Sunday, February 28, 2010

Well, I made it back from England in one piece. The trip was awesome, and I am going to break it down for everyone in chunks. There is not one of you out there with the attention span to sit through a description of all 7 days of this trip in one sitting. That is nothing personal against the highly intelligent and sophisticated readers of this blog. It is just that we did a ton of stuff, and I took a lot of pictures. I am going to try to put together some slide shows that have some relevant themes. I know that astute readers may have heard that before, but this time I really mean it.

Depending on when you might have ran into me this past week since I have been back, I would have either told that I was an absolute idiot, or that I was a genius who knew exactly what I was doing all along. What I did was plan a jam-packed week of special events and appearances that started literally the day I went back to work. Sounds stupid, right? I mean, how about easing back into it? Ever heard of jet lag, Fred? Those are valid points. However, my life is back to normal now. I didn’t stretch out the catch-up from a week away from work any longer than necessary, and other than a cough I picked up on the plane, I am pretty much back to normal.

It all started with the mail. Once I got home, dropped off my gear and called my mother to tell her that I was home safely. Then it was time to check a week’s worth of mail. The problem is that just past my mailbox, sitting innocently down on the corner is one of my favorite bars. Yes, I had been drinking endlessly in another country for the last 6 days. Yes, I was exhausted. But there is a trash can on the corner for my junk mail, and the idea of some cold American beers and familiar surroundings just seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, once you have the car warmed up, you might as well just drive it, right? It’s what the car wants, and that is what is really important here. The problems started when a friend of mine joined me a short time later. What I could not tell from speaking to her on the phone was that she had what is called a “head start” in her drinking. Apparently the weather was just as dreary and cold here as it was in England, so once the sun came out last Sunday (the 21st), some people felt like drinking. All day. Starting early and skipping lunch. So much so that by dinner time when we met, it became clear quickly that this person was in rough shape. Without boring you with the gruesome details, I had to guide this Hindenburg into the hangar, which took a substantial amount of time and was definitely “unexpected”. So the day started at 12:30 am Atlanta time in a hotel in London and ended at 11:00 pm, and I got to observe a massive amount of puking. Ah, the good-ole USA.

So needless to say I was pretty worn out Monday morning. I had an appearance that evening at The Fred. Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo had just launched in Atlanta, and we had the brew master in from Mexico for a little reception. It was a nice event, and the customers who attended were treated to a special surprise: Free Beer! The generous folks from Modelo picked up the tab for the nice food Matt made for the event, and all of the beers. If you are a Brewniversity member with 750 or more beers, these are the types of invites that you will receive from me. I know 750 is a lot of different beers, but trust me, the rewards are worth it.

Tuesday was our cheesy beer dinner. There was an hour long reception featuring 4 beer/cheese pairings (plus accoutrements), followed by a 3-course dinner that had cheese featured in the dishes. The beers were from different breweries and covered 7 different styles. It was great, and that format will be used again someday, just not soon. Our next dinner is in April and will feature Rogue products. That’s right, but not just beers. Oysters from a farm near the brewery in Oregon will be flown in, and we will use Rogue beers, serve cocktails using Rogue spirits from their distillery, and utilize the cheeses from their creamery. Other Oregon products will be sourced as well. Yes, it is going to be killer. You should be able to sign up for it by mid-March. The tentative date is 4/27, and we are thinking Prado for the location.

Wednesday we tapped a cask of SweetWater IPA that had been dry-hopped with Centennial for a 2-year anniversary celebration at our Cumming store. The beer was outstanding, and it had the greatest, fluffiest head you’ve ever seen. Great turnout too, and the beer was gone in just over an hour. We did another one of those casks Friday at Metropolis before I went to the Hawks/Mavericks game. Dirk was just too much and Jason Kidd had a triple-double; Hawks lost in OT. Good game though.

Saturday….oh yeah, I was busy on Saturday too…I went to SweetWater to make our cask for the Brew Your Cask Off event coming up in March. You should already know about this event if you read this blog regularly. Otherwise, you can clearly use a computer, so just Google it. My cask was made in collaboration with Katy, our manager of The Fred. It is a porter style flavored with molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is also dry-hopped (but not too much) with Cascade and Glacier. We have high hopes for this beer. We named it The Full Retard in homage to the classic performance by Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. In fact, in order to help our beer come judging time at the event, we had shirts printed up that say “Go Full Retard!” Yeah, we are going to hell. But it has double meaning: it implies that we are not only cheering for The Full Retard, but also that you could, like my friend last Sunday, go and get fully retarded-ly drunk. No, I don’t care about political correctness. Life is too short for that. People like to make fun of each other. That is what we do, it is natural, and most of the time it is hilarious. Pull the stick out of your butt and lighten up already. And don’t think for one minute that we don’t love The Full Retard. We thought about it very carefully, nurtured him all afternoon, and can’t wait to share our Retard with the world. Katy and I then went up to Canton to tap another cask of the dry-hopped SW IPA for that store’s 1-year anniversary. All beer stuff, all day.

So that was a pretty heavy week coming off of a really heavy week, but now everything is back to normal. During this time the web site for The Fred got activated. You can go to to check it out. Since this place is occasionally closed for special events, please take a look at the calendar once in a while if you are heading down there. We don’t want you to waste trip if we have a function of some sort going on down there. And if you have not been there before, the beer list is pretty ridiculous. Check it out.

This week looks like it should be fun. I am going to Charlotte on Wednesday through Friday. I am going to meet with beer distributors in preparation for our new stores that are opening up there in 2010. We are also going to be doing some “market research” on the beer scene in the area. I think we all know that means “beer drinking”. On both sides of this trip I am going to try to get over to our Crabapple store though. Monday the 1st marks day 1 of their 10th anniversary celebration. Each day there will be a special release of a rare and/or vintage dated beer. Monday kicks it off with a keg of the Terrapin 30 Strong that was made to commemorate Taco Mac’s 30th anniversary last spring. This strong ale was made with 30 different ingredients, and tasted great last year. The 9 months of mellowing should make it that much better. Do yourself a favor and go check that out. Follow them on Twitter to see the whole line-up if you like, or just get over there as much as you can this week. Have fun, and I will talk to you later.

Pictured are the some of the beer engine handles at the pub at Fuller’s brewery in Chiswick (the “w” is silent), just outside of London. We left Atlanta at 5:00 pm Sunday and arrived at 7:30 am Monday in London. I couldn’t really sleep on the plane, since it was only 1:30 am according to my body. Sitting on a plane didn't exactly make me tired. We were on our bus by 9:00 and drinking beer at this brewery by 11:00 am. And that is how it started…..More to come.