[Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the writer only and is not intended to represent those of the rest of the Beerjanglin' stable.]
When I think of the Party Source in Syracuse, NY, I think of the film "Gladiator" from the year 2000. The film won the Academy Award that year for Best Picture, though in reflection it is a mediocre movie at best. But when compared against the very weak competition of the films of 2000, "Gladiator" somehow stood out as the best of its peers.
The Party Source, located in the ugliest green building on Erie Boulevard East in Syracuse, is not a great beer store by any stretch, but's probably the best we have.
It caters mostly to college kids, selling blocks of Busch and Natural Ice by the gross, and finding ways to move keg after keg -- despite New York's ludicrous keg laws, which in my opinion actually encourage binge drinking rather than suppress it.
The store is built like an open warehouse that is half-empty. When you walk in, to the left you see nothing but empty floor space, with the occasional odd case of macro-lager that someone decided to put down.
Straight ahead is the register, and toward the far wall is a cooler that has a decent mix of commercial and craft brews. It's a nice selection and would be the envy of almost any grocery store.
On the floor are cases upon cases, often set up in some kind of geometrical order, but not at all pleasing to the eye. They are usually stacked no more than two cases high, rather than in a tall display, and you usually have to step over them rather than go around them.
The wall to the right is what keeps me going back: it's a collection of craft brewed six packs organized nicely by brewery and country. To the far left of this wall is the seasonal selections (this month it's Southern Tier Harvest, Dogfish Head Punkin, and Long Trail Harvest, to name a few). Strafing to the right will show a collection of European and "European style" brews, mostly from England. And about halfway down the wall come all the micro- and craft brews we love so much. This wall is what makes Party Source a destination beer store.
The reason that I keep coming to Party Source is because it is the only beer store in the area where you can purchase off-the-shelf mixed six packs that are not confined to a few select brews that the store allows you to buy. In other words, you can try any one bottle of beer, and just pay the a la carte price for it. Other than it's above-average selection, this is the one aspect of Party Source that makes it worth repeat visits.
I must say, however, that the store has been going downhill for a while now. And I want to briefly share my experience there Friday, which was frustrating, disappointing and disheartening.
First of all, there is a rack where the "unsold" beers go that can be bought individually by the bottle. These beers, by and large, have been in the store for months and months, and often have dust on them. They are not sold at any kind of discounted price, such as $8.99 a six pack, which would be a fair deal. The beers I have selected from this shelf have often been old and musty -- not always, but sometimes. It would behoove the owner of the store to come up with some sort of pricing compromise so that he can move these beers off the shelves, and as well as giving the paying customer a bit of a price break.
The selection that the store carries has been disappointing lately. It's not that they don't carry a great deal of excellent beers, because they do. But they haven't been rotating the selection as well. In other words, every time I go, there are usually no more than 5-6 new beers at any given time. We are left with the same selection that we have had previously, and who knows how old they are -- since most beers don't have a "brewed-on date" on the label.
What was most disappointing Friday was the service.
The old curmudgeon that runs the store is always in an apparently foul mood. He answers the most basic questions with a sort of "why are you bothering me?" tone. But he knows me. He knows my face and he gets money from me on a consistent basis. I once dropped $90 there for little more than a couple of six packs. I am what you would call "a regular."
So Friday, I bought a mixed six pack (possibly coming up for a "6Pac" review) and two regular six packs: Southern Tier Harvest Ale and Victory Storm King Stout. The old curmudgeon was standing at the register and on the phone, so I placed my items on the shelf to patiently wait for him.
He hung up the phone and looked as if he was about to ring me out. Suddenly, the phone rang again, and he picked it up and decided he was more interested in talking to the person on the phone than ringing out the familiar face standing at his counter.
