drink a beer you don't like was so foreign to me that I had a hard time wrapping my head around it, but after more than 3500 different beers and a desire to not waste my calories or beer life, I'm done with the ones that just can't hack it.
It started a few months ago when we started to get a little more picky with what we would buy at the LCBO or when we stopped at a Brewery. We used to buy one of everything at any brewery and every new beer that hit our local liquor stores. Styles I didn't enjoy or particularly care for were given the same credence as much desired ones and often languished on the shelf or were drunk late at night when good decisions had ceased to be a characteristic of my drinking. A common sense look at our budget and a bulging fridge of beer neither of us was really interested in was the next logical step to letting go of the need to buy everything. Why buy a lager when it doesn't interest me? Do we need 2 of this sour ale when only I will try it and Mrs. Polk has no care for that style? It was time to focus on what we liked and leave behind a notion that we should be omnivores of craft beer.
|This seems excessive|
It's been a slow process but we have been making great progress with both our buying and drinking habits. Choosing to keep it to only 1 or 2 a day for the most part and even when we chill out and have a few, keeping a weekly run of less than 14 beers was strangely doable to me despite my inclination to drink all the beers. But wasting one of those precious slots on beer that just wasn't giving me anything was becoming harder and harder. When you are just going to have 1 beer, it becomes hyper important that it be enjoyable, to style and on point.
The lack of proper fridge management can play a role in this problem as I still have a little too much beer (I know, I know, 1st world problems and all) and no desire to drink a portion of it. Giving away to friends has been a fine way to clean it up a bit and when I finally caved last week and organized most of it, I discovered about a dozen beers that were clearly well past their prime and on the way to that great circle recycler in the basement laundry tub. A little choked up at the prospect but I bit the bullet and got rid of them. Not the first time this has happened and it bothered me more that I had screwed up than in actually getting rid of the beer.
|Yes, it is a macro now but they had a huge infection problem. Proper drain pour.|
This was but a prelude to a little later that day when I opened a beer and just went "Meh.". It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it was just there. Cloying and artificial, it was supposed to elicit dreams of dessert and instead made me wonder why I was wasting my time. It wasn't an awful beer, in fact some people would love it, but I couldn't do it anymore. I have had several friends tell me this moment would happen and I always scoffed, but here it was. I stared at the glass for a few minutes, contemplating just slamming it back and moving on like I usually do but something was stopping me. I knew I only had room for 2 beers in me that day and why should I waste any of my allotment on something that just didn't do it for me. The time had come and without fanfare or a big show on the damn internet, I poured a beer out for the only reason that should really matter, I didn't like it.
It felt freeing. It felt a little weird and it felt like I had finally learned to start letting go of beers I don't need. To pour a beer out should never be a public spectacle and if there is truly something off about your pint, i.e. oxidation, sourness etc., then do your brewer a favour and reach out privately to let them know. I understand that it gets way more attention if you take a run at a beer in public but I think that says more about your need for likes and comments than it does for your commitment to great beer. As a caveat I will say this, if you reach out and are ignored or rebuffed, feel free to go public and demand accountability. While I am all for helping to promote and grow this wonderful community, that has to be a 2 way street and as consumers we must let our voices be heard when something is being done poorly as well as celebrating the best beer has to offer.
I'm not going to say it was easy but life is indeed too short for bad beer or anything that doesn't bring you happiness. In beer, as in all things, seek joy and the very best that you can find.
13 November 2018
1) Picking the Beer
|Beer Advent 2017|
The planning should begin a few weeks before December 1st so you have time to get all 25 beers without breaking the bank. The collection should be in line with what you or your loved one likes to drink with some surprises thrown in for fun. Look to the LCBO for the single largest selection of favourites and new beers, but supplement that with a few trips to local (or not so local) craft breweries to really give them a treat. The whole idea is to craft an experience that will both delight and inspire joy when they open a beer each day. If they are adventurous, mix styles and formats with an eye to new and never before had beers. But if they don't like a particular style or brewery, it is best to avoid them as this is a gift meant to celebrate beer in the best possible way.
Ask them or their friends for suggestions or visit your local brewery and pick the brain of the folks that work there, they love to help people out. Look for a few special brewery only releases to really add some zip to your gift.
The day will arrive and then the fun can begin. If you are making it a gift, try to space out the special beers or the big ABV ones for days when your loved one can enjoy them. A 13% Imperial stout may not work on a hectic Monday but maybe is better suited to their day off so they can slow sip and feel the love. This is about enjoying a single pint and celebrating rather than getting hammered or over consuming. Maybe they can't have a beer every day and you can share a few of them a couple of times a week or whenever you can safely and purposely relax and find the right time to experience the joy of beer.
|December 24th is always Double Tempest day here!|
Who doesn't like a surprise? While the gift of an Beer Advent calendar is fabulous in and of itself, why not take things to the next level with some twists and turns. Take a road trip one or two days to new or old favourite Craft breweries to give them a beer fresh from the source. Make a day of it and give them the gift of an experience, always a much more fun thing than just siting at home. You can add some glassware, hats, shirts or other branded stuff from their fave brewery to spice up any day and with all the choices out there, this would be a nice addition to random Tuesday in the middle of the calendar. Look for events at local breweries, i.e. Paint Nights, Trivia or Comedy and get them tickets to experience an evening of beer and fun. Try to take it to the next level by doing something out of the ordinary that you know will delight the person you love who loves beer.
Good luck my friends in your pursuit of the ultimate month of beer. Whether it's for yourself or someone you love, the Beer Advent calendar is a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas every day.
Life can be hectic as the holidays approach and I hope you can find time each day for a few moments to just sit back, pop the top and enjoy a little libation while the season swirls around us.