Tuesday, August 6, 2013

You Pick A Place To Go, And Just Keep Truckin' On

And we're back. Sorry for the delay, but I was gone for most of last week. My friend had one of those
Where the magic happens.
milestone birthdays that makes you want to do something special. We had a good trip exploring some new places. I strongly recommend that you just pick a place you've never been, use the old Google for some recommendations, make some hotel reservations and just go. Was Knoxville, TN a city that was overflowing with sites and attractions? No. Not even close. But did we find some incredible soul food? Check. How good was it? Next to the urns for sweet and unsweet tea, there was an urn of red Kool-Aid. That, my friends, is when you know you are in a real soul food restaurant. I did not take a picture unfortunately, because I thought that might offend someone who took the time to make the Kool-Aid and put it out there for the customers. Or the customers who drink the Kool-Aid. I was just passing through. No reason to piss everyone off and get shot in the process. But if you ever find yourself in Knoxville, and you want fried chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread, call me. I'll tell you where you need to go.
Blast off!

We found some nice places to drink beer in Knoxville as well. Right downtown they have a little square with a few nice bars. Around the corner are some spots with good beer selections, plus a brew pub across the street. All completely walk-able. We had fun. Drank a ton of Straight To Ale Monkeynaut draft. Good stuff. Thumbs up, Knoxville.

But the whole focus of the trip was not fried chicken, college bars and IPAs from Alabama. Our destination was in Versailles, KY. You pronounce every letter in Versailles up there. Think, "ver-sailz". Not that Frenchy pronunciation. You might as well just walk in there carrying a carpet bag if you are going to say, "ver-sigh". In the rolling hills of Versailles you will find the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Maybe some of you have already found it. Beautiful place, full of history, and producer of the finest bourbon money can buy. They gave us a great tour, lunch on the porch, and a nice tasting to follow. You don't need all of the details, but Mother Earth really smiled on us that day, because it was 82 degrees with big white puffy clouds in the sky. It was July 30th. In the south. And it wasn't hot and nasty. It was downright pleasant. I highly recommend that you take some time to make your way up there for a visit.

We stayed in Lexington that night, and again had a blast in a totally foreign town. We found an Irish pub with a Mexican bartender named Mike. So we were off to a good start right there. We drank some West 6th IPA, which if you follow beer news lately you would have heard of it quite a bit. Big hubbub over trademark laws with Magic Hat and their # 9 logo. In case you missed it, many people were crying about the little guy getting muscled over by the big guy. And as you can see from this image, it is a clear-cut case of the big guy being right. I am all for sticking up for the little guy, but damn. C'mon man. West 6th, you don't have a leg to stand on here.
The one on the right please.
The IPA was damned good too, brewed right there in Lexinton, and was really fresh. Glad we stopped in to see Mike (if that is your real name...) and tried to drink him out of all his hometown IPA. But we had to leave, because something was pulling us towards Al's. Maybe it was the disappointing dive bar in Knoxville (Jimmy's--don't bother), or maybe it was destiny. But whatever it was, it was a good thing. You can't define a good dive bar by any strict set of criteria. It is a combination of things working in concert that make a dive bar one of life's special places. One thing they absolutely have to be is unique. Any bar that tries to be a dive is just a hunk of crap (see "Jimmy's" above). A true dive bar just is, in the same way that a cool person is just a cool person. A person that tries to be cool isn't remotely cool. They are typically referred to in terms that more often than not rhyme with mouche mag. Al's, you're special, and we had a lot of fun inside of you, dirty as you were. Don't change, not one bit.
You're dirty and you know it. 

One last point of interest happened when we were getting in the car to leave the next morning. Our hotel was adjacent to Rupp Arena, which is where the University of Kentucky plays basketball. They produced the NBA's first round draft pick this year, a guy named Anthony Davis. He must have been visiting his alma mater, or maybe working out there before the NBA season starts, because there he was, getting in his Audi at 8:00 am, right in front of us. How can I be sure it was him? Well, first of all he is kind of unique looking, and when my friend said, "Hey, Anthony! What's up?" he turned and waved. Did I mention that he is somewhat unique looking?

Why have two eyebrows when one does the trick?
If you saw a 6' 10" guy that looks like that, about 100 feet from where he played college basketball until four months ago, you would not have to be a detective to realize who it was. But for a guy who just inked a multi-million dollar deal at the age of twenty, he seemed like a pretty alright dude. I hope he has a great career, so that every time I see him play I can tell this story, even to people that have heard it before. Especially to people who have heard it before. Just to annoy them.

OK folks, that is all I have for now. I am off to Asheville with a group of Taco Mac managers on Friday. We are going to pay a visit to the new Oskar Blues Blues brewery in Brevard, plus hit two or three more breweries in Asheville later in the day. Should be a good trip. Talk to you next week.

From My September Trip-Sierra Brewhouse

From My September Trip-Sierra Brewhouse
This is the top floor of the brewhouse, with buckets of fresh hops about to go into the kettles.