It seemed like a good idea. When researching beer, why not go to the local brewery and partake of the tour. And if luck would have it, I could discuss the finer points of brewing with those of like minds and taste. And if I were truly lucky, I could sample a few beers and compare them with others in the tour group, noting that the Sunrye was lacking in alcohol kick, but had a nice, crisp flavor, or that the porter being served was dark and rich and nutty. And then , we would all cheer in our new-found friendship on the true virtues of beer, raising our (complimentary)glasses and toasting our judgement in beer, and our love for it as well.
What a beautifully colored sky there is in my fantasy world.
Tara, my ever-willing partner into my obsession that is food, didn’t have the same outlook as I did. And upon reflection, I now see just right she was to be skeptical of this journey. After all… it was a beer tour. With free beer. Anytime the word “free” comes in front of any word, bad things happen.
We arrived at the Red Hook brewery around 4:30, leaving us with about thirty minutes before the tour was to