Friday, March 27, 2009

Beer crates

Remember the old wooden beer crates or at least the heavy cardboard ones that were reusable and that you returned your bottles in? Can they be had anywhere?

The Gibbons Box

My Dad's always been both a thinker and a doer.

I think it's unusual to find that in a single person.

He usually ponders something for a while--sometimes over a beer (Gibbons when they still had it, do they still have it?--it was cheapest) at the old Sittn' Bull now Spencer's Western Cafe in Fairmount township--then does it. Things most people would not think a second about doing themselves, he takes on.

If it's something new he's never done before, and it doesn't come out exactly right, still, it always works. And if not exactly as he sees fit, he trys again and perfects it until he's satisfied.

He should've been an Inventor but could've been anything.

Which leads me to the Gibbons Box.

Back in the day when the only shed you had in the back yard was one you put together yourself out of whatever old used lumber and scraps you had around, he decided he needed something to store stuff in--lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, garden tools, and stuff like that.

Knowing the limitations of a wooden framed shed and how long it might last, he thought there must be something better. But I'm only guessing at his reasoning.

So somehow, somewhere, he found someone with the box off the back of a Gibbons beer delivery truck. I wish I had a picture of that, but I still can see it in my mind's eye. It was wooden framed, but covered by a thin layer of sheet metal on top and on the three sides. Come to think about it, perhaps it wasn't metal on top but a canvas material that was coated with Aluminized paint. That's how old it was.

At what would have been the back of the truck were two swinging doors with iron hinges and an ample latching mechanism. The back doors opened into a wooden-floored, wooden-sided space maybe 10 feet deep and 5 feet wide, not unlike what the inside of the box on a U-Haul truck might look like. Just with wood instead of metal.

On the outside was the familiar red Gibbons logo and lettering, painted on mind you, this was way before decals.

So he got the box and got it to the house, I don't know how, but my Mom was abhorred by it as almost any Mother would be, a Mother trying to keep things neat amid a constant disastrous mess made by five boys. She must've said something along the lines of ``I don't want to see that thing around here, get it out of my sight.''

So it ended up back in the woods a little ways off from the house. All you could see of it during the summer were the back doors which faced the big yard adjoining the house.

Me and someone came close to death at that Gibbons Box one day. A situation transpired that happens around farms from time to time--you read about them. I haven't thought about it for a long time, so I won't write about it here just yet. But we survived.

The Gibbons Box lasted a long time until I moved away and went in the Army. At least that long. I've been over that way, but I don't notice it anymore. I wonder if it's still there.

Very cool Beer Can Photo Collection

A devoted reader of this blog sent me a link to a very cool beer can photo collection.

These definitely bring back memories of an earlier and simpler time, don't you think?

Phoenix METRO

On my recent visit to Phoenix, I was able to ride and experience first-hand the METRO light rail system.

The system planning began around the year 2000, spearheaded by the mayor, and cost 1.2B to plan and construct. The entire system opened for operation, at once, in December 2008.
The east and west tracks run side-by-side for most of the system, in the median or on the shoulder of city streets. In the downtown section, the tracks separate so as not to congest the streets. The tracks crossover near each terminal at east and west ends of the system to prepare for the return trip. A spare train is available beyond the east and west terminals in case any of the trains break down. There are plans for future growth to the west of downturn, and a spur into the airport.

There are a total of 28 stations in the system with stops at the major points of interest: the stadium and science center in the downtown, the cultural and arts district, near the zoo and botanical gardens, the Arizona State University campus, and residential areas of Tempe and Mesa to the east. Free park and ride lots are offered at quite a few of the stations. 10 minutes between trains is advertised and about what I experienced. End to end time is variously listed as 50 to 60 minutes, but I can't vouch for that.

The trains are powered electrically by overhead wire, consist of two cars each and appear to be Japanese in design and manufacture, but I may be wrong on this. A bicycle icon on the outside of one of the cars, leads bike riders to the doors that give immediate access to a cordoned off portion of a car where bikes may be hung. The remainder of the cars offer comfortable seating for perhaps 60 riders each.

Each station has been designed and constructed with an eye to making the wait and riding experience pleasant. There is seating available for a small number of waiting riders, unique artwork to please the eye, and water fountains to quench. There is a minimal gap between the platform and car for safety.

