|Local watering hole. Pullman, Michigan.|
“How can you experience the rich fabric of life in a locale without visiting bars?”
When you’re far from home and you go into certain bars you must be prepared to get the once-over by the regulars. I’m not talking about touristy bars or genteel bars or bars in big cities that see an unbroken stream of unfamiliar faces. I'm talking about those out of the way, hole in the wall bars where you go to get a taste of the local color.
The degree of scrutiny you get in these watering holes is directly proportional to the remoteness of the locale—a tavern, for instance, in the middle of nowhere in the Upper Peninsula—or the sheer inexplicableness as to why you are there— a seedy waterfront saloon, for example, a block off the Malecon in the sleaziest part of Havana.
You’re allowed to take mental photographs in these bars as long as you follow some common sense rules. You don’t brashly place quarters on the edge of the pool table the minute you walk in. If there’s country music playing on the jukebox you don’t replace it with heavy metal. You don’t sniffle about the drink choices or get friendly with the women unless they get friendly with you and you don’t stare back at a table of burly dudes after asking them what the hell they’re looking at.
I’ve gone to a lot of these bars over the years and have accumulated an album full of memories.
There was that bar in Seney many years ago where Harry Winston and I drank Blatz out of long neck bottles all night after fishing all day on the Two Hearted and where we ate pickled pigs feet, pickled eggs and pickled bologna. We were listening to an old guy who lost his leg in a mining accident talking about why the U.P. should be a separate state when a dwarf walked in with two of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. The dwarf was wearing a tuxedo and the women were wearing evening gowns.
There was that night playing pool with a bunch of stoned locals at the Green Parrot Bar in Key West back before it was discovered by the tourists. No one could knock me off the table but no one cared because they were stoned and I kept buying the drinks. A warm spring breeze was coming through the open windows and Al Green was playing on the jukebox.
Then there was that time in Old Havana when Barb and I went into a bar down the street from the Plaza de la Catedral where street vendors hawked black berets and Che Guevara t-shirts and where an old woman smoking a foot long cigar asked us for money. We met a young doctor in the bar who told us there was never any food in the government ration stores. When I asked him what he thought of Fidel and Raul he smiled and looked away.
New and Returning Beers
- Alaskan Smoked Porter, $8.49/22oz - "The dark, robust body and pronounced smoky flavor of this limited edition beer make it an adventuresome taste experience. Alaskan Smoked Porter is produced in limited "vintages" each year and, unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle, much like fine wine" (source).
- Alaskan Winter, $1.59/12oz - "Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol" (source).
- Brooklyn Black Chocolate, $2.19/12oz - "This is the famous Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, our award-winning rendition of the Imperial Stout style once made exclusively for Catherine the Great. We use three mashes to brew each batch of this beer, achieving a luscious deep dark chocolate flavor through a blend of specialty roasted malts. We brew it every year for the winter season. It is delicious when newly bottled, but also ages beautifully for years" (source).
- Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Number one in a series of five stouts produced for the fall and winter seasons. This beer is full bodied with hints of chocolate, roasted barley, coffee flavors and a nice creamy head" (source).
- New Holland Hopivore, $2.59/12oz - "Michigan-grown hops are the story in this seasonal harvest ale. Hopivore is wet-hopped, with hops added to the brew just hours after harvest, creating rare, fresh flavors" (source).
- Shorts Beard of Zeus, $1.99/12oz - "Beard of Zeus is a super hoppy India style Pale Lager. We heavily hopped the final runnings of a Peaches and Créme batch with Zeus hops and then lagered it. Small amounts of bitter orange peel was added to provide subtle sweet flavors to the beer and enhance the aromas of the Zeus hops" (source).
- Sierra Nevada Snowpack, $18.39/12-pack - "Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. filled its third and final seasonal mixed 12-pack of the year with beers that ward off winter’s bite. Aptly named, Snowpack features two brand new beers and two steadfast recipes. The variety pack starts heading to distributors this week and will be available through January 2015. Whether harnessing the comfort of coffee or borrowing a little bit of summer from the Southern Hemisphere, Snowpack helps uplift those hunkering down for the storm.
- Boomerang IPA is a blend of American brewing style with Southern Hemisphere flavor. Sierra Nevada added heaps of vibrant Australian hops to this bold beer. With a light, balanced malt body and compelling floral and fruity hop aromas, Boomerang is an intriguing international spin on the classic IPA.
- Coffee Stout combines the best of Sierra Nevada’s two favorite brews—coffee and beer. The brewery blended the hearty flavors of coffee with dark roasted malts to create a complex and layered mix of dark chocolate, caramel and light fruity notes punctuated with a roasty, dry finish for the perfect cold-weather drink.
- Porter was part of Sierra Nevada’s inaugural lineup decades ago. Its big malt flavor earned it permanence, and craft drinkers continue to relish the rich, bittersweet and roasted gem. Medium bodied and balanced by crisp American hops, Porter is a great finale to a long winter’s day of work.
- Pale Ale began as a home brewer’s dream, grew into an icon, and inspired countless brewers to follow a passion of their own. Its unique piney and grapefruit aromas from the use of whole-cone American hops have fascinated beer drinkers for decades and made this beer a classic, yet it remains new, complex and surprising to beer drinkers every day. It is—as it always has been—all natural, bottle conditioned and refreshingly bold." (source).
- New Belgium Le Terroir Dry Hopped Sour Ale, $15.99/22oz - "Le Terroir: French, meaning ‘from the terrain, soil, land, ground, earth.’ You may have heard it as a wine term speaking of the environmental conditions of the vineyard, the pH of the soil, even the slope of the land. But beer has it too, especially a New Belgium sour beer, which oozes terroir from the pores of the wooden foeders we age it in. They produce a base beer that’s golden-colored with a soft overripe peach aroma and just the right amount of tart. And after 3 years in the foeders, you can bet it has some nice earthy tones. Round out that fruity base with even more unique fruity hops like Amarillo and citra, and this beer may just have more terroir than your classiest wine. And with the hop burp, compliments of the dry-hopping, Le Terroir is definitely classy" (source).
Picture of the Week | Blandford Nature Center
|Less than a mile from Siciliano's, Blandford Nature Center|
is a great place to walk off all the tasty suds from New Beer Friday.