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Oakes Weekly - March 25, 2004
SITTING IN A BAR WITH A BEER IN MY HAND
March 24, 2004
Hops are a powerful flavour. Indeed there are times when it seems unreasonable to brew without copious amounts of them. Right now the Belgians are eating hop shoots. I dig sautéed asparagus and fiddleheads so I bet I’d like to eat hop shoots. Right now, though, the hop flowers are dancing their crazy dance on my palate, spreading resiny bitterness and woody goodness wherever they go.
<P>The basement pub is dark and though I seek the solace of a corner on this aimless Tuesday night, I need more light so I can write. So waitresses crowd past with their plates of food and barside conversations remain within earshot. The walls are brick, the beer is not, and though construction infringes on their style the overall effect is still pretty cozy. Though this particular establishment is normally quite smoky, tonight it is not, despite being half-full. Oldies play on the stereo, and I’ve avoided the room with the television.
<P>One of the things that I love about the city are bars like this. Bars with character. Admittedly, the conversations at the bar don’t seem any more fascinating that those taking place and blander joints around the world, but the physical setting has the requisite charm. There are plenty of other noises to listen to if the conversation doesn’t cut it. There is, and I admit I say this with some sadness, a near constant whizzing of a cappuccino frother. Glasses clink and doors close. There is a guy not too far from me who looks miserable, like he’s been stood up and is just hanging on as the odds of her arrival gradually reduce to zero. His world just improved, as she arrived on cue the very second I finished writing that sentence. He’s already forgiven her lateness.
<P>Thoughts turn to outside the bar. There’s only so many corners into which the mind can wander within these walls, and quite frankly one of the great things about minds is that unlike bodies, they are not restricted by physical impediments. I find that what I think about while I drink changes with setting and company. At home by myself it’s music or food or travel or other such unadulterated indulgences. With my amis de bière I expend much energy discussing beer. May as well, I figure, since I can hardly discuss the hierarchy of Californian imperial stouts with my grandmother.
<P>With old friends I talk about old times. The stuff we don’t already know is dismissed as easily as “What’s new with you?”
<p>”Not much. Yourself?”
<P>”Same old, same old.”
<P>And then we talk about “the days”. I feel old when I drink with old friends and talk about old times.
<P>Alone in a bar, I generally don’t talk, unless the place has particularly good craic, which can be rare around Toronto. I’m pretty sure the conversations around me do not qualify as good craic, and I don’t really mean any offense to the participants when I say that. I’m sure most people would be bored by a lot of my conversations. “What’s new with you?”. “Not much, yourself?” “Same old, same old.”
<P>Word on the street is, spring is here. Early spring is tough sledding, and not just for sledders. Is there a better season to brew your own than late winter/early spring. The weather is plenty cold still, with warm teases cruel. In the stores, barley wine fever is a thing of the past and the summer beers are still well on the horizon. Warm weather for some of us is in fact nothing but fleeting hours of cruel tease. Beer festivals are few and far between.
<P>Fantôme is good. But they don’t have that here. A nice IPA will have to suffice. Remember the days when the best beer bar in town didn’t even have a decent IPA? I do. I really want a Denison’s. They don’t have that here, either. But I know a place not too far away that does. Giddy up.
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