The system is very inexpensive to use. I was able to ride all day for $2.50 with unlimited stops. Talk about a bargain! Single ride tickets are available for $1.50 and monthly passes are available for $45.00. Here's the unique part: you purchase your ticket via kiosk and there are no turnstiles or ticket-takers before you board the train! Nor are there any conductors on the train to check your ticket! The system is run on the honor system but subject to random checking by transit officers. In the entire day I rode, I had my ticket checked just once near the downtown area. Very interesting idea--I suppose the revenues lost due to the number of riders without tickets, is less than the cost to provide conductors or turnstiles.

The system seems to be well-liked and well-used. Each train was full or almost full when I rode at different parts of the day, in and out of rush hour. I spoke with some senior citizens, and a business man and they expressed that it's been a success. There were some lamentations, however, about discussion to raise ticket prices.

The city of Phoenix and surrounding cities certainly have a treasure in their METRO light rail system! I'm a bit of a rail advocate, and this seems to be the way it should be done: free parking at park and ride stations, bike-friendly accommodations, unique artwork at every station to make the waiting interesting, and low-cost. What more could one possibly ask for?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

There's Something Brewing in Phoenix and it isn't Sun Tea!

This reporter and his fearless sidekick S and sometime sidekick Z dropped into the Valley of the Sun last weekend to visit the University of Advancing Technology, a college that Z may be attending in the fall. Coincidentally, we doubled-down on this visit which gave ample opportunity to explore the city and its environs in our quest for the Master Race of Beer. Or at least a few descendants.

Mill Avenue in Tempe is a pleasant restaurant/shop/nightclub area located along the north boundary of Arizona State University (ASU). (For those taking the METRO light rail system, the Mill Avenue/3rd St. station will get you here.) Our first pause to refresh is at the chain brewpub Gordon Biersch on 5th St. perpendicular to Mill Avenue. You may be asking yourself who or what is Gordon Biersch? Well, Gordon Biersch isn't a single person but the first and last names of their two founders Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch. It's hard not to wonder if Dean's last name is made up, but no, that's his real last name.

Advancing through the front doors, a stairway leads to a landing half-way up that splits the possible beer outcomes into bar and dining room wins. To the left, the dining room and to the right, the bar. We decide to grab lunch so opt for the dining room.

Frankly nothing on the regular beer menu yanks my chain enough to choose it, but on a separate menu I spot a seasonal Dunkelweizen which arrives in the correct 0.5l weizen glass. The color, aroma, and head are spot-on. The flavor is OK but lacks the banana/clove/malt punch I am expecting and last experienced in One Guy Brewing's Dunkel Weizen. However, this style does allow for many unique interpretations and since it is a hot day of 90 degrees (but it's a DRY heat!), it did go down mighty well with a BLTA (Bacon Lettuce Tomato and Avocado) sandwich and garlic fries (excellent). The beer menu also proffers a Reinheitsgebot-friendly Marzen, Hefeweizen, Czech Pilsner, and a Export Lager which S orders, and I try, and declare just dandy.

After a trip out to the edge of the desert to tour the eclectic Mystery Castle, a thirst anew reaches a crescendo and we set a course for the heart of the Sun, the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewing Co. We are in-between lunch and dinner so this is just a quick stop to sample one or two of their beers. This place is a high-ceilinged brewpub with a cool layout. The dining room is an ell around the bar which is along the side wall to the back right on entry.
Behind the back bar is a wall with windows offering a clear-headed view of the 16 bbl Serving Wessels. Neatly, stenciled on the serving tanks, are the proper conversions to gallons (496) and pints (3968). That's a lot of beer. The tanks also employ a handy gauge that shows at a quick glance, just how long the drinkers have until despair sets in. I choose the Desert Trail Pale Ale which is just right and reminds me of a better version of my own A.P.A (Amarillo Gold). I am astounded by how easy it goes down, and I noticed that I have a five-ring lacing thirst--that explains it! S selects the Dream Catcher Light Lager which I have a sip of. This is perfect for this sort of beer and a nice intro to craft brewed beer. S isn't really a newbie anymore, but still stays to the easier drinking brews (although she will try a sip of what I'm drinking).

