Sunday, May 30, 2010

Free Beer!

That is right, folks, the beer is free!
IF you volunteer to pour at the Beer Connoisseur Festival at The Prado. The parking lot from in front of our store to the end where 5 Seasons is will be closed off on Saturday, June 12th for a beer festival hosted by Taco Mac & Beer Connoisseur magazine. For those of you who don't know, Beer Connoisseur is a new national magazine being published right here in Atlanta. You should subscribe. It is a beautifully done quarterly magazine that gives beer its rightful opportunity to show off.
The beer festival is a charitable event, so in case you needed a reason to get out and drink beer, there you go. If you think that being behind the counter pouring beer and talking to people sounds fun, then go to the web site at to sign up as a volunteer. You will "work" for half of the day and have the other half to goof off and drink beer. It'll be like being me for a day.

That is the big news for now. I am going to the Braves game on Memorial Day, so look for me if you are watching. I will be behind 3rd base, about 12 rows from the wall.

Tuesday is the big release of SweetWater Sch'Wheat, their new American Wheat Ale. You can find the bottles now, but the draft is coming to every Taco Mac store Tuesday. It is also our June beer of the month, so if you want some SweetWater glasses, here is your chance.

Wednesday I am off to Montreal. There is a beer festival called Mondial de la Biere, which features a lot of beer that I have never heard of. I am a guest of Uniboue, makers of La Fin du Monde and Maudite, so I will be touring their facility. The other brewery I really want to get to is Dieu du Ciel. If you have not had any of their beer, go get some now. Bring a lot of money with you, because you're going to need it. I think what I am going to find out is that Canada is a lot like the U.S. & Scandinavia right now--tons of innovative small breweries going nuts. Should be a good trip. I will be back Saturday with lots of good pictures.

The final slide show of my England trip is over there on the right. It is basically the two days we spent in London. We went to this great pub along the way called The Cock Hotel. You can see what the bar looked like there, plus the really cool cellar. They have this old chute that they still use to slide kegs down in to the cellar. When you see the giant firkin in the middle of the room, that is called a Hog's Head.
We went to this open air market that had an amazing cheese shop. We bought some cheeses and got some beers at the pub across the street, then snacked and drank on the street. Something about the neighborhood, or the Borough Market in general, brought out a lot of good looking people. The only thing that got us out of there was the sun setting and the temperature starting to drop. Other than that, I was about as pleased with my day as a person could be.

We rode the London Eye, which is a huge Ferris Wheel contraption. But instead of two-person cars it has giant capsules that hold about 15-20 people. It is also taller that your standard Ferris Wheel, so the views of London were incredible. After that we saw the sights around London, you know, touristy stuff. We had dinner at a traditional pub whose owner is married to a Thai lady. So in this great pub you get the most amazing Thai food. If you ever go to London, you have to go to The Churchill Arms for beers and Thai food. We stopped by a pub called St. Stephen's, which is in the shadow of Big Ben. The clock, not the sexually aggressive quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you are in his shadow, you might not like what happens next. Needless to say that after visiting St. Stephen's, I had a great song in my head the rest of the day.

Lastly we went to the London Pub Of The Year in '07 & '09 called The Bricklayer's Arms. That should pretty much speak for itself as far as how great that place was. The trip home was a little long, especially getting out of the airport. It is great to travel, but it sure feels good to be home. I am sure that I will be saying the same thing on Saturday when I get back from Montreal. Talk to you then. Happy Memorial Day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is Your Name Dick? Dick Shrinks?

To the right is a new slide show of a few of my pictures from California. If you click on the picture it will expand to a larger view. If you did not know that, then welcome to what we like to call "Earth". What planet are you from? Please don't eat me, Mr. or Mrs. Space Alien.

