Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale

Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – my wife and I took a day trip out to Lancaster, PA, with my mom, my brother and his wife. To be truthful, she wasn’t even D’Wife yet, just some chick I met in a bar; who lived in Jersey; whom I could mooch rides down to the shore with. The five of us were in my brother’s Crown Vic: Donna between me and Mom in the back; Jeff in front of me, at the wheel.

As we were returning on PA Rt 30., we passed one of those quintessential Amish buggies. The driver was in full “Witness” mode, with the back pants, blue shirt, suspenders and straw hat.

My mom, having seen the movie many times and spent an equal number of hours combing through Amish barns, looking for rare treasures, remarked, “That guy’s not married.”

“How can you tell?” Donna asked.

Jeff shot me a look in the rear view that said, with a roll of his eyes, “Here we go.”

“Well it’s easy. Amish men aren’t allowed to grow beard until they get married,” Mom explained.

“I heard something like that.” The hook has been set.

“Yes, they’re very strict about marriage, and sex. That’s why they’re always building barns.”

“Huh, I don’t get it.”

“Well, they believe – if ‘believe’ is the right word – that those activities should be kept outside, out of the purity of the home; since it’s kind of an ‘animal’ thing that you’re doing. So they have to do it outside.”

“I knew they were backwards, but come on.”

Jeff looked back again, “Mom’s reeling her in.”

“Now some families, just starting out, don’t have barns yet, so they have to go in the buggies. Have you noticed that there are two kinds of buggies? The ‘convertibles’ like that guy was driving are for single men, so the folks can keep an eye on him. The ‘hard tops’ are for married people, so they can have ‘alone time’.”

By this time Donna was at the rail; Mom had the gaffing hook ready.

“But just to keep everything ‘flowing’ throughout the community, they have to do it while the buggy is moving. You know they can’t have buggies stopped all over Lancaster County while people are screwing. It would be bad for the tourism, plus the traffic would be terrible. So, Donna, if you ever see a hardtop buggy, and it looks like no one is driving …”

The Gods of Coincidence smiled on us. At that exact moment, we passed such a vehicle. The driver was sitting well to the back, so it looked like it was on auto-pilot.

“Oh … my … God.,” Donna was equally fascinated, embarrassed and exasperated, “They’re …?”


Get the net.


Harrisburg is a little further west, down the Turnpike from Lancaster, but it’s great country, especially if you ride. Bikes (road or mountain), cycles (cruisers, choppers, or motocross), horses, it doesn’t matter, this is great riding country.

I first heard of Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, from an ad in DirtRag magazine. It’s really good, comparable to Magic Hat Blind Faith. It has a great rich amber color, a thick creamy head, not too fizzy. It has some nice orange, mango flavors, with a sharp hoppiness I always enjoy.

I had a couple after a wonderfully sloppy ride on my home trails. It was a nice warmer, after getting out of my cedar swamp water soaked and pine-needled gear.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

You could probably not think of a more unlikely place and time to find a Pink Floyd cover band than South Florida in the spring of 1987. Lightweight metal hair bands like Def Leppard ruled the day, even in muggy Broward County. Countless Bon Jovi wannabees had flocked down I-95 from Jersey to mooch a room in grandparents’ condo while they attempted to make their bones in the beach bar scene. The leather clad heavy metal crowd found the climate far too tropical for their tastes and returned to foggy London or San Francisco; while the girl-friendly, ripped T-shirt and jeans scene felt right at home and stayed. Guns ‘n’ Roses would blow the roof off in just a few short months. The flannel clad fuzz and shriek from rainy Seattle had not yet made its way southeast. The post-Grateful Dead jamband scene was far off on the horizon – Phish was still a quirky cover band playing frat parties at University of Vermont.

The mellowed out prog rock crowd couldn’t keep up with slick, smooth and fast Miami Vice stylishness.

Yet, that’s what I found myself doing, one slow Friday night … quietly enjoying the drone of “Pigs on the Wing” in a nearly empty upstairs room of a bar just off A1A. My new bartending friend, Barbara, and I let forth a continuous stream of ridicule for these poor guys, who wanted nothing more to do than to continue the legacy of Britain’s premier space rock band. Keeping the faith, while Roger Waters and David Gilmour mended fences. That, and make just enough cash to buy new trinkets at the next Dungeons and Dragons festival, or Star Trek convention.

Maybe, Doctor Who would have been more appropriate.

I had been there since happy hour. When the band opened their second set with “One of These Days,” I hadn’t noticed that the seat next to mine had been taken by an attractive young woman, with curly black hair and oversized glasses that gave her that girlish, nerdish Clark Kent look; the one that says, “I may look like I’m all business, but you just wait till we’re alone.”

