Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aloha Toilet! A beer tasting with friends from Hawaii.

Many years ago, my good friend, the BZA and I were having a heated argument over milk, his use of the term “Vitamin D Milk” as opposed to “Whole Milk,” when he stormed out of his apartment and never returned.  It’s ridiculous really, because all milk has Vitamin D in it - so calling it Vitamin D milk isn’t being very specific, now is it?  And since when do we name things by their vitamin content - “Vitamin C OJ” just sounds silly - is there a milk that exists without Vitamin D? - that would be the only way I would concede this argument. 

I later learned that he moved to Hawaii to end a separate feud that had been brewing for some time between he and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  You see, what had happened was that both the BZA and I had sent the Dog self-addressed stamped envelopes in hopes of getting a signed photo in return.  We were 26.  Months passed and no photo came.  The BZA had a reputation of fighting injustice and the BZA had had enough, rightfully so.  The Dog essentially had stolen from us - our stamps, our envelopes, our innocence - the BZA had gone to take them back - take them all back.

So this past October, after about 5 years, the BZA and his family were finally making a trip back to the Mainland.  It was like a reunion show of  your favorite sitcom - like that season of Curb - only better because we were the stars.  The plan was as follows - Pony P and I were going to meet up with the BZA on a Thursday night, have a little beer tasting party with choices selected by yours truly, and then Friday we were headed to NYC with Fox and the Mrs. BZA for a nice day of getting the old gang back together.

I went to Wegman’s and thoughtfully selected a mix of different brews.  I started with Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton. I had recently had this and really enjoyed it and thought that while it may be a little intense for someone not accustomed to the craft beer world, it was a must try.  I then went for Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, another intense beer but still something that I thought was a must try and would make for interesting comparisons to the Burton Baton.  Unfortunately for us, there was no Arrogant Bastard to be found on the shelves, only the Double Bastard.  I threw caution to the wind and got that instead even though I had never had it. 

My next thought was to stay in the realm of hoppy beers but take it down a notch from the Bastards and Batons and just get a regular IPA.  I went with Blue Point’s Hopitical Illusion, for several reasons: I had tried a few other Blue Point brews and found them all to be respectable and tastey, I wanted to get an IPA that I hadn’t yet tried myself, it was brewed in New York - which was the state we were headed to the following day, and it had a catchy name.  Finally, this beer tasting was happening in the state of New Jersey so I wanted to represent the Garden State and did so with some Flying Fish Oktoberfish.  I had read some mixed reviews on this, but wanted to give it a try and also wanted to have a non-hoppy option just in case.  With the beers for the tasting purchased, I picked up Pony P and we headed east.

Now here it must be stated that I am creature of habit.  Also, it should be stated that I am used to driving alone.  One of my habits that I partake in while driving alone is my morning ritual of eating a Sargento Mozzarella Cheese Stick on the way to work - I call this particular ritual “Italian breakfast”. 

Once the cheesestick is consumed, a second ritual commences which involves me folding the cheesestick wrapper in fours, a quad-fold if you will, and then tucking said quad-folded wrapper into the rim of my cup holder.  Over time, as my quad-folded garbage collects and eventually completely surrounds my cupholder (forming a perfect circle of morning memories, which I lovingly refer to as my crown of cheese wrappers), a third ritual is set into motion in which I must stop at Dunkin’ Donuts after work for an iced coffee and a turkey bacon cheese flat bread sandwich.  This third ritual’s impact on my life is two-fold - it rewards me for my accumulation of evidence of healthy snacks, and therefore healthy living, as well as provides my with a bag (the same bag that my flat bread sandwich came in) to transport all of my cheese wrapper trophies from my car to the garbage can in my kitchen.  I once tried this maneuver without said bag and it was disastrous - you have no idea how much potential energy exists in a perfect circle of quad-folded plastic.  There were cheese wrappers everywhere.  Now the only reason I tell you this is because on our way to the BZA, Pony P accidentally unleashed some of this fury by bumping my cupholder.  Once again, there were cheese wrappers everywhere, the order of the universe was disrupted, and we immediately hit stand still traffic on I-78.  Nice Job Pony. 

Eventually we made it to the BZA, and beer drinking began.  We started with Stone's Double Bastard Ale (11.2% ABV) - an American Strong Ale.  It was potent - boozy, hoppy, and almost syrupy with the sweetness of caramel.  The low carbonation and sweetness was slightly off putting after a few sips.  Not quite what I hoping for considering the absolute joy that Stone‘s Arrogant Bastard had provided me with.  Apparently, we were not worthy - not that we despised it or anything, but no one wanted a second pour. 

