Friday, July 6, 2007

The Session #5: Atmosphere

Atmosphere. This was a tough one for me because typically, I don't care that much about atmosphere when I'm drinking. Outside of a cool jukebox selection and a good beer list, I require little else from a drinking establishment. Why is that? Well, I think it's because I figured out that who I'm drinking with has more to do with my enjoyment than where I'm drinking it. So I decided to write about two of my longest running drinking partners and highlight a few of the memorable places we have shared a fine brew or three.

My Wife
I am fortunate that my wife has an adventurous palate and after a rocky start (she hated the first Sam Adams I bought for her) has developed a fine appreciation for craft brew, especially Imperial Stouts. We have drank all over the world, so here's the top five places I remember sharing a beer with her.

Manorbier, Wales
We stayed in a small B&B in this tiny village in 1997 that boasted little more than a ruined castle, an old church, access to the nearby cliffs and a tiny pub where we would end our evenings. They had Theakston's Old Peculier...on cask. Nothing like enjoying cask ale at a classic Welsh village pub with your girl.
Antwerp, Belgium
We arrived in Antwerp in the Fall of 1996 quite by accident and only because we were unable to find affordable lodging in Brussels. After stashing our backpacks, I dragged her out to the first promising cafe I could find. It was my first trip into Belgium and I was delighted to see that I could order a Duvel in a bar for the first time in my life (this was long before specialty beer bars had made an appearance where I lived...). She ordered a Kriek of some sort, they brought us our beers, each with it's own distinctive glass and I was in heaven.
Jacksonville, FL
The Fly's Tie was an Irish pub near Jacksonville Beach. You wouldn't think so but it had been decorated and furnished in such a way that it had a very authentic fell and the live Celtic music they featured didn't hurt things. We enjoyed many a night downing pints of Guinness, Black and Tan's and Snakebites in the early days of our marriage.
Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City is one of the most underrated cities ever. The old city is as beautiful as any place I have ever been. There are many cafe's with outdoor seating and we had the pleasure of enjoying some Blanche de Chambly outdoors on a cool Sunday afternoon in early May while all the bells of the various cathedrals pealed out around us. Awesome.
Munich, Germany
We got a little carried away with our Biergarten "crawl" around Munich, it was all so good. But my favorite place we found that day was one of the Augustiner biergartens with the traditional bench seating and the traditional sauerbraten for dinner. The big mugs of dunkelweizen we shared weren't bad either.


The first time I enjoyed a craft beer (called "microbrews" in the early 90's) it was with Dave and it was a Samuel Adams Boston Lager. We have been exploring beer together ever since (and before that really). Our careers and families have led us far away form each other, then back together and apart again but we always remain in touch, always share our beery experiences (among other things) and we will finally be taking the "Holy Grail" trip we have planned on for years (ever since I returned from my brief Belgian encounters 11 years ago), the Belgium trip this spring.

Morgantown, WV
While attending WVU in the early-90's we spent way too much time at the Nyabinghi Dance Hall, a bar/music venue. We saw many musical acts there; Rusted Root, Royal Crescent Mob, Rasta Rafiki, They Might Be Giants, Tooling For Bovines, The Blake Babies and countless others. However, one of the things I remember best was the night we figured out that we could get Genesee 12 Horse for the same price as Busch Light ($.75 a bottle) and that it was much, much better! Genesee 12 Horse was our beer of choice from then on. Nyabinghi has long since been gutted by fire and Genesee stopped making 12 Horse, revived it, then discontinued it again but both of them hold fond places in my heart to this day.
Alexandria, VA
I drank a lot of Guinness at one point and Ireland's Own was one of our regular hangouts. It's also long gone (President Reagan visited once or twice, a fact they promoted a lot but at the time it was a very popular place to go drink, listen to music and just generally have a good time. This was a staple location for Dave and I until I joined the Navy.
The Forks, ME
We camped on the Northern Outdoors property up in north central Maine, which, not so coincidentally, also housed a brewpub. But the best part of the drinking day was not spent inside the lodge drinking their beers (although the Magic Hole IPA and the Penobscot Porter are highly recommended) but back at out tent site, right on the banks of the Kennebec River, sipping the brown ale we had purchased growlers of earlier in the day straight from the Oak Pond Brewery in Skowhegan sitting by the campfire.
Rockland, ME
The Waterworks Pub in Rockland poured brews from the (now defunct) Rocky Bay Brewing Company including the wonderful Viking Plunder in the winter. Good brunch there too. Since Dave lived just north in Camden, this made a natural spot for the occasional pint. And the nearness to Rockland Harbor didn't hurt either.
Boston, MA
The first Beer Advocate Extreme Beer Fest in 2003 was the first beerfest Dave and I attended together and was a revelation to us both. Where else are you going to enjoy Cantillon Vigeronne, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Peanut Butter Porter and Seaweed Ale all in the space of a couple of hours. Jim Koch told us about his quest for "beer that burns" and Sam Caligione spoke about pairing beer with various musical acts. We overindulged. It was good.

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