The next day we have some time in the afternoon and set out on the METRO light rail system to see if we can find the Four Peaks Brewery. We get off at the Mill Avenue station and walk down Mill Avenue looking for East 8th Street, but where 8th should have been, there lies University Drive and 9th St. beyond that. We meet a ASU prof sauntering along, who sort-of knew we are in the right area but thought that we have to go maybe 13 blocks south to find East 8th St. We started, then backtracked to the METRO thinking the better of a walk to perhaps nowhere. It was then we discover a map which shows 8th St. picking up beyond ASU's southern boundary. We get back on the METRO eastbound at the Mill Avenue/3rd St. station and proceed to the University Drive/Rural station where we disembark and spot East 8th St. just behind the station to the south. A 10 minute walk transports us to a brick Mission Style building housing the Four Peaks Brewery.

Alfresco dining, front doors open, curtains a-flutter, ceiling fan a-twirling. Inside we are greeted by a cavernous structure (formerly a creamery) with a G shaped bar in front of us and the brewery behind that. The building is an iron-trussed behemoth, perhaps 50 feet wide and 150 feet long. Behind the back bar to the right is a wall devoted to displaying their gold medals achieved at various festivals, of which there are many of great significance including World Beer Cup Gold, Silver and Bronze. Oh. This is a real brewery and their beers are available in bottles at other locations.

We grab two of the very few available stools at 4:30, and check out the beer menu. My focus is drawn to the Hop Knot IPA® like a vulture to road kill but wanting not to be tied to just one style, ponder the mystery of broadening my beer horizons, and lean towards the Kilt Lifter® Scottish-style Ale coming in at a sweet 6.0% ABV instead.

I haven't written here before if memory serves me correctly (and it probably does not), of my surprise liking of Scottish Ales. Let's see, I have tasted a Bullfrog Brewery Scottish at Elmer Sudds back in the winter, which I thought was swell. More recently, I sampled the Belhaven Scottish Ale which was a beer of the month selection. In both cases, with this style, I have found another beer with a profile which heartily agrees with my taste. The Kilt Lifter is no different, and I savor its lift to my sails as I allow this fine malt feast to grace my senses. I believe that this ale is lower in ABV than either of the previous two trys.

I follow this up with the house beer, the 8th St. Ale® from a cask. This pours at just the right temperature--an unfiltered wholly excellent special bitter. Just a little hop flavor with robust caramel malt to balance it out. This quickly leads to the final beer of the day here, just as Happy Hour commences. A Sunbru Kölsch it shall be! Very light, very drinkable, and true to form. I could drink many of these and enjoy every minute of them.

Four Peaks Brewery is a very cool place to grab a great beer (or two). There is a good vibe and they play great music (at least they were when we were in). There was a constant stream of servers to the bar to pick up and serve beer to tables in the restaurant. You will not go wrong visiting. I highly recommend it.

Sonora Brewhouse is located to the northeast of downtown and this is a mighty fine place where I am able to catch a quick beer on Saturday afternoon. This brewpub has a semi-circular bar in one corner of the room which is well-inhabited by what appears to be many knowledgeable beer drinkers discussing brewing, brewpubs breweries and the like. A nice well-rounded selection of their beers are available on tap--theres seems to be one for every taste, even including a Cream Ale! How often do you see that! I am in a hurry so I point to the Trooper I.P.A. and ask for one, please. This turns out to be a well-made I.P.A. with just the right amount of juice to make me want another. The Sonora Brewhouse also serves food but I didn't have any this time. Make sure you go around the back to see the mural.

Four Peaks Brewery, Sonora Brewing Company, Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch.

These local places/beers were not located (but we tried!) Old World Brewery and Papago Brewing. While not a place per se, I saw an ad for Odell Brewing Company's 5 Barrel Pale Ale which was intriguing, implying five hop additions at five stages of the brewing process. My quest to find this beer, however, was unfulfilled and will have to wait until the next visit. (Upon return home I learned that some bars on Mill Avenue carry this beer on draft.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hail to the New Prez American P.A.!

It appears to be a long time a comin' but it's finally here. Got to speak out to the masses on this.

Totally independent swill drinkers can vouch for this brew as being the best so far of my fledgling attempts to create the next great American P.A.

This brew rawkes!
You nailed the finish this time!
You should give this away!
You should sell this!

And my homage to the Atomic Punk I.P.A.