Next we went for the Dogfish Head's Burton Baton (10% ABV).  This is just delicious.  Dogfish takes their 90 Minute IPA and then separately brews an English style Ale and then they mix the 2 together and let it age and an oak lined tank.  This creates a nice hoppy, complex flavor that you would never think is 10%.

With a nice buzz starting to happen and the conversation flowing, we cracked open a few Hoptical Illusions by Bluepoint Brewing(6.8% ABV).  This was like child’s play after the Double Bastard and Burton Baton.  It went down real easy, which was the desired effect I was looking for.  Everyone enjoyed this - nice and hoppy with enough of a crisp citrus flavor and pine smell that it still had some bite on our washed out palettes. 

By the time we got around to the Flying Fish's Oktoberfish (5.5% ABV), it just didn’t have enough going on to even register with us.  In hindsight, we should have started with this first to give it a chance.  I did try it again a few weeks later and it was okay.  Nothing great, very malty, but I’m not that big of a fan of Oktoberfest style beers, not yet anyhow.

So we called it a night.

The next morning, I woke up sore form sleeping on a couch and with a substantial headache.  Whatever.  I drank a coffee, took shower, and we all prepared to leave for NYC.  Usually a shower and a coffee is all I need to get moving.  However, this particular morning, moving was getting more difficult with each passing minute.  So I asked BZA for some Tylenol or something.  He offered Excedrin.  I passed.  Then another minute went by and I changed my mind and took 1 Excedrin.  This was a bad choice.

About five minutes passed while we waited for Pony P to detangle his pony tail and velcro up his shoes.  During this five minutes, my body began the rather quick process of rejecting itself and all things inside it.  My nose started running.  My palms started sweating.  My heart stared to dribble my stomach like a basketball.  Like all things, this too shall pass, but I thought it might be best to let it pass in the bathroom. 

Just as I got to the toilet, my face exploded into a raging river of brown demon juice.  So this is projectile vomiting, I thought.  If Craig T. Nelson in Poltergeist 2 had sex with Niagara Falls, I was their baby.  But as quickly as it started, it was over.  About 7 seven seconds and 17 gallons of hate later and I felt pretty good all things considered.  I had managed to get most of my event into the toilet, but their was some minor residual damage - so I wiped that up with a paper towel, threw it in the toilet and flushed one last time for good measure.  And then it happened - the toilet malfunctioned.  Once again, it was me versus the toilet, a battle I had been fighting and losing since a very young age.

The water kept rising.  I said a prayer. 

The water stopped with about a centimeter to spare.

Disaster averted.

I breathed a huge sigh relief and looked for a plunger.  And then my stomach did a somersault.  I knew that feeling - like my bowels were about fall out of my body - and I knew I had maybe five minutes to get this toilet situation straightened out so that I could sit down on it and put it to use. 

And then a knock at the door, perhaps it was a toilet angel?  Nope, it was Pony P.  I opened it and asked where the BZA was.  Pony P said BZA was outside.  I told Pony to please go get the BZA as we had a slight situation.  The BZA arrived promptly and we examined said situation.  I explained what had happened and what was about to happen.  His advice - “Just flush it again, It’s a Kohler.”  It was, so I did.  Those commercials are complete bullshit.

The toilet overflowed.  BZA ran out of the bathroom to find a plunger and a mop.  I simply ran out of the bathroom and shut the door.  I waited for the BZA there.  He came back and handed me the necessary tools and I went to work.  I plunged, I mopped, I did a test flush, and then I punished that toilet with everything I had. 

I looked bad and I felt even worse.  My shirt was heavy and there was a little bit of vomit on my shoe.  And a day trip to NYC was on the line.  So I drank a root beer, took some Imodium, and got in the car knowing that the worst case scenario was that I would feel like hell the whole trip and probably crap my pants while passing gas and have to overpay for new pants and underwear in Manhattan. 

Luckily for all involved, I gradually felt better and eventually even had some beers - I started with a Brooklyn Lager.  I do not like this beer.  Does anyone?  People must, because it for sale all over the place in New York.  Then we found a place that had Arrogant Bastard, and that made everything right in the world. 

