Cuvee 1 : Southern Tier Brewing Company : Strong Ale
“Here’s to good friends, tonight is kinda special.” Kinda? I have three more days, hundreds of unwritten topics, and thousands of untried beers. Michelob will have to remain untried.
If you’re gonna undertake some mission in drinking a beer a day, it helps to have good friends. They’ll buy you a beer from time to time, to time, to time and again to time. Time, gentlemen, please.
These friends fill up a growlers at places like Pony Bar or at Bierkraft, at Whole Foods or even Duane Reade. They put a bottle pressed between cloths and tie it all into a suitcase, sneaking it across some invisible border.
Friends: how much laughter served over sausage and honey and Rolling Rock at Harry’s, even with that old gym teacher Flip in the room. Ah, buy him a round, because time and a little green pony buries all bad things.
But wait, who dat knocking at the back door? Ah, my old friend and vintager Rick showing up with a couple sixes of Anchor Steam, just off the plane from San Franscico and bringing with him the first illumination of quality beer difference. “They called it Steam Ale. I don’t know why, but you gotta try it cause it’s good.” Raise an etched pint glass, then, to the ghost of Christmas parties past.
Then there’s the invisible sun pouring over the sidewalk cafe on a Cambridge corner, waiting for Bob to clear his classes and drinking a Newcastle Brown Ale on tap with my friend John, talking about New Orleans. Come dinner time, we followed up with Chinese food and scorpion bowls and listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins.
This was miles under the bridge, where my friend Fuzz shook the bubbles out of cheap champagne and we passed the bottle, each of us offering a graduation toast. Ah, but it would have tasted better with beer. Across the railroad tracks, you could see the lights of the Lower Allen Police Department. We had survived a scare on a stupid evening not long before, me driving…but not drinking…weaving the car to song Venus when the blueandreds come on behind us. “I would have pulled you over even before you threw that Bud can out the window.” My longlost friend Stumpie leaned forth from the back seat and replied, “It wasn’t Bud…it was Miller.”
Run, beer man, run. I’m wearing Don’s jacket that he earned drinking over a hundred beers at Albany’s Maher’s pub. He’s dying of cancer and I’m running the NYC marathon with miles to go. Years later, while pondering with my friend Larry the excellent beer choices at Buzz & Ned’s excellent bbq, he reminded me of the story of the road trip to Niagara Falls, when Don finished all the beers as we drove the bridge back from the Canadian side. “Do you have anything to declare? Bringing in any beer?” My friend Don leaned forth from the back seat and replied, with a rattle of the empty in his hand, “not any more, no.”
The long road back from driving forklifts in a warehouse in Lodi and there was the afterwork surprise: one sunny afternoon on a hundredandsixth street, they pulled the tables from the sedentary inner darkness, painted all their tops brilliant blue, and screwed down a wavy plastic lid. Just for one day, Canon’s transformed itself into some aquatic paradise, an accidental upgrade; it didn’t last long, with the bewildered regular clientele scissoring up pieces of plastic to get back to carving their initials in the wood underneath. All was fine with my friend Darrell and me as long as the pitcher prices remained student cheap.
Diane gave us student pricing every Wednesday at the North Shore Brewery. The multimedia department would make the trip down from Syosset to enjoy the salty air of their imperial stout or other delicacies, all rough for the price of a glass of water. And there were pitchers at Hungry Chucks and cascades of light and dark at McSorley’s. There was my friend Craig’s Gennysicles and then the receptionist’s retort to my friend Ian’s question about whether you could still buy beer after crossing back into North Carolina from South Carolina: “Can I still buy beer in this state?” “Son, in the state your in, you don’t need another beer.”
And Olde Sluggers from Cooperstown, beers in the backyard with friends. Perhaps most memorably etched when, after delaying the start of the service in order to get the right tap for the keg, I hold hands with my newly wedded wife and see a thousand smiles looking back at me, each guest with a draft in hand.
The Cuvee is a good enough beer, adequate for the penultimate in the experiment. I will need something more uplifting tomorrow.