I spent Saturday in San Francisco, starting at a place called Tee Off for lunch. I saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on the Food Network. If you don't watch that show, then you just would not understand. If you do, you know that I am talking about a killer place that no tourist guide is ever going to send you to. Of the three possibilities based on the shows title, this one definitely qualified as "dive". The beer selection was very good (we were in San Francisco after all), and my fish & chips were great. My friend had a huge iron skillet of macaroni & cheese packed with pancetta. After that we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed out to drink some beer. Magnolia Brewery first, and they had my favorite, Stout Of Circumstance. It was not available the last two times I have been there. It's a nice heavy dry stout, big on the licorice. Next we met a friend from Atlanta who lives in SF now at the Toronado. This is the famous beer bar that is a pretty old & beat up hole in the wall. How is the beer selection? I had a Moonlight Death & Taxes to start with. This is a beer that I look for as soon as I get into the Bay Area. It is a black ale, so it is rich and roasty but still refreshing to drink. Not heavy like a porter. Bob had a 2009 Russian River Consecration. Why yes, that is a ridiculously awesome beer to have on draft. And is was ridiculously good. I don't really need to tell you about everything we had while we were there. It is the Toronado, so everything was top-notch. I will tell you that I made sure to have a Pliny The Elder before I left though. Enough said.

Later we went to Zeitgeist and introduced Bob to Fernet Branca. What is Fernet Branca? If I told you, then I would rob you of the experience of trying it for the first time. You have to be totally unprepared in order to get the full effect. It truly is unlike anything you have ever tasted. That is all I am gong to say. It is available here in GA, but has not caught on like it has on the west coast. It is basically the liqueur of choice for service industry personnel in SF, and you know that service industry people are usually a little "out there" in general. To make a living that way, you have to be a little nuts. That's why I have always enjoyed being in the restaurant business. The definition of "normal" is pretty loose. Anyway, we may be selling Fernet Branca at The Fred soon. You should try it. Really.

After that we tried to go to Monk's Kettle, but it was too crowded, so we went across the street for some dim sum and called it a night. We had a big day coming up on Sunday.

Sunday morning we were getting some coffee and noticed all of these people walking down the street in costumes, drinking beer. It was 7:30 in the morning, mind you. Now the night before a guy at the Toronado was telling us about a crazy event called the "Bay To Breakers" run that his dad has flown into town for from New Hampshire. He said that is was a crazy road "race" that nobody actually "ran", but was just an excuse to get drunk. Apparently it is encouraged to stop along the way for drinks. All day. It is a seven mile course, and you get five hours to do it. As a point of reference, you could easily walk twelve miles in five hours, so nobody is actually running.

So we figure out that this must be what the guy was talking about, and that our hotel was two blocks from the starting line. We walked down there and there were people everywhere. All dressed up in various wild costumes, most of them drinking beer. As 8 o'clock came, everybody started the "race". Instead of milling around and raising hell, they moved slowly down the street raising hell. People were throwing stuff, squirting each other, jumping around screaming, etc. Then the floats came. People were pushing floats with other people on them. There was a giant DJ booth float, a Viking float, a sexy nurse float. All kinds of music playing and people waving at the crowd and drinking beer. One girl was pouring Coors Light from on top of a float into people's mouths on the street. Imagine that you are walking next to a moving float and some girl is pouring beer from a can towards your mouth. At 8 o'clock in the morning. How much beer do suppose gets in your mouth vs. on your face and head? Right, not much. This was the scene when Bob spotted two guys in interesting costumes. None. Fully naked, except one guy had glasses on and the other had a vest. Please check what the median temperature in San Francisco is in the early morning hours in May. I'll do it for you. It's cold. Roughly 45 degrees cold. These guys figured it would be cool to head outside butt naked for an afternoon "run". Now you are probably picturing a couple of crazy college kids. Nope, these guys were in their 50's. Looked like a lawyer and maybe a school teacher, if they were naked in the street surrounded by thousands of drunk people. Eventually these guys move past, and the "race", which basically looked like a freak parade, was underway. Then along came another naked guy, except this guy was younger and had his face painted blue. I guess that was in case he ran into his boss or something.

"Hey, Jim. Did I see you walking stark naked down the middle of the street yesterday morning while I was getting the newspaper?"