New Prez APA

Date: 1/4/2009
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 3.25 gal
Brewer: Tazio
Boil Time: 60 min
Water: Glen Summit Springs

6.0# Munton's Light Extract
3.3# Pale Liquid Extract
1.0# Crystal Malt (steeped 20 min at 65.5 degrees C, sparged w/1 qt 65.5 degrees C)

Bittering Hops
.50 oz Cascade (60 min; pellet; 5.5%)
.50 oz Amarillo Gold (60 min; pellet; 8.5%)
1.50 oz Simcoe® (60 min; pellet 13.00%)

First Wort Hop
.75 oz Cascade (15 min; pellet; 5.5%)
.50 oz Amarillo Gold (15 min; pellet; 8.5%)
.50 oz Simcoe (15 min; pellet; 13.00%)

Irish Moss
1.00 tsp (10 min)

Aroma Hop
.25 oz Cascade (1 min; pellet; 5.5%)
.50 oz Amarillo Gold (1 min; pellet; 5.5%)
.25 oz Simcoe (1 min; pellet; 13.00%)

1 pkg Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)

4 days at 68 degrees F

Secondary Fermentation
8 days at 68 degrees F

Dry Hop in Secondary
1.50 oz Cascade (my whole flower; est. 4%)
.50 oz Cascade (pellet; 5.5%)
.50 oz Amarillo Gold (pellet; 8.5%)
.75 oz Simcoe (pellet; 13.00%)

1 1/4 cup extra light Munton's DME

Measured O.G.

Measured F.G.

Est. ABV

62.9 IBU

About $75.00

Tasting Notes
It cleared up nicely--better aroma but still not that punch in the nose I was looking for--great head--nice hop/malt balance. Very drinkable.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I was out in the yard drinking in the detritus of a long winter and for no reason at all my thoughts wandered to my Grandfather D...

Oldsmobile, Toronado. Front wheel 1972...Er, in an American car?

It's a Friday night and we've gone to Dalo's in Berwick for their fantastic square pizza...Come back and park in the driveway and listen to the Phillies on AM radio...

Wake up Saturday morning and share the remaining pizza...

Summer day, hot as Hades--go to visit--where's Grandpa? He's down in the cellar (no basements back then, it's a cellar!). Lift the wooden cellar door, cool air hits me in the face as I descend--there he is! Sittn' on a chair, relaxing....Carling Black label man! Grammie didn't like him drink'n beer so he went in the cellar to drink...

Garage. 55 gallon drums--filled with empty broken Carling Black label bottles.

Wait! Did I really call him Grandfather or was it something else? Damn! I don't remember! It's really a shame that we forget those of our ancestors and the heritage they left in their wake in their short time here.

It was Grand Dad.

Glen Summit Springs Water Profile

S kindly asked for a Glen Summit Springs water profile and here it is for all you home brewers out there. This is from the report for Q1, 2008.

Calcium: 8.1 ppm
Magnesium: 2.1 ppm
Sodium: 2.0 ppm
Sulfate: 11.0 ppm
Chloride: 4.6 ppm
Bicarbonate: 12.0 ppm
PH: 5.74

Believe Me When I Tell You!

A lot of what I read, especially about personal finance, consists of articles online that seek to convince me that something is true or false. For example check out these headlines from actual articles: Five Stock Market Mistakes to Avoid Now! or When Your Stock Price Drops, What Happens to the Money? or this one: The Perils of Herding to Cash.

When I see a headline like this, the first thing I always ask myself is who wrote this and/or what does this company do, what are they interested in (put bluntly, how do they make their money), or who are they aligned with or working for? Funny thing is that I was not always this way.

While I'm all-in in terms of the free exchange of ideas, I do weigh who's expressing these ideas as I read them.

Is objectivity lost? Was it ever there? Is it important or not?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Drinking Guinness `n a 4-leaf clover--At Home

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Are you sitt'n at home wit yer Irish Lass (or Lad as the case may be) tonight sipp'n a Guinness?

I heard on The Closing Bell this afternoon from the CEO of Diageo (owner of among other things, the Guinness brand) who commented on the fact that they're seeing people entertaining at home instead of at the pub. Presumably because of the economy.

In this the 250th anniversary year of Arthur Guinness' brewery, wherever ye at, let's raise one to `im and his fabulous gift to us.


