Friday, July 6, 2007

A Session Conversation - Atmosphere

Recently a topic for the "Session" topic came up that has piqued my interest. I don't rightly know what the rules of "The Session" contributors are, but I figured I'd give this a shot. I may have my blogger privileges revoked though...

I found this on the Appellation Beer Blog today.
"So, we want to know about the “Atmosphere” in which you enjoy beer. Where is your favorite place to have a beer? When? With whom? Most importantly: Why?"
Let's tackle this loaded topic one question at a time.

Where is my favorite place to have a beer? Where beer is appreciated by those around me. I frequent several local bars with friends and this seems to be the common denominator. It begins with the owner - they must appreciate beer, or at least appreciate that I appreciate good beer. These places are easy to spot based on the proportion of craft beer on tap compared to macro. From here the rest of the details all fall apart, but I guess to understand I should probably explain.

Stop One: The Dirty Place
This place has a better name, but to be honest I can't tell you what it is. It is found in an old part of town that seems to have been neglected for 30 years while the world around it progressed and moved into the 21st century. Upon walking in you quickly notice the place is dark, really dark, like someone forgot to pay the light bill type of dark. Next, you see all TVs playing Fox News - something you just don't see in most bars. There are a handful of unused tables and a bars with a spattering of regulars. In the corner, an pool table that leans to the left and a new Juke Box playing hair band favorites from the '80s. The bar is often sticky to touch, the bathroom disgusting and reeking of urine (you really have to go to brave this scene). It is a dive bar at its finest. But what's on tap? Moylan's, Rubicon, Bear Republic, North Coast, Lost Coast, Anderson Valley and even the occasional Hoppy. There is no mistaking why me and my beer loving friends find this place regularly, its the beer. We find that with good beer we can ignore the pundits (or laugh at their silly commentary), the filth and the general depressing nature of the place. Lose the beer and we'd never return. Oh, and the best part - Racer 5 pints are three bucks.

Stop Two: The Wine Bar
Not far from The Dirty Place is a wine bar in a new part of town, the part of town built in the 21st century with all the glitz and glimmer to accompany it. The scene here is quite different: A large flat panel TV silently showing whatever sporting event is on TV; Hand-painted murals on each wall with warm and inviting colors; A wall of fine wines from the many wineries in our region; New, clean tables and a floor that appears to be swept every 30 minutes. In addition, this place doubles as a fine cheese shop, with each cheese brought in special by their talented cheese man. What's on tap here? Today is Bear Republic Racer 5, Deschutes Buzzsaw Brown, Lost Coast Imperial Pilsner, Stone Pale, Moylan's Hopsickle and a local Hefeweizen - all to highlight an impressive bottled beer selection. Coming here isn't cheap, but the place seems to invite conversations with strangers and an overall good time.

Stop Three: The Brewery
Still in the same city, every Thursday and Friday night, our local brewery opens its bay doors for an evening beer tasting. No chairs. No glasses. No TV. No music. There is a fake cow you can sit on when its your birthday, but that is another story. Beers are poured in a small plastic cup and regulars will bring in community finger foods, like chips or sometimes even a pizza. They almost always have a blonde ale, an IPA, a stout, a red and whatever they happen to have just made a one-off batch of. This place is a warehouse through and through, but the people come each week to enjoy the beers after work and find new friends, all while hoping to say hi to the local brewers there and get the inside scoop on what to expect next.

Stop Four: The Other Brewery
Down the street from The Brewery is a chain brewery, new and super shiny. Getting in this place on a Friday night can be tricky, but once in you can sit in a comfortable seat and enjoy cocktails, house made beers and premium shots of your favorite liquor. On every wall are flat screen TVs, many per wall that is, all playing sporting events of any kind. People here are dressed for a party - women in low-cut blouses and men in fresh-pressed button downs displaying their favorite name brand. To call this place 'trendy' may be an understatement, and I think you know what I mean. The place makes good beer though, and always has great guest taps. We don't mind at all bellying up to the bar in our less-than-stellar apparel and challenging those around us to drink better beer (yeah, they sell a lot of Bud here, believe it or not).

So, there you are, my favorite places. Each as different from the other as can be, but all serving good beer - on purpose. There are other dirty places in town, more breweries to see and lots of wine bars - but they don't respect beer or appreciate my beer enthusiasm. These four places do, however, and for that I have great appreciation and loyalty, as do my beer-loving friends.