"Nope. wasn't me."

"Is that blue make-up on your ear, Jim?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

The first two naked guys still perplex me. I am pretty sure that if I said, to any of my friends, "Hey, for the Bay To Breakers this Sunday, let's just go naked!" none of them would say, "Hell yes! Who cares if it is 45 degrees and there will be thousands of other people around!" So actually the naked guy by himself started to make sense. Who wants to hang around him? I mean really. "Dude, that is so cool how you are completely naked and your face is painted blue. I wish I had thought of that. Let's hang out." That conversation didn't happen. Ever. Anywhere.

So apparently during this event multiple laws are not enforced:

  1. Open Intoxicants--This is a big part of this event and appears to be encouraged.

  2. Public Drunkenness--Also seems to be a prerequisite for participation.

  3. Public Nudity--There were police and fire fighters there, and it wasn't like the naked guys were being discreet. Unless your definition of discreet is walking downtown with your junk bouncing around and your face painted blue.

I did not take too many pictures of this event for one major reason: I did not want to look too much like a tourist. This is clearly a big deal for the locals, and I didn't want to look like some square that has never seen anything like this before. Of course I had never seen anything like this before, but that is beside the point. Bob & I immediately started discussing future participation in the Bay To Breakers "run" next year. Clothed.

So that is how Sunday started. Then we picked up our friend from Atlanta and her boyfriend (also from Atlanta) and headed north. We got to the pub at Russian River Brewing Co. at noon and had some great subs and pizza. I had a Perdition (a "Biere de Sonoma"--great biere de garde style) and Blind Pig IPA. After that we drove south to Petaluma, dropped our gear at the hotel and got a cab to Lagunitas.

The circus was really cool and laid back. There were lots of other breweries there pouring beer, trapeze artists, burlesque show, live bands, and all kinds of crazy stuff. The party got fired up a little later once everybody had a chance to get warmed up. Unlike the crazies in San Fran, this was a Sunday afternoon in Sonoma County. Very chilled out. But once this band called Gooferman started playing, the party really got going. These guys were very funky, with some rock and punk elements. Think old Red Hot Chili Peppers with a saxophone. Except that they were in full clown make-up, and most of the songs were R-Rated in a sexual way. They also had these super-sexy dancers in wild torn-up clothes and crazy make-up and wigs. The band actually finished the show walking through the crowd and out the gates of where the party was held. It was awesome. I would go see these guys again in a heartbeat, and how they came up with the concept for their band is beyond me. This was not a special get-up for the circus party. They perform like that every time they play.

Anyway, so that was over around 7 o'clock and then it was time to get some dinner and wind down. I have been to plenty of Lagunitas parties, and let me tell you something: When they are over, you don't need a whole lot of after-party partying. Plus I had a rental car to return and a flight back home in the morning. We were also facing Monday morning rush-hour traffic coming over the Golden Gate Bridge, all the way through the city to the airport. Turns out that wasn't so bad, but we didn't know that the night before. I was thinking that it would be like 400 south from Cumming to Hartsfield-Jackson on a Monday morning. Forget about that. We got from Petaluma to the airport in an hour and a half, and we dropped our friends off in the city along the way.

That's all for now folks. Enjoy the pictures and have a great week. Don't forget that if you want to get into the Beer Connoisseur Festival on June 12th for free, you can. All you need to do is volunteer to work a few hours pouring beer, and your admission will be exactly $0.00. Go to to volunteer. Bye.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Updates & Changes