Saturday, March 14, 2009


So. I found myself in Savannah with five choices for how to get home. I could fill in the hitch-hike-home box, and never get there. I could take a bus and perhaps get back in a week. I could take a plane and be home in a few hours. I could take a train and hmm who knows when I'd get home. Or more likely, I could be forced into some odd combination of all these. I ended up taking the combination of first train, then bus, and automobile.

L dropped me off at 10:00 P.M. at the Savannah Amtrak Station. After I picked up my boarding pass from a self-service kiosk ala the airport, I learned that the train was not to leave until later. So, I waited in a pleasant waiting room with other passengers: families, individuals, and college students going on Spring Break. I boarded the Silver Star and settled into my coach class seat, about 12:30 A.M. Friday morning. The train had sleeper rooms if so desired at the front of the train, a dining room, cafe or lounge car in the center and coach class seating cars at the rear. Coach class seating was equivalent to business class seating on an airplane to give you an idea of the amount of space available in a seat. I didn't venture into or eat in the dining car nor observe the occupation levels in the sleeper cars.

It's been almost 30 years since I rode Amtrak my first and last time and frankly I wanted to experience it again. It didn't have much if anything to do with going green, even though Amtrak's on-train magazine Arrive informs us that taking a train is 21% more efficient than taking a car and 17% more efficient than taking a plane, on a per-passenger-mile basis. And since it's about to receive more taxpayer largess, I'd like to describe my experience and intersperse some opinion. It's not black and white in my mind as to whether more support is warranted--but from my experience, I think it's needed. I'll try not to argue for or against but just comment on the idea.

What is good, really GOOD, about taking a train? Well for one, you have an opportunity to meet people. I'm not one to talk about that ancient thing called meeting and chatting, as I spend way too much time in front of a computer for my work and personal pursuits. These are very solitary endeavors, i.e. I don't interact directly, face to face with other people much. But on a train you have people on all sides, from different places, each carrying different bits of news and ideas.

The lounge car is the central meeting place on the train--it's a comfortable, spacious place with tables and booths, and a little underused to my observation. It's a place you can walk to, get a snack and refreshment, and then sit down to talk or just watch the world go by. (Some trains have planned activities in this lounge area, but alas not this one.)

It was in the lounge car that I learned from the lounge car attendant, a combination: bartender, snack salesman, stand-up comedy act, and truth and information purveyor extraordinaire, that this train makes the Miami to New York trip in 30 hours. After arriving in New York's Penn Station, it is refueled and serviced overnight and makes the return trip the next day departing just before lunchtime. Since I met this fellow in my pursuit of a quenching Sam Adams Boston Lager Friday afternoon, I'll call him the bartender. He informed me that he works the 30 hours straight will little or no rest, sleeps in New York overnight, then does the same back to Miami at which time he has four days off. Lather, rinse and repeat. This bartender (a Steelers fan!) was a font of information and fun. He definitely made the trip more enjoyable for me.

The lounge bar had a selection of macro lagers, said Sam Adams, and mixed drinks, sodas, juices, and such. Suffice to say that I could be very happy drinking at this bar.

Also in the lounge car, I met a fellow from Cary North Carolina, on his way to visit relatives in Washington D.C. We got to talking on a wide-range of subjects like education, the financial difficulties in America right now, Jon Stewert versus Jim Cramer, and of all things we found some common ground on beer. Yes, beer! We talked about the laws governing beer and alcohol in general and he informed me that his grandfather sold the ingredients to make beer, hops and barley, during Prohibition, with the express and openly displayed purpose that you could take these ingredients home and make beer. Now you couldn't make it for a person and sell them the finished product, but you could sell them the ingredients and tell them how to do it themselves. This was perfectly legal and not some underground commerce activity. He related how his grandfather displayed various quality levels of ingredients with which one could make regular, premium, and ultra premium varieties.

Back in my seat, sitting in the seats in front of me, I met a mother and son traveling to New York to visit the son's father. We kept up a happy game of peek-a-boo the last portion of the trip from Baltimore to Philly. He learned my name as Tony and he soon gave me the moniker of Tony the Tiger. Just as fast I learned his name, Omar and after some time, prescribed him the nickname: OK Omar.

I suppose that there are as many stories like this as there are people, if you only open your eyes and ears and make the effort to engage and listen. And on a train there are ample opportunities for both as there's ample time and people.

