(Long stories are called that for a reason, so grab a drink and sit for a while)
So The Mr is in Minnesota this week and Memphis the next. More miles and even more bars and brews. Some less memorable, some more so, and then every now and then you hit the beer jackpot!
Last October found this traveling techie in Louisville, KY, for a trade show. On the last day, I went hunting for a beer unavailable in Charlotte — the Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. The Mrs had this lovely libation on tap in Virginia, where the drink regulations are less draconian (the 120 is often between 18 and 24%) and she came home singing its praises.
Armed with my trusty iPhone, I dialed numbers blindly from the Dogfish Head website while tearing down our booth. And what luck, someone had my beer just a few miles away! Since I was driving back home, a little detour wouldn’t hurt anyone. I’d be in and out in minutes, then on the road for a long drive home.
I had some trouble locating Sergio’s World of Beer, which is ironic for a world of beer, but after I followed the GPS directions, there was only one bar and a shop next door with Brazilian soccer flags in the window and a general unwelcoming appearance.
I walk into the bar, finding Pabst on tap — not “hipster” Pabst but rather the sturdy array of American adjunct lagers familiar to a rugged crew of working men. I ask if they have Dogfish Head, and you could almost hear the needle scratch. The kindly barmaid suggested that I inquire next door.
I walk to the front and see no opening.
I walk to the back and see this:
Well, daylight’s wasting, and a wise man once said that “no mother’s son or daughter ever got anywhere by being timid” … So the Mr went a knocking.
A busy stockman opened the door and welcomed me in. I asked for the 120, as I’ve got an 8 hour drive ahead and the sun is starting to sag in the afternoon sky. Instead, he beckons me to a beer cave of mythic proportion — and the non-chilled stock area is even larger.
Behold, this is no mere stockboy, but Sergio himself, and Sergio’s is no mere distributer but instead, he has over 1400 different beers for sale! (Yes, two zeros after the fourteen)
He tempts me with rare and collectible bottles, but I cling to my four pack of the 120, both for security and because if I let go, I’ll be able to reach my wallet and spend the mortgage payment.
Resolute as I am, he beckons to the front bar. “Do you like sour beers?”
Well, I’m just getting into them … I’ve tried the Rodenbach …
“Well then, you can’t leave without trying this — I have the only keg on this side of the world.” Hook, line, and sinker … How can a beer guy resist?
He directs me to an empty seat next to a older gentleman, the sort of distinguished regular that elevates discussion even if only by the asking. He’s brought beer magazines and printouts, and he’s presiding over a trio of bottles each new and foreign to this beer guy.
The beer bard fills me in on the Sergio backstory, as well as pointing out where the establishment has been listed in The Great American Ale Trail.
We talk for almost an hour, and my sour becomes more complex as it warms. I think now that I could unroll my sleeping bag in the corner … and have my mail forwarded … Except that I have to drive 8 hours home, oh yeah, I should stop drinking before I lose the will to leave
So with a audible sigh, I push away from the bar, and drag my mixed six out to the rental and point its nose home.
When I got home (the next day), the Mrs and I popped a 120 and slowly savored each sip. The rest went I to my “cellar”, as I call the area under the guest bed. We pulled out another two brews for celebrating New Years.
And recently, after returning from Mississippi, land of past and future, where my father was in and out of the ICU, having scared me more than a little, it seemed fitting to pour a pint in his honor. (He is recovering nicely, gentle reader, and in time will be back to raising a glass of his own) Some rites of passage are distinct points in time and some are progressions along a spectrum. When you find yourself reaching out to help a parent, instead of reaching out for help yourself … Well, after a long drive home with plenty of time to reflect, it was time to raid the cellar.
The Mrs and I chose a Dogfishhead Burton Baton and a World Wide Stout.
Were they luscious beers, where each sip makes you want to curl up in the glass? … Yes. Did I wish that I had bought out Sergio’s stock? Of course!
Many travel brews are forgettable, like a few local IPA’s that I’ve tried tonight. But some watering holes turn into wells worth returning to, and every now and then, you bring something home worth sharing.