From the Virtual Bar in the Global Village

Editor’s Note: We’re a bunch of guys who have one degree of separation from the publisher of these pages, Jerry Bowles. We’re scattered all around the world but we Bar Talk all the time as members of the Ancient Thespians, the club he founded in the early 90s. Some write on these pages and others have contributed their professional photography. As you read this, you may recall that Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestintroduced his fellow inmates to  the police as doctors when they were caught returning from their brief deep-sea fishing expedition. We too have gone to calling each other doctor, not necessarily for a different reason. Any typos in this post are intentional: it’s how we bar talk… without the hyperlinks.

Dr. Jerry: I propose that we meet at my place. It’s free, there are a couple of excellent single malts, some decent wine, and I’ll lay in a supply of my new favorite beer (flagged for me by Dr. Josh) called Dogfish Head 60 Minutes.

Dr. Josh: Dogfish 60 Minute is my go to beer. Followed closely by Anchor Steam, Red Tail Hawk Ale (from Medicino, California), Geary’s (from Maine) and Lagunitas from Petaluma, California, the arm-wrestling capitol of the world.

Dr. Stu: These days most of the mass produced brews are pretty bland backed by massive marketing budgets. Microbrews, craft beers, locally produced beers are the way to go…especially if import beers have to travel great distances. Quality control is just not there. I’ve tasted more Heines (hold the chuckles please) that were “skunky” because the shipment sat out in the sun somewhere (most likely at customs, awaiting release) and started a secondary fermentation in the bottle. If you’re curious about what this tastes like, microwave a beer and then refrigerate before tasting….yeccch…

Also, general rule of thumb, avoid beers in clear bottles as they likely contain hop extracts and/or other stabilizers to make the beer desensitized to light.

Lastly, given the consolidation in the beer industry, similar to the auto industry, some foreign beers in the US are actually domestically brewed. The only thing foreign is on the label. Case in point, Kirin which is brewed in Van Nuys, Calif at the Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery. And we all know how Miller destroyed Lowenbrau…

Dr. Eric: [Who lives in Brazil] Bud is now owned by the Brazilian international conglomerate AmBev, who market it dismally with violent bloodsport kickboxing in Brazil. It is the official beer of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Dr. Eric: As Dr. David might say, from Rolling Rock, to Rolling Schlock… now owned by InBev and brewed not far from your [Dr. Josh’s] old digs in New Yersey.

The father of Gust Avrakos, the US operator who helped fund and arm “Charlie’s War” was from the Latrobe area, and owned a Rolling Rock distributorship. The rich kids Pittsburgh kids who went to Shadyside and Kiski Prep drank Rock, the working stiffs quaffed Iron City and slid down burgers at Elbies.

Dr. David: Dang, Strohs! Fire-brewed from Detroit! Now you’re talking my lingo. College brew of choice for the right price.  Bud was a splurge! These days beer is like art. I don’t know what’s good… I know what I like.

Dr. E, you are spot on. Bud didn’t have to mess with the original “recipe,” but they did. Changed up the look of the brand and basically trashed it. To use your Jersey reference… it’s more like landfill rainwater…

Ah, Iron City! Still have a can when they went to a color scheme of gunmetal grey and brass casing bronze.

The brand that has been somewhat revived, and I was tickled to see it actually flourish, is PBR. They had a great “no-cost” below the radar marketing campaign in China, positioning it as a retro Americana brand… and it worked.

Dr. Josh mentioned Guinness which has managed to become one of my trusted go to libations. Asking a pretty wench to lick off the “Guinness foam mustache” is a fun conversation starter, but I’m sure Dr. Josh has known about this for quite some time… seeing as how he sports the real McCoy…

The Guinness Double Black Lager is pretty bitter and a bit strong, but worth trying if you haven’t already.

A few others that have been consistently pretty good: Pacifico, Negro Modelo, Alaskan Amber Ale, Fat Tire (Denver), Goose Island (Chicago).

Happy to hear of any other positive experiences with brands you’d recommend…

Dr. Tom (Stewart): One of the finer places in the world, Earl’s Beer & Cheese, opened recently two blocks from my apartment at 1259 Park Avenue [in Manhattan]. The two greatest charms of the place: what’s on tap and who’s behind the bar. The former consists of four microbrews, which change weekly, with an eastern bias (though the last time I was there I had an amazing Colorado hoppy amber something) and an excellent selection in cans–Abita, etc. The latter include the vivacious and adorable Emily (an actress) and the adorable and vivacious Dana (Wall Street workerbee by day, beer-puller of a Saturday). The food is awesome: I’m likely to order the beer cheese and (very gingery) tomato soup, but the cheddar cheese (wch comes with kimchee and a fried egg) is mindblowing.

The crowd is young. Below Saturday at 12:30, unusually sparse. At night, it’s packed. But since it holds maybe 20 people max, packed is a relative term

Manhattan doctors might arrange a rendezvous

Dr. Jerry: Put me in, coach.  Sounds like a Eliza at The Spotted Pig kind of experience, [an Englishish styled pub in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District @ 314 W. 11th Street].

Dr. Peter (Deutsch): Earl’s looks like a find! You will undoubtedly see me there sooner rather than later.

My contribution to the conversation is a local brewery in Elmsford, New York. Captain Lawrence makes an outstanding IPA, which I had recently. I will head up to Elmsford and check out the balance of their brews later this week.

The leading brands in the marketplace I find distasteful, regardless of their history and provenance. I can occasionally sip a cool Corona on a hot day, but otherwise I stay clear.

Dr. Eric: There is this Jamaica Stout one but I am not certain if it took over the old brand I used to know that sold in New York and S. Florida a while back and was good, before Shankman-style marketing kicked in 50 cint honey-nut, cinnamon chestnut overtones and light cocoa aftertaste over the palate and the rest of their fu-fu toffee nose bullshit.

There are a lot of trendy beers in this big beer market down here but all tricked out and Shakmanized up the ying-yang. Strohs got sold to Coors and then the road to perdition, so to speak. I drank it at Miami of Ohia when Bo Schembechler was telling his boys to beat up them anti-war Jewboy beatniks.Bo and Woody probably drank a lot of Burger, or maybe Gambrinus when it was still brewed in Columbus. Strohs had a dry taste, which appealed to me. And also sold 3.2 percent in Ohia.

I grew up on the small 8 oz bottle of Guinness with the numbers on them. My father showed me my first one the first time he showed me an Irish Sweepstakes ticket with that incredible engraving they used to do. Lot of Irish plumbers doing their bit in Cleveland.

Dr. Jim: When moviemakers filmed the We Are Marshall movie about the tragic plane crash that wiped out the MU football team (and a number of townspeople who were aboard), they correctly showed the students quaffing Falls City beer. The cans were white with the brand name enclosed in a red oval. The prop guys  found one or more real cans somewhere, then photocopied the label and pasted it on other cans to create the necessary number of “Falls City” cans for filming.

Yes, I attended a number of the late-night  “sessions” that Dr. Bowles references — so many that that I darn near flunked out and had to hang around campus for an extra year before collecting my diploma.

Last call.


About Author

Josh is an author, former blogger, media critic, x-Capitol Hill legislative aide and White House assistant, business consultant, idea marketing specialist, a squatter at the global village virtual bar and an alpine rock gardener where he lives in Woodstock, NY.