At some point in North Carolina, the track changed from the clickety-clack type to an unbroken silver ribbon that was smooth and almost silent. I could not fathom the reason for this other than thinking that this might be the point where Amtrak had to stop upgrading for lack of money. After leaving Union Station in Washington D.C. track quality seemed to improve yet again (was it that we were now riding Acela rails?) and I noticed for the first time banked corners. It was here when the engineer brought the hammer down and where I guessed we reached our maximum speed of about 100 miles per hour. I would say that the maximum speed on all the other portions of the route were perhaps 65 MPH.

Even though my ticket said we were to leave at 11:30 P.M. Thursday, we left Savannah 12:30 A.M. Friday, causing me to worry would I still be able to make my Martz bus connection at 5:00 P.M. Friday afternoon in Philly. The worry was needless as we pulled into Philadelphia at about 3:45 P.M. Friday, 15 minutes late. Put another way, across a 30 hour trip we arrived within .8% of the scheduled trip time. Not bad. Amtrak Joe being in Union Station Friday afternoon probably delayed us a little!

I think that selection of an automobile (model, color, etc.) is an individualistic one, much like the choice of a horse which it replaced (and the trains that it replaced, by and large, for that matter). A means, like a mirror, of telling the world something about our individual characteristics, itself a declaration that we are individuals, valuable and special. And nothing says America more than its love of the open country and a car with which to go wherever the hell we please to explore it. On this basis alone, taking a train could be viewed as anti-individualism and a country fed on Westerns will always have a hard time going seemingly backwards and accepting the togetherness aspect of train transportation.

In Eastern PA it was the exception where the 1000 person `burg didn't have passenger train service. Shickshinny for heaven's sake had a train station and you could get anywhere in the country from there! What am I trying to say: trains once had a much vaster network of rail than they do now. (Thankfully, much of the right of way is still here.) I don't have data that would tell us though, if the companies running the trains back then made money at it. That would be interesting to research and find out though. Suffice to say the physical network could be enhanced to provide service to more people if we so chose to do that.

I don't think we'll soon reach a point of widespread mass train transit in this country. I do think that what we have can be made more efficient in terms of saving energy. It does seem to be excellent for short distances city-center to city-center. It is viable for longer distances, if you can afford the time. Are we as a people ready to accept slower transport for the benefit of less energy consumed? I wonder if it ultimately comes down to that? Is time in human terms dynamic in nature in the sense that if I don't have a job, I have all the time in the world for other things and if I do, I don't and have to do other things like get around, faster?

The accommodations are an absolute plus and in fact may be unmatched--really the only thing coming close to this in transportation is the ultra-high end international flights with sleeping rooms, four star dining, etc. The intangibles like meeting people and learning new things are also a plus, to me.

Savannah Beer Adventures

I arrived a little early in Savannah, as L was still taking her last final, so I decided to make a quick stop at Moon River Brewing Company on West Bay Street to try out their liquid fare. I didn't have a lot of time on this, my third trip to Savannah, but just enough time to make my first visit to their fine establishment.

Now if you've been to Savannah you can skip this paragraph but if you haven't and want to visit, read on. Savannah is laid out along and to the south of the Savannah River of all things. There is a more or less pedestrian cobblestone streeted tourist area down by the river, along what is called River Street, consisting of various eateries, shops, bars, clubs, and such. The elevation change from the river's edge to Bay Street which is really the first proper street paralleling the river, is probably on the order of 50 feet or so and there are various access stairways and ramps from the upper area of the city, down to the river. Along Bay street you'll find various hotels, restaurants, and strangely enough a pretty area where they keep the government buildings. Bay Street divides into East and West sections at Bull Street which is one of the streets perpendicular to Bay Street that leads directly to one of the amazing park squares. Other streets perpendicular to Bay Street also extend to other squares. Each is differently landscaped with various species of trees and flowers, so if your a horticulturalist, these are a must see. There is on-street metered parking but it can be difficult to locate close to Bay Street. Of course, parking wherever you can find a spot is encouraged, as this is a walking city.

I was able to find a spot and park on a square a few blocks away and enjoyed a stroll over to Moon River. This being Savannah after all, there were tourists and students out and about in shorts and sandals, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

As I approached, ancient, open double doors not unlike those you might see along South Franklin Street in W-B, beckoned me to come inside. One step up from the sidewalk deposited me inside the doors where I faced the square bar with seating for perhaps 30--20 stools being occupied at 4:30. I was able to find a stool and sat down to survey both the beer menu and the interior.