I will be working on my slide show this week from my weekend in San Fran & at the Lagunitas Beer Circus. I can't begin to tell you how unfair it would be to you, my readers, to try to explain some of these things in words. Let's just say that the Bay Area did not fail to disappoint in its weirdness. You have got to hand it to Californians when it comes to letting it all hang out. And I mean all of it.
Anyway, here is a quick update on Atlanta beer Week:
  1. I had my days switched around regarding the Widmer Prickly Pear Braggot at Prado. That is tomorrow (Wednesday), not today!
  2. The Newcastle Summer release is also tomorrow at The Fred. As promised, there is a picture of the glassware. Told you it was cool. Come in and get one if you buy a pint, but hurry. There are less than 100 of these to give away. Lots of beer people will be on hand too. Should be fun.
  3. Wednesday also has Perimeter pouring '08 Sierra Bigfoot, '09 Weyerbacher Old Heathen, Smuttynose Imperial Stout, Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale and the rare sour beer, Smuttynose Rouge d'Shire. Scratch the previously mentioned '08 Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster. We already drank that keg. Woops.
  4. Thursday is the meet & greet with Left Hand owner Eric Wallace. Drink a cask-conditioned firkin of Sawtooth or try the new Nitro-Sawtooth. There will also be some '06 & '08 Chainsaw, plus some '08 Smoke Jumper Porter available in bottles. This is at The Fred as well.
  5. Friday we have some hard to find beers at Lindbergh. Nogne-O Imperial Stout and Porter from Norway, Ridgeway IPA from England and the new Ctrl-Alt-Del from Ft. Collins Brewing Co. will all be available on draft.
So even if every week is Atlanta Beer Week for you, these are still some tasty reasons to get out and get your drink on this week. Maybe I will see you around. I will be in touch soon with those photos. My flight did not get in until late last night, so give me a few days to get caught up. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Excuse Me Miss, But There Is A Taco In Your Beard

I am going to the circus this Sunday. No, not the one with trapeze artists and elephants standing on stuff. I am going to the beer circus at Lagunitas. It is looking like fall travel plans may be muddled up with some new store openings and the like, so I am heading out to California for a little "work" in the spring. The beer circus was first held last year, and by all accounts, it was a blast. So I am meeting some friends out there for a weekend getaway. I will be in San Francisco on Saturday, Petaluma on Sunday (after having lunch at Russian River in Santa Rosa), and back to GA on Monday. I know, it's a short trip, but I have work to do. I mean, these people don't pay me to travel around and drink beer. OK, they do pay me to travel around and drink beer, but that is not all they pay me to do. The circus line-up looks pretty crazy (click image to enlarge), and Lagunitas definitely has a taste for the bizarre. I mean, what is Gabby Lala and when does the taco truck show up? I want answers to both of those things before the Bed of Nails guy gets started. Be prepared for pictures of all of these things, including the new and beautiful Beer Sanctuary at Lagunitas once I return. I am taking a full-sized suitcase for a two-day trip. How much beer can fit in a checked bag? I guess we will find out on Sunday, won't we?