A great time was had by all - we had some great food, some not so great food, and I got Wife some knock off purses.  I miss my Hawaiian friends.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Big Honor, Big Merit, Big Can, Big Sur...Narragansett

I am currently reading Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, which I realize might be slightly cliché but I am a big fan of some of his books, not necessarily the obvious ones but maybe, and I have always wanted to read this one and just never got around to it.  So I am finally getting around to it and in honor of my experience with the book I am writing this post in the style of the Big Sur/Kerouac (specifically, that is very long sentences with lots of commas and dashes, few periods, and some parenthesis and mumbo jumbo every once and awhile).

The alley wind is against me, dark and downhill, whistling memories, and I smirk and squint me way to Steve’s house to meet up with Henry the Third, who is actually only a second!, for some dice games, beers, and dark one-liners that manage only to brighten the soul - “Nice shirt, Paul Bunyan” - and the ladies are asking “what’s everyone laughing at” - Another roll of the dice and Henry continues to lose, but only at dice, because as his turn ends and Steve’s turn begins  -- and turns are taking turns in every small college town during the off season (which is the season when the streets get calm and lamps get brighter and sidewalks seem a little wider - for the old heads, anyway - so Henry takes a little longer running to his car) -- he is like Father Christmas with a holiday five pack of some beer that moves around in tall cans with words like honor and merit being projected from the cans and the table we are sitting at, rolling dice, drinking beers, and “so what is new in New England” -  “Narragansett” the ironic beer of choice for hipsters and those aspiring to be, like Pabst but regional and not as tasty - “but it’s good, like a cheaper version of Yeungling Lager” - and Steve may have spit a little at that line, “People with beards or moustaches (and sometimes both) drink this all time in Amherst” - A can gets cracked and it tastes like sparkling factory water after the Bell’s Amber I had started the night with (which was no Asian princess, or anything memorable for that matter, the Amber, not the night), I look again at the can and pronounce like I am reading from stone tablets “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit, LAGER” and realize that this can has a look, a look that makes me want to put my scarf back on, a look that makes my hand look like Pacino’s in that movie where his dad is fat and dies and he gets real powerful, a look that I will remember when I am moaning into my pillow begging pregnant Wife to get me some Advil, a look that while I may curse the pain I will still think “well, that’s a good looking can” - And a good looking can it was, tall with slogans, like a picture of a Russian soldier next to a war poster circa 1945.

The cans looked so good I was saving them for New Years because half the point of drinking Narragansett is that somebody sees you drinking Narragansett, this is not sit at home and sip beer unless you are snapping pictures with your phone of your hand holding a Narragansett can with your other hand and then uploading for all your friends to see - Regardless! - Henry would be gone by then so bringing in the new year with beer from Henry was as close to bringing in the new year with Henry as I was going to get - So Wife and I walk to a party thrown by some of the local misfits, keeping up the proud tradition, and things start off slow - there were orange suede shoes, tin foil shirts (actually, only one), and at one point a pair of Asian girls giggling in the corner - the lighting, not the Asians, made it feel like this party should have had some karaoke, but it didn’t which made me realize this party was the exact negative of the party scenes from Lost In Translation, which would explain the absence of Bill Murray - who I love - and Scarlett Johansson - who I believe, yes!, I love more than Bill Murray - but the margin is slimmer than even I may assume - either way, the ball has dropped and Wife kissed and the can is in hand and my hat and scarf are on because the theme of the party is Euro-Trash and the house itself is rather cold, although not as cold as my first sip - no, it was a ggguullppp - of beer for the new year -- a pale yellow universe with spheres of clear crisp worlds that house more pale yellow universe filled with smaller spheres of clear and as the night, and the can, moves on and down those round worlds of yellow clear get smaller and smaller, one inside the other until on one of those spheres is a house with a party and a chair and a man sitting there so small sipping even smaller yellow universes (un-inverses) with even smaller clearer spheres to the point that on the last sphere exists the last house with the last party and chair and that last man is so small that life and space and time are created new with every blink - because that is how small his eyes are - explosions of new everything, not just new year, to fill the nothing that wasn’t there for the millions of years it took for tiny eyelids to crash together.

It’s getting late and I’m talking to a rockstar about the secret art space and asking if an old friend had a good time last time he was there - I was told he did - and I was paid some nice compliments to start the new year and was asked about what I was drinking and I showed and told them “It’s New Years - does it matter if it’s good?”