I have worked in customer service capacities for a good portion of my life, and one of the cardinal rules you go by is that if a customer is waiting for you, you don't turn your back on them, whether on the phone or not. And if you do get a phone call, all you have to do is make eye contact with the person at the counter and give them the "one second" sign. (Mouthing "one second" is a nice bonus.) The curmudgeon not only stopped paying attention to my transaction, but he actually turned around and walked away, turning his full attention to the prospective customer on the phone. (He mentioned someone who had called before that needed over 120 thirty-packs of Natural Ice for the evening and that Party Source the only place he would be able to get it. Yeah, the SU and LeMoyne kids are definitely back in town.)
So I stood and waited. And waited a few more minutes. The Party Source only has one register, and so no more than one transaction can take place at a time. An oafish employee saw that I was waiting, and to his credit, attempted to make his way to the register to ring me out, but the curmudgeon was "hogging" the register and the oaf had to nudge him out of the way.
The oaf took my mixed six pack and removed all the bottles from the holder, giving me a "How's it goin', boss?" for my trouble. With a big sigh, he looked up each beer in his computer as if he were using a Lexis-Nexis search, painstakingly placing each beer back into its respective compartment. When he was done, he sighed and said, "Those mixed beers are a pain in the ass," before giving me my total.
Now, if I may digress for a moment: I'm sure that scanning each individual beer is a pain in the ass. I've worked retail before, and it's always harder to scan multiple items. But maybe, as the beer distributor, you should a) find a more efficient way of scanning these items, b) stop offering singles altogether or c) keep your frustration hidden from the customer. The mixed six packs are the only reason I go to this place more than only every six months or so. There are other places -- like Brilbecks, Galeville and now Wegmans -- that have good selections of six- and twelve-packs of beers, and their employees don't make you feel like you're inconveniencing them.
Anyway, the guy said "Have a good night, boss" to which I gave an uncharacteristically curt "Yup" before walking out the door with beer in hand but not satisfaction in my shopping experience.
I'm frustrated, because there is no reason that this store can't be a world-class beer hub, along the lines of Oliver's in Albany, Finger Lakes Beverage in Ithaca or Beers of the World in Rochester. Space is being completely wasted in this building, which is located in a burgeoning beer-centric city. The city of Syracuse is a growing beer community, and the store would be ripe for not only expanding the floor space, but dialing up the selection as well. Any city that can make profitable enterprises out of Clark's Ale House, the Blue Tusk and Al's Wine & Whiskey would benefit from having a central marketplace for bringing home all the finest beers from around the country.
Instead, while it's still probably the best we have, it all comes off as very half-assed. And worse, there is no joy in the store; it doesn't make you feel like you are in any kind of beer haven, but rather a warehouse selling widgets. It's too bad that some enterprising company can't come in and give the Party Source a run for it's money, and maybe force them to step up their game.
Syracuse deserves better.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
[Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the writer only and is not intended to represent those of the rest of the Beerjanglin' stable.]
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Picked this one up on a recent foray through northern Jersey. Luckily, Bergen County blue laws allow the purchase of beer on Sundays. Electronics geeks are not quite as fortunate. No, seriously. No electronics can be purchased in the Garden State's most populous county on Sundays. You can't even by pants there for crying out loud!
Tröegs Brewing Company is a pretty well thought of brewery based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. None of their stuff makes it to Upstate New York, so I jumped at the chance to grab a sixer of the flagship, Hopback Amber. Sure, I would have loved to get my hands on some Nugget Nectar or Mad Elf, two purportedly fantastic Tröegs entries, but this stuff surely does in a pinch.