Enough about me, now let's talk about you. You will be excited to hear about Atlanta Beer Week. It starts next week, and this is the first year of what hopefully turns into a tradition here like it is in Philly, San Fran, Charlotte, etc. We have an event Monday through Friday at one of our in-town stores. I know, not everyone lives in town. But, if this goes well this year, then next year we, along with other area beer spots, will expand things to the rest of metro Atlanta. So here are your events for ABW:
  1. Monday at Metropolis we will have head brewer Nick Nock (yes, that is his real name) from SweetWater to mingle with our guests while you drink '08 & '09 Festive Ale. Plus we have the now virtually extinct BSP Quad. In addition to that, there will be a special top-secret beer appearance that I guarantee 99.9% of you have never seen in a bottle. This is year-old strong ale that has not been seen since its release. We will be selling pint glass pours from 1 liter bottles until it is gone. Are you a Brewniversity member? Do you crave rare credits? Do you like to show off in front of others, "I bet you've never seen THIS before!"? Then this event is for you. Even the '08 Festive will be poured from 1 liter bottles, so it will be a distinct credit from the '08 drafts we drank last year.
  2. Tuesday at Prado there will be a keg of Widmer Prickly Pear Braggot. What in the hell is that? Well, I guess you need to come by and find out. (A braggot is sort of a mix between a mead and an al.e)
  3. Wednesday you will want to head over to Perimeter. They will be tapping a 2008 Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster and a 2008 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine. There are all kinds of cellared goodies in coolers all over Taco Mac-land. They will also have some Smuttynose Imperial Stout, Farmhouse Ale and the new and very rare Rouge d'Shire. Let me help you out with that: Rouge, like the make-up, not Rogue, like the brewery; d' pronounced "duh" and Shire like where the hobbits live. Rouge d'Shire. It is a Flemish-style sour beer, so don't expect a wimpy summer light beer.
  4. Also on Wednesday at The Fred we will be releasing Newcastle Summer Ale. Stop by to taste this year's batch and get a cool 16oz. schooner glass to take home. I will show you a picture of the glass next week if I don't forget. They are pretty sweet. You will want one.
  5. Thursday at The Fred we will have Left Hand owner Eric Wallace to chat with you while drinking a plethora of Sawtooth incarnations. Sawtooth is Eric's first and most beloved beer. We will have a cask of Sawtooth to tap plus the new Nitro Sawtooth. There will also be '06 and '08 bottles of Chainsaw, which is a double Sawtooth. We will be selling 11oz. pours from the big bottles of Chainsaw so that everyone can try both without going broke/getting totally hammered. Expect some other Left Hand beers to hand.
  6. On Friday we will be pouring some Nogne-O drafts at Lindbergh. Let's pronounce this one now: Say "none-ya" like "This here ain't none ya business." These beers are from Norway, and they all rate 98 to 100 on Not easy to do. There should also be a keg of Ft. Collins Ctrl-Alt-Delete (an alt bier, duh). This thing is still coming into focus, but if you are looking for some rare beers next Friday, Lindbergh is your place.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for June 12th. That is the 1st annual Beer Connoisseur Festival at The Prado. Taco Mac & Beer Connoisseur magazine are partnering up for a good old-fashioned beer festival this summer. There will be 42 breweries (maybe more) and around 150 different beers available for you to try for the low, low price of $35.00 (in advance or $40 the day of). Or it could be free if you are interested in volunteering. You heard right folks. Pour beer for half the fest, then attend the other half for free. Visit for all of the details. The parking lot will be closed off in front of Taco Mac all the way down to 5 Seasons. There will be live bands playing and a whole bunch of fun. Like Atlanta Beer Week, we hope that this grows into a tradition in the Atlanta beer scene for years to come. See if you can contribute to that. Everyone is counting on you. Don't let us down.

Also be on the lookout for the SweetWater prize brigade coming to a store near you in June. They have a phone booth looking thing full of fake money. Basically you stand in it and there is a blower that makes money fly all over the place. For a $5.00 donation to the Save The Hooch program, you can get in and see how much money you can grab in like 30 seconds. Depending on how much you grab, you will receive SweetWater gear based on a printed prize structure. Sound like fun? It will be. It is hilarious, and fun for all ages and sobriety levels.

You folks have a great weekend. And if I don't run off with the bearded lady, I will see you when I get back from California.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thanks, Mom. It Means So Much To Me.

Why have I been quiet for over a week? Did you not see the line-up of beer events lately? Sorry, I'm only human. There have been a lot of happenings these days, not to mention trying to keep up with some non-beer stuff. That's right, I do have a life outside of the beer world. I know, I know...not what you wanted to hear, but now you know. Please try to diversify yourself in your hobbies, even if it just a little bit. A "hobbyist" with only one interest is sometimes called a "weirdo" or, more frequently, "obsessive and deranged". You'll want to avoid that.

We had the Detroit Red Wings force and win a game 7 on the road to advance in the NHL playoffs (Remember: I am from Michigan people, and that is one of the few bright spots we have in sports after MSU tanked in the hoops tourney.). I went to Philips to watch the Hawks lose a tough game 5 at home on Wednesday, only to have our hopes reingnited by a game 6 thrashing of the Bucks in Milwaukee last night. That forces a huge game 7 tomorrow at Philips Arena, so that is where I will be on Sunday at 1 pm. Good thing I gave up church about 30 years ago, because that can wreck a Sunday afternoon in a hurry. I will add that to my list of things to thank my mother for when I inscribe her Mother's Day card before sending it out this week:

"Dearest Mother-

Thank you for working so tirelessly to raise my brother and I, that by Sunday morning you were so wiped out that you let us watch cartoons all morning and then basically run around and raise hell all day in between meals, which were delicious by the way. And that, Mom, and I am convinced of this, is how God really wants it to be in the first place. So now, when I pass a church on the way to doing something far more interesting and enjoyable on Sunday, I say to myself, 'Thank God I am not in there today! Praise Jesus, I am really going to enjoy the Lord's Day today. Amen!' And it is all because of you, Mom. Let's Go Hawks! Let's Go Hawks!"

Thank you, readers, for sharing that emotional moment with me. Don't forget to send your mother something next Sunday, or if you are lucky enough to have her nearby, take her out to lunch. Or brunch. Moms love brunch. Unless she wants you to go to church first. In that case, make up some excuse on the fly. But it had better be good, because she will know if you are lying. She is your mother after all.

So to recap last week, the Stone casks were awesome. I think my favorite so far was the Oaked Arrogant Bastard from last Friday. We still have one more to go this Wednesday in Newnan. It is a Stone IPA dry-hopped with Centennial. The Rogue dinner on Tuesday was a big hit. We had oysters flown in from a farm 6 miles down the bay from the brewery in Oregon. Yep, someone had to go to the freight arrivals area at Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l on Monday and pick up a box full of fresh Yaquina Bay oysters packed on dry ice. Everyone went nuts for them. How nuts? I never got a chance to taste one, and there were almost 200 of them. The Rogue Creamery cheeses and the cocktail we made were a big success too. Matt made a cucumber & mint simple syrup to mix with Rogue Pink Spruce Gin, which was delicious and paired with the oysters. The most notable beer was a keg of Chatoe Rogue Single Malt. This beer is made with malt and hops grown entriely by Rogue. They have a barley farm as well as a hop farm, and this beer, which was exclusively for Rogue's own pubs previously, is made from those harvests. Rare? Duh. Tasty? You bet. You missed out? Bingo.

In addtion to the cask I already mentioned, we have a Brooklyn Beer School for Brewniversity members this week. If you need help deciphering what that is, I don't know what to tell you. Attendees will be treated to numerous great beers, a tasting seminar by Rich from the brewery, plus a special surprise. It is sold out, but we may schedule more of these as time progresses. It appears to be a popular concept. Stay tuned for more developments as they unfold.

The rest of May will involve getting prepared for the June 12th Beer Connoisseur Magazine/Taco Mac Beer Festival at The Prado. The parking area in front of our store all the way down to 5 Seasons will be closed off that Saturday. There will be a live band (a good one) and some other entertainment, in addition to all kinds of good beers. The list is coming together nicely, and once the web site is ready, I will be directing you all there for info & tickets.

There is also Atlanta Beer Week scheduled for May 16th-22nd. What is Atlanta Beer Week? Well, like Charlotte, San Fran. & Philly, Atlanta is going to organize a week full of beer events all over town. Right now I have things planned for Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday. Details to come. These events are all inside the perimeter for the inagural year of ABW. As (if) this thing grows in the coming years, we will extend events outside the city. Right now we are just trying to see if you folks are interested in making this a yearly occurance. Again, there is a web site, and it should be updated by Monday. Hopefully this is something that has legs. I mean, the one in Charlotte has a ton of great sounding events, and the SF and Philly ones are definite travel destinations for beer freaks. What have we been waiting for?