There were a number of intriguing selections including a sessionable Wit, but I hadn't much time. What now? A Porter? Next time. Then my eyes fell to the Sly Fox IPA coming in at a clever 7% which I opted for, and which arrived quickly and with just the right amount of bravado. The color was unusual for an IPA more to the straw end of amber, but wow was the flavor and taste spot on.

As I sipped, I perused the room. The bar has an arch over the front and back bars and the sides were traditional. The brewery is to the left standing inside the front doors. The right side of the room has tables and chairs for eating. A flat panel graced each wall at the back corner of the bar, just high enough to see Penn State playing in the Big 10 tournament.

Being in the 70s, I had an awful thirst which was slaked in epic fashion by the Sly Fox. I quickly finished and left, striding jauntily back to my car--prepared to take on whatever Savannah would next provide.

The Last Dance

I have discovered it hard to say goodbye to the vehicles I have owned. This is due to the relationship I form with each one. Some have been one-way relationships where I asked and received much more of and from them, than they ever asked of me.

In others I have found myself the codependent in the relationship, pouring more and more money and oil into them, hoping upon hope that just one more fix would make everything OK, but in the end, I was only the enabler of their dysfunctional behavior.

The relationship I had with my 2003 Explorer was a good one overall and lasted 5.5 years and 188,000 miles.

The pairing started out great--we met on my birthday and had a few blissfully transcendent weeks together. The honeymoon ended quickly though when an unruly junkyard dog of a rear differential chewed through its speed sensor and got out, causing erroneous ABS application. Little did I know at the time, but just replacing the chain wasn't gonna soothe this raging beast--this dog was hungry as hell and soon broke the chain again and started howling not just at the moon but whenever I took it out for a walk. I ended up having to give that dog away and replaced it with another from eBay. This one's temperament was just right and continues to faithfully do its job to this day.

This being my first 4 by 4 relationship, I guess I never realized just how high maintenance she'd be. For example, the front wheel bearings on `er have been replaced a number of times. Seems like she gets tired of `em every fifty thousand dances or so. The first time, I had `em professionally replaced but thereafter I did it myself. I thought I could do a better job of taking care of her.

And oh does she love shoes! And ankle bracelets too! I won't even go into how many pairs she's gone through.

Now, she didn't like surgery much (or was it me procrastinating due to the amount of pain she'd have to endure), and resisted it even when under the knife. Her bones were strong as steel--I should know I spent two hours once amputating the bolt connecting a shock to the lower control arm. But in the end, she had new shocks and thanked me for it by acting like a young colt let to frolic in the pasture for the first time.

I neglected her at times and took her for granted. I'm not thrilled by that. I thought that I could make it up to her by giving her fresh oil and flowers. But she always forgave and accepted my attention.

On Thursday, I had one last dance with her, 781 miles worth, to Savannah to turn her over to L. I had promised her her, if she did well at school and she has beyond my expectations. She's well deserving.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Craft Beer Hegemony--not like Bud

Wouldn't you say that the macro beers have influenced us beer drinkers for years, by getting the majority of tap handles, prime shelf space, getting into all the distributors, and being able to afford the prime Super Bowl spots?

This has had a direct influence over what we've come to drink, and aligned the playing field such that the craft beers have had to pick up the crumbs of what is left, being forced into smaller venues, slower uptake, retarded adoption, and low revenues.

Further, I think there has always been a copy-cat approach used by the macros--when the big guy came out with a light beer, everyone else dimly followed.

But do you really see this in craft beer? Do you think that anyone making craft beer is at all influenced by these behemoths in terms of beer quality or business model? I don't think so, and in fact I can't even think of one craft brewer trying to influence the craft beer industry in anything but positive ways. That is, being adventurous and creative in what the produce, pushing the envelope, and letting the consumer joy in the results.

You might say that some of the big craft brewers do and have had some influence over the smaller. But this is mostly in pushing the bounds of what's possible in the creative endeavor of brewing and not dominating what is sold in a particular market.

I think of this as the true democratization of beer which might even serve as an example of what we should all be striving for in work and life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Beer Safes for Sale?

With safecracker-safe safe sales sailing higher these days, I wonder if there are beer safes that provide both climate control and beer bandit protection? Hmmmmm.