Here's how the Brothers Trogner describe it:
Our very own Bill, as only he can, expounds on the virtues of Hopback Amber thusly:
Tröegs Brewery’s Flagship beer, HopBack Amber Ale derives its name from a vessel in the brewhouse called a hopback. As the ‘wort’ is being transferred from the brewhouse to fermentation it passes through the hopback vessel. Packed full of fresh whole flower hops, the wort slowly circulates through this vessel extracting the essence of the aromatic hops. This vessel adds more time and more hop character that creates a fresh, spicy taste and rich caramel note that defines this signature ale.Deep amber in color under a huge creamy head. The aroma very apparent, bold and spicy with a slight floral character. Balanced with caramel malt, this well-rounded amber ale has an up-front floral spice that builds with a flush of sweetness
Me? This is the third of these I've had over the past four or five days, and I've enjoyed each one more than the last. At first, I thought it was solid, but no match for, say, Ithaca Beer's über hoppy red ale, Cascazilla. I'm still leaning that way - gotta love the hopping Ithaca gives both Cascazilla and Flower Power IPA - but Hopback Amber is no pushover. It's a pretty caramel/orange beer with a great nose. An everyday drinker with a nice, bitter finish. I'd buy this stuff pretty regularly if getting it didn't involve entering New Jersey. Score one for the Trogner Bros.
Friday, August 29, 2008
In the September 2008 version of All About Beer magazine, Don Russell writes and article called "Retro Beer," which chronicles the rise of beers like Pabst, Rheingold and Genny Cream Ale among hipsters and ironic college types.
The piece speaks of how these beers went from hokey third-rate relics to wink-and-a-nod artifacts which trucker hat wearing twentysomethings drink not for taste, but to feel connected to another time, and connected to the beers their dads drank. (The article, in fact, has a very interesting angle about how a desire to connect to our fathers might the strongest subconscious rationale behind this new trend.)
Personally, I'm not sure I'm buying it.
I know several people who drink good beer, and yet express a mind-boggling affection for Pabst Blue Ribbon. It's one thing to celebrate the retro kitch culture such as a wonderful place like Philly's own Bob and Barbara's Lounge, which is awash in long-forgotten PBR ad campaigns of the past. It's another to swig down a can of PBR and actually fool yourself into thinking it's a premium beer.
There is a place for these kind of beverages; I would have felt positively out of place at the outskirts of Wrigleyville in Chicago drinking anything other than tallboys of Old Style, or hunkering down at a townie bar in Rochester and ordering Bud over Genny. And truth be told, Utica Club is actually a decent beverage.
But truthfully, I don't need to hear another fratboy in a pre-tattered straw cowboy hat and Che Guevara t-shirt telling me that Blatz is superior to whatever I'm drinking, any more than I need someone telling me that "Speed Racer" is better than "The Venture Brothers."
It's one thing to dress in an ironic, postmodern way to assert some sort of hipster aesthetic; it's completely another to try and fool your taste buds.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Something unusual that I came across at The Onion's blog about the Democratic National Convention.
It appears that CNN has taken over a local Denver tavern, naming it the CNN Grill (at least according to the blog, and since this comes from the deadpan Onion, its veracity is uncertain).
At any rate, there now apparently exists in this universe CNN Brew, a red ale brewed right in Denver, Colorado, apparently by Breckenridge Brewery. For what it's worth Fox News apparently isn't serving alcohol.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
While the weather is still nice, I encourage -- nay, implore those of you who live in New York's Capital District or the "Collar City" in particular, to visit the Brown's Brewing Taproom, located at 425 River Street in Troy, NY, off the banks of the Hudson River. Not only is the atmosphere pleasant both inside and out, but the food is top notch. Oh, and the beer is pretty damn good.
One beer in particular caught my fancy, one that is only available (as far as I can tell) directly from the brewery itself: Brown's Extra Special Bitter. As far as I can tell, it is only available from the taproom in a 22-ounce bottle, but it is worth the detour.
Before I give you my impressions, here is what Brown's says about this beverage.
...a deliciously sturdy ale that’s dead-on true to its English heritage. Full-bodied, with a classic toasty malt palate throughout, our ESB finishes fresh and hoppy. Carbonated lightly, and poured via a slow pour tap, Brown’s ESB is an outstanding example of one of Britain ’s finest gifts to civilization.You've heard an intelligent opinion. Now mine...
The color is absolutely gorgeous; a hazy, radiant dark orange. A large and fluffy head peeks over the lip of the glass. A heavy jetsam of carbonation floats to the surface. The bishop's collar of lace around the top of the glass is big, thick and wonderful. Just a tremendous appearance.
The aroma gives initial sniffs of caramel that are a sweet balance to a nicely toasted malt. Yes, it does have some bitterness in the mild but flowery hop smell, but that is balanced by that solid malty base. The malt does dominate the nose.
As for the taste, it's an excellent roasty -- but not at all burnt -- malt. Again, the caramel fulfills the promise of the aroma. Though there are some mild flowery hops, the malt really dominates, like a fine English ale. The barley is sweet but bready, like a pub ale. And just a hint of nuttyness in the malt.
The feel of this beer is smooth, but with just a little pop at the end. Not too thick or too thin, and highly guzzle-able. It's one of those beers that is gone before you even realize you were half done with it. I have one regret about buying this bottle and that's that I didn't buy a case of them.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This story from the Wall Street Journal is not the most informative article on hops you will ever have the pleasure of reading. Then again, it's from the Journal, not Beer Advocate. Little different audience they're appealing to, I guess.
Target demographic aside, it actually does make for a pretty interesting read. Apparently, given the recent meteoric rise in the price of hops, some newcomers across this great nation are trying their hand at growing the flowery devils on a commercial scale. The article gives a quick synopsis on the circumstances that led up to this turn of events before briefly profiling a handful of these farms, including one in particular that caught our eye:
Many new hop farmers are focused on selling to brewers in their region. Rick Pedersen, a farmer in Seneca Castle, N.Y., began growing hops in 1999 but wasn't able to start selling them until just few years ago, when the Ithaca Beer Co. in Ithaca, N.Y., became a customer. He is part of a budding revival of hops production in the Northeast, with farmers in states such as Pennsylvania also participating.The Ithaca Beer referenced is the delightful (and lamented) Double IPA, which I believe is on indefinite hiatus due to the current hops "situation". Pederson Farms has also supplied Victory with fresh hops for their harvest ale for the past few years as well as Brown's Brewing for their tasty New York hopped IPA. Brown's has since opened their own small bottling operation and planted over 800 hops rhizomes in Hoosick, New York with an eye to the future. More on that, hopefully, sometime in the uh... future.
"It's not an easy thing to just start up from scratch," Mr. Pedersen says, adding he's still "not even close" to recouping his investment...
Until the 1920s, New York state was the nation's hotbed for hops. However, two diseases -- downy mildew and powdery mildew -- crippled production, and the industry began moving to drier Western climates less susceptible to mildew. Today, nearly all of the nation's hops are grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sometimes, the situation doesn't call for sipping a 10% abv imperial stout by a roaring fireplace or quaffing a nice Belgian quadrupel with King Albert II*. No, sometimes the temp is pushing 90 and you're on a glorious rooftop deck tailgating before a Phillies - Dodgers game in South Philly with a bunch of really good dudes, most of whom you've known for a decade or more.
*He's the king of Belgium, silly!
Times like these, when the sun is shining, and the laughs are flowing and you're all just riffing - maybe MC Hammer is on the stereo - times like these are what a beer like Lionshead was made for. Throw a couple of cases on ice. Twist the caps off a few of 'em. Maybe take a minute (possibly 15) to puzzle out the rebus under those caps. Fire up the grill. Enjoy.
Oh, the beer itself? It's a lawnmower beer. A rooftop deck beer. Again, those certainly have their place. It's highly drinkable, especially at icy temps. Fairly crisp, with some corn and a faint hop presence somewhere in there. It definitely cuts the dust. And the mustard. The Lion calls it a "deluxe pilsner", which may be a bit of a stretch, but there ain't nothing wrong with it.
It doesn't hurt at all that this stuff retails for thirteen bucks a case. Or that it's brewed at The Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, one of the few remaining old time regional breweries in the northeast. Oh yeah, if you watch carefully, you just might see it on an episode of The Office.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Since I feel like I'm running out of beers to try, I have decided to do something revolutionary. I had a six pack of Saranac and a twelve pack of Dundee and decided to mix it up a little. Literally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
I took three beers and did a little "round robin" pouring half of each into a pint glass with half from the other two. The three beverages I used were Saranac Pale Ale, Dundee Porter and Dundee Wheat. Please note, I had intended to use Dundee Pale Bock but I screwed it up and poured the wrong one. Ah well, let's check the results...
SARANAC PALE/DUNDEE PORTER
The beer pours a mahogany reddish brown. It's slightly darker at the top. A finger of thick ocean foam head. It's thick, but also shiny and glassy.
In the aroma, the crystal malts of the Pale overshadow the roasted malts of the Porter, but only barley ... barely. The slightly piney hops in the pale do make a difference in breaking through the thick malt. It's a bit too sharp in the spiky malts.
The tastes are strange bedfellows. The pale flavors (hops, crystal malt) are the first flavors, and then a mild roasted, nutty malt kicks in. It evolves throughout the sip, but the flavors clash rather than getting along nicely.
The feel is thick and creamy, and chewy and chunky. Has some nice body, with a small bite on the way down. It's not the runaway success I had hoped for, but it's an interesting change of pace beer.
DUNDEE WHEAT/SARANAC PALE
The look is a hazy light orange. The thick head dissipates quickly. Leaves a nice icy lace. Overall the appearance is a nice cloudy thickness.
The smell is some bittering pilsnery hops floating atop a thick banana-ish wheat aroma. Some mild citrusy sweetness, which actually blends nicely with the clove in the wheat.
The sweet citrus and banana/clove taste give this makeshift brew a decent bubblegum flavor. And though the flavors are strong, they are disparate, thought it is a surprisingly decent mix.
The feel is thick and sticky. It's creamy, and the wheat beer definitely has the influence on this one. All told, it's actually a solid mix. The hops and wheat play nicely in the sandbox.
DUNDEE PORTER/DUNDEE WHEAT
This one was the real shocker.
The appearance is a thick, cloudy brown. The head disappears quickly. It looks very thick.
The aroma is, at first, an uneasy mix of the roasted malt and some wheat. It has the aromatic effect of a dark Belgian ale. The wheat and the roasted malt. It takes on a smoky quality.
The taste has a real, dark Belgian ale flavor, oddly enough. It's a really surprising mix of two good flavors. Not too shabby at all. The rich caramel flavors meet the wheat flavors, as well as a subtle tobacco kick.
The feel is milky but smooth. Really decent. Overall it's like a dark Belgian ale. A surprisingly good little concoction. Smoky, rich and deep.
None of these were the unmitigated triumph that I had secretly hoped for, but they were all drinkable, and were a decent change of pace idea when all you have is the same stuff you've been drinking for weeks on end.
Hopefully, we will become bolder and wiser in our choices, selecting brews that are unbalanced with other brews that are unbalanced. It is this attempt to bring together the yin and yang (the Yuen and Yueng?) of beers in those that are lacking that zen balance. I'm making a list as we speak.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It's hard to find any real details, but the Adirondack/Saratoga chapter of the American Red Cross is presenting the 11th annual "Battle of the Brews" at Saratoga Race Course on Friday, August 22, from noon to 4:30 p.m. It will be held in the “Big Red Spring” area. This is the biggest weekend of the Saratoga racing season with the 139th running of the Travers Stakes, aka "The Mid-Summer Derby" on Saturday.
Tickets for the event are $25 per person. That price includes a commemorative 2008 pint glass. Last year, tickets went for $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and the glass would have cost you $5 or $7 depending on your ability to plan ahead.
Sixteen breweries will offer approximately three beers each for sampling and voting:
Adirondack Pub & Brewery
Anchor Brewing Co.
Cooper’s Cave Ale Company
Long Trail Brewing Co.
Magic Hat Brewing
Olde Saratoga Brewing Co.
Paper City Brewery
Saranac Brewing Co.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Awards for People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice will be presented. Looks pretty solid, actually. Seeing as I will be at the track already, perhaps a little "field research" is in order.
You can get more information by calling the local American Red Cross Adirondack Saratoga Chapter at (518) 792-6545, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds benefit the Red Cross.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Today we are pitting against one another two of Upstate New York's premier mid-sized breweries' hoppier offerings in a new feature we like to call "Head to Head." I tried to think of a catchier name but let's face it, when your research involves drinking it sometimes takes you out of the zone.
The breweries discussed today are both going through a rebirth of sorts. Saranac (aka F.X. Matt) weathered a major fire in late May of this year. Luckily, the fire, while harmful, was not enough to keep Saranac from brewing for more than about a month.
Dundee Beer, on the other hand, while not having to endure any kind of blaze, has been going through a transformation of its own, dropping the "JW" from it's moniker and coming up with a whole new design and identity for its flagship brand. Dundee appears ready to be taking its rightful place among the major regional breweries, not only by making a concerted marketing effort built on beer tradition, but also by improving the quality of the beer itself (which you will read about in an upcoming post). The brewery is looking to shed its image of being the brewer of Genny and a couple of marginal microbrews. And the way it's been flying off the shelves in the Syracuse area, it appears that the eye-catching new designs are working.
Today we decide to compare the IPAs of these two proud, venerable breweries, and see which one can reign supreme as Upstate New York Mid-size I-90 Brewery Champ. Let us begin...
- The Look:
Both beers have an almost identical golden color, though Dundee's is slightly darker. Saranac is more clear and see-through, while Dundee has a bit more haze on the glass. The head retention goes to Dundee by far, in that its head sits proudly atop the liquid, while Saranac's head is minimal and fades quickly. The Saranac looks more watery, and while they both sweat on the outside of the glass, Dundee just looks a bit thicker, like an ale. Both leave a decent Brussels lace on the glass, but again Dundee is thicker and more pronounced.
- The Aroma:
Saranac's IPA has a fine pine-hop aroma, with some citrusy notes of lemon and lime. It's a more flowery and sweet-smelling hop. The hop on the Dundee side is also a woody smell, but the aroma comes through less, ironically because of the thick head that is blocking many of the scents from coming through. The malts are what makes these ales smell markedly different: the Saranac has pale, crystal malts bursting through, while the Dundee is more roasted. The Saranac is just more aromatic.
- The Flavor:
Here is where the rubber meets the road, as they say. Both of these IPAs have very nice flavors, but they are decidedly different. The Saranac IPA has a woody, pine hop flavor, which is mild but does well with the sharp crystal malt flavor. There are sweet fruity and flowery hop flavors emerging. The malts in the Saranac are more "spiky" and sharp, giving the impression of a heavily-hopped pale ale rather than an IPA.
The Dundee on the other hand, is more bold. It has a deeper "ale" flavor, with the malts deeper and more roasted than the sharp crystal malts in the Saranac. There are mild caramel and butterscotch notes coming through, giving off a more complex flavor than the Saranac. The malts are what separates these two beers.
Advantage: Slight edge to Dundee.
- The Feel:
The Saranac is more "spiky" and fizzy; it's got a sharper feel with more bubbly carbonation felt on the tongue. (Ironic because the Dundee looked much more carbonated in appearance.) The feel of the Dundee is thicker, more like a pub ale. It's more creamy and buttery than the Saranac. This one is based on personal preference I suppose, but to me...
- The Verdict:
Both of these beers are very worthy, mild IPAs. The Saranac is really a pale ale that has been hopped a little extra. The Dundee is a milky, buttery ale with more balance and more pronounced malt flavors, which in turn make the hops shine through just a bit more. While both of these are worthy selections, I would have to declare...
So in a nail-biter, High Falls just barely edges out the descendents of F.X. Matt on this one. To be sure, both are very solid middle-of-the-road IPAs, so please don't use this as a reason not to buy the Saranac IPA. In fact, if you get the chance, pick up a twelve-pack of each and help support both the local economy and the craft-brewing industry. The more you buy, the more they'll make
Monday, August 11, 2008
There is a new brewpub on the scene in New York's Capital Region... almost anyway. Goose Gosselin, former headbrewer at Malt River in Latham and most recently an assistant brewer at Olde Saratoga/Mendocino*, has opened his own barbecue joint in Cropseyville (just outside of Troy). The barbecue has been getting good reviews so far, and Gosselin hopes to start brewing some time this fall.
*In addition to Malt River and Olde Saratoga, the Goose has also worked at Boston Beer Works, Union Station in Providence, and Buzzards Bay Brewing. Pretty solid resume, that.
We were never huge fans of Malt River's brews; they were hit and miss, mostly. How much of that was due to its location in a dying mall and the inability to turn beers in a timely manner is anybody's guess. We only visited a handful of times, probably not enough to make a true judgment of the brewer's prowess. Gosselin certainly has his fans, including one Mr. Lew Bryson:
7/30/08: Got an e-mail from Gary "Goose" Gosselin yesterday, formerly of Malt River: he's opened Brunswick BBQ & Brew in Brunswick, NY, east of Troy on Rt. 2 (3925 State Hwy 2, Brunswick, 518/279-9993). They're open but not brewing yet: he hopes to be brewing in the fall. Good to see him back at the kettle!Pretty exciting stuff, really. Even an average brewpub is a wonderful place and good barbecue is always welcome. This makes for tantalizing possibilities of beer runs beginning at Brown's in Troy, heading east on Route 2 to Brunswick Barbecue and Brew and then turning for the Madison Brewing Company (where the beer is okay, but the food is scrumpshalicious) in Bennington, Vermont. Or Pittsfield Brew Works in, umm, Pittsfield, Mass. Or lots o' good stuff in North Adams, Mass. Hell, it could lead us anywhere really. The possibilities are dizzying!
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
For this month's The Session, we are taking a trip down memory lane to a time when Miller High Life and Genesee's Golden Anniversary were acceptable beer choices. This story is from October of 2004 on a trip to visit my friend Javen in Schenectady, NY. It has some graphic medical terminology, so if you are squeamish you may want to gloss over it a bit. Hope you enjoy.
Have you ever woken up with cotton-mouth? How about a sore throat? How about something hanging out of the back of your throat that feels like one of those sticky octopus things you used to get out of a vending machine that you would throw against the wall and it would climb down? No? Well, all you have to do is drink some beer that doesn't mix with your body or your internal food processing mechanisms and voila, you've got it!
This is a story of my swollen uvula. It's a story that's not for the squeamish, which means it's really not even a story for me. It only lasted but 6 hours or so, but friends, it was a six hours I'd like to forget.
The story starts this past Saturday. Visiting my friends, Javen and Justine (aka T.T., still don't know where that nickname came from), in Schenectady, NY, just a two-hour drive from my home in hardcore urban Syracuse, we had gone to dinner and watched a few innings of the Yankees-Red Sox blowout before heading back for a brief cocktail at the apartment and then out to hopefully more bars. Will was already bitter due to the Red Sox taking an 0-3 dive in the ALCS, and I was just happy to be drunk. We went to a small convenience store, where we looked for the cheapest possible selections. I chose my favorite, Miller High Life, the best cheap beer known to man. But what for our second selection? Which beer would serve a dual function as both an economically-prudent choice but also one that would please the tastebuds as well? The choice was simple: Golden Anniversary, proudly brewed in my hometown of Rochester, New York.
Sure it seemed like a great idea at the time, get some cheap brew to get lit up, then walk to the neighborhood watering holes and slow 'er down with the fancy stuff. As Javen and I embarked on a 6-hour political discussion, we began knocking back brew after brew. I started with the High Life, as is my custom. Even though it is summer no more, the best summer brew this side of Milwaukee was treating me just fine. Curiously, someone handed me a golden can of the Golden Anniversary, and it was just fine too. When you're as far in the bag as I was, you can't tell the difference. Interestingly, I felt no ill-effects while conscious. As 4:30 AM rolled around, Javen and I finally agreed to disagree about Bush and Kerry, and decided to fall asleep. I felt great, a little dizzy, but great.
After what I can only assume is the worst night of sleep in my entire life (the air mattress I slept on collapsed under my burly weight), I awoke around 8 AM and felt the curious sensation of having a deflated balloon attached to the roof of my mouth. I swallowed once and felt a large flap of something undulating in my throat. My first inclination was to assume William and Javen had played a mischievous prank on me by placing something in my mouth as I slept, and I briefly looked forward to the sure-to-follow digital photo documenting the hilarity at my expense. But when I realized everyone else was still comatose, I flipped the hell out.
I ran to the bathroom to check the inside of my mouth. It was too dark to see in the bathroom, so I had to turn the light on, but the marquee-style lighting was too bright for my sensitive eyes, so I had to pull of an idiotic-looking maneuver by which I tilted my head back, opened my mouth in the say-ahhh position, shielded my eyes like a visor and stared into the horrifying abyss that was my mouth. I saw two tongues: my actual tongue and the second one where my uvula (the little punching bag in the back of the throat) used to reside. But instead of the cute little cartoonish teardrop-shaped piece of skin or whatever the hell it is, I saw an elongated, misshapen blob that was resting on the back of my tongue. And if you think that's gross, imagine how I felt looking at the goddamn thing. I nearly passed out. In fact, I lied down on the bathroom floor momentarily to get my blood back into my head, and then wondered if blood in my head was good for my amorphous uvula. I actually considered taking steps to get blood out of my head. Not a good idea in hindsight, but this is how my affliction affected my thought-process.
So I did what anyone with such a medical condition would do: I went back to sleep in the hope that my condition would be gone when I woke up, or better yet that it was all a horrible dream. So I fell asleep for another 15 minutes, trying to dream my growth away. No dice. It felt like peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth, except in this case the peanut butter was my own flesh. Now, this didn't hurt, not at all. It was simply uncomfortable, and since I have apprehensions anyway about swallowing and my dubious gag reflex (no jokes, fellows!), it became incredibly irritating and somewhat frightening.
Most people might call a doctor for something like this. Since I hate doctors and hospitals, I did the next best thing and got on WebMD. I had remembered what a magnificient resource this had been when I had a bit of a hemorrhoid problem back in March of '03, and I thought, if anyone could help me, it would be WebMD. Double dang-it! The only thing it suggested to me was to get my tonsils out. I had been planning on doing that anyway, but not now, dammit!
Who is better than a doctor to cure this problem? Who? Think, damn you, think! Of course! My little brother, Mike, aka "Beach Justice." No, he is not a doctor, but he did graduate from SUNY Fredonia in 2002 or so and I remembered he had had a similar condition at one time. So I called him on my cellular wireless telephone. It was about 9AM and Mike is accustomed to waking up at ohhh about noon, so I wasn't expecting him to answer. The phone rang 4 or 5 times before I heard the glorious click and timbre of my brother's surprisingly alert voice answering his phone. I asked him to help me. "Please, brother, please!" He replied, "Calm down, my friend, let me walk you through it." In his most scholarly and medicinal voice, Mike gave me the clinical explanation. I've had a bad allergic reaction to some beer. Something about the wheat or the way they process it. Have I had this beer before? No. Did you drink at all last night? Yes, yes! Well there's your answer. Take some allergy medication and give it till day's end. Oh, thank you brother, thank you! TT, the absoulute peach that she is, drove to the store and got me some Benadryl. Though they didn't exactly perform open-heart surgery on me, Mike and TT saved my life.
I shouldn't have driven back to Syracuse after the Benadryl though. Future reference.