On the upper right is a slide show from day 4 of my trip to England. We started the day out by visiting Fawcett Maltings. I believe the guy who gave us a tour was a 7th generation Fawcett, so these guys have been producing beer-making grains at this place for a long time. He was very idiosyncratic in a totally British way, especially with his sense of humor. He made jokes that were so oddly dry and spoke so fast with such a heavy accent that I think we missed half his jokes, and probably looked like a bunch of idiots. He did say, "Brilliant!" like the guys on the Guinness commercials on TV, which I got a kick out of. Anyway, it has differnt types of malting procedures that range in technology from ancient to modern. A "floor maltings", and this is one of 2 or three left in England, is where the malt is dried on a huge floor in a room with open windows. The barley is raked to help is dry evenly without molding. Why? Because back in the old days, that is all they had. How would you dry thousands of pounds of damp barley? They spread it out on the floor about two feet deep, then a guy drags a huge rake through it over and over again for days. They also had large industrial driers as well as kilns. Dried malted barley is different than roasted malted barley. One is for the basis and backbone of beer making and comprises the majority of a beer recipe's make up, and the other (kilned or roasted barley) is added in smalled amounts for color and flavor. If that is too simple for some of you, I am sorry. I assume that most of you know all of this stuff already. To make along story short, a maltings is a huge grain processing plant. Few people ever go to one, but they are missing out on some interseting stuff. If you want to get know beer, and I mean really get to know it, there is only one step further back to its origins, and that is the farm. Pretty sure the farms where barley grows in England were not too interesting in February. "Here is an empty field that will have barley growing in it once it is spring. Right now it is covered in snow and mud. Any questions?" That would be a short tour.

After that we went to a compact little brewery that makes Moorehouse ales. Great people there, and what a small operation. The pictures pretty much detail what was going on there. Thankfully there was a pub across the street with a swell innkeeper who didn't seem to be ruffled by 18 Americans swilling beer after beer before lunch time. Great beers if you can find them. Highly awarded amongst the British ales. See the markers on the handles.

After that we headed to The Grey Mare for lunch and some hand-drawn Thwaite's beers. You can find these in bottles in the States, and I highly recommend them. One of the big wigs from the brewery stopped in to give us a little talk about the history of the brewery and a run down on all of their beers. Great guy, again a little difficult to understand at times. And as round as he was tall. The casks were outstanding. Too bad we had to roll out so soon. As you can see it was snowy where we were that day, and a big-time snowball fight broke out next to the bus. It was a very serene and pastoral setting until we got there. But we have to keep moving.....

On to Fleetwood on the Atlantic coast, where we were staying the night. Go ahead and look up the Fleetwood Cask Ale Festival on Google or something. It was unbelievable how many different beers were available, all true cask ales served from firkins in the most attentive way imaginable. These people care about real ales, and this was a celebration of them in an incredible fashion. In fact, it was overwhelming after a while. There were simply too many, and almost none of them I have heard of. Take GABF for example. I have heard of and/or had beer from about 90% of those breweries. That seemingly overwhelming beer list can be whittled down in a hurry. Not here. Even after 4 days of drinking different cask ales across the country, I had not even scratched the surface. The people there were great, although a little confused about 18 American men & women in this small coastal city for a beer festival in February. I think it is safe to say that they have not seen that many Americans in their town since WWII.

The hotel in Fleetwood was old and drafty, but charming in many ways that made up for that. You can look at the pictures. Remember that if you click on the slide show it gets bigger and you can manipulate it. Anyway, apparently the hotel bar (and everything else in town, including The Steamer) closes up around 10 pm. However, the overnight hotel employee wears many hats. For example, if there are a buch of guests who feel like they could use a few more beverages after hours, that is his job. He showed us to a separate hotel lounge, and brought us drinks, along with some fellow travelers we made friends with, until way past a sensible bed time. Personally, I think that he was amused by a little bit of revelry in an otherwise pretty sedate environment. He was a young guy, and I got the feeling that he would have joined us in a hearbeat if he wasn't working. In fact, if we would have had any single women with us, I am sure that he would have.

Day 5 came way too early for some people, yours truly not included. I know when to say when. And usually about two hours after that I shut it down for the night. This was no exception. A short night's sleep and a long bus ride will fix you right up though. Day 5 found us wondering, "What are we going ot do with all of this beer we bought?". We had the bus for one more day, and the fridge was packed. It was put up or shut up time, and the pros needed to rise to the occasion. But that tale is for another day. Until then, take care of yourself, and don't forget your mother next Sunday. Bye.