“That sounds like the Doctor Who song,” she said leaning to my shoulder.

“Don’t tell me you watch Doctor Who?” I replied with a sour grin, “My last girlfriend always watched Doctor Who. That kind of ruined it for me.”

“You never forget your first Doctor. That’s what I’ve always said,” she responded, with a sly grin. I knew it. Clark Kent. “My name’s Cindy. I’m a Tom Baker.”

She held out a cigarette for me to light. I pulled out my trusty Delray Beach Yacht Club Zippo. Nine months earlier, I had used that lighter to light Keith Richards’s smoke at Live Aid. It was at that moment I realized that she reminded me of "Tegan Jovanka" an Australian airline stewardess and a native of Brisbane who was a companion of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, but you’d have to be a total geek to notice that.

“Randy. Tom Baker, too. Lori liked the white haired guy. Jon Pertwee. I can’t imagine why.”

“Delray Beach Yacht Club? You live down here?”

“Nah, I’m staying just over the bridge there. My grandparents used to live in Pompano. My grandpop was a member. My uncle lives in Boca. I’m from Philly.”

”Get out!!! I’m from Philly. Actually Levittown. Up I-95, near Trenton.”

“Oh, so you would probably watch Dr. Who, Saturday afternoons on Channel 12, then again Saturday night on Channel 23, the Jersey public station.”

“You got it. So what are you doing in the Sunshine State?”

“I gave up SEPTA for Lent, and I didn’t want to be tempted, so I got as far away as I could. How about you?”

“I took the R5 South and missed my stop.” Great sense of humor. This was working out well.

The next hour was filled with reflections upon the Flyers (we both were fans of hockey and the Flyers, more than the Eagles or Phillies), the Vet, shows we’d both seen at the Spectrum and Tower Theater. Each story came with an “I was there, too” revelation. Through the past five years I had lived in Philadelphia, our paths had crossed more than a dozen times, yet we had never met.

Midway through the next set, I went for it.

“Hey, um, like I said, I’m staying just over the bridge there, about halfway back to the beach. We could continue this research, over a couple beers, in a more intimate setting. Or we could walk on the beach. Or both.”

“Beach, then beer, then more beach.”

We stepped outside into a light rain.

“Let’s skip the beach,” she advised. Even though we were on foot, we still had to wait for the drawbridge. With the breeze coming off the beach and the festive lights on the party boat going by, I couldn’t help myself. I kissed her softly. She smiled.

“Thank you,” she whispered, “That was nice. The nicest since I’ve been down here.”

As we walked up the steps to my room, a shocking thought occurred to me.

“Of course, this being a hotel, the only furniture is a table & chairs, a loveseat and the bed.”

“That’s okay,” she assured me.

“I just didn’t want to get the wrong idea.”

“I didn’t. And just so you don’t – I’m not a hooker.” Her service industry black and whites had made that pretty clear, but it was good to have her tell me otherwise.

The door opened with a vault like heaviness that hotels doors have, then slammed shut with a resounding thud. I opened the sliding door to the balcony, to compensate.

“You keep a pretty tidy room, Randy, for someone living out of a suitcase.”

“Sorry, to say, I’m going back home Wednesday. I have to be back at work the following Monday. Again, I hope you’re not getting the wrong idea.”

“As a matter of fact, I’m returning soon as well; at the end of the month. So, it won’t be good bye. We should still make the best of our time.”

We sat on the balcony, watching the boats go by; listening to the rain, the geckoes and the crickets. The warm nighttime Florida spring shower created that musty, musky summer rain scent you can only find there, and once you smell it, you want every other thunderstorm to produce that aroma. Wherever you are.

Gradually the wind, which had been coming off the ocean, turned. The rain started to come into the balcony. We returned to the room. I opened another pair of beers. We snuggled together on the bed. I kissed her again. And again. We were falling for each other very quickly. I lowered my right hand from her breast. I slid it down the buttons of her white blouse to unsnap her black pants. I made an interesting discovery.

As unusual as a Pink Floyd cover band was in 1987, so was a belly ring.

I lowered my head to her stomach, surreptitiously to inspect the curious object more closely. At the last moment I nuzzled my nose and chin just south of her bikini line.

Oh, in case you’re wondering what kind of a beer review this is; consider this:

Brooklyn’s 2005-2006 Black Chocolate Stout tastes just like pussy, in all the best ways: Sweet, sour, creamy, nutty, smoky. It has a beautiful tan head, the kind of a tan Italian girls get when they move to Florida. Poured into a proper pint glass, it has a soft, rich, black body that conjures memories of a well maintained “playground” It has an aroma of pancakes, coffee, and ocean air.

We were together for eight months after she came back. We parted as good friends; we were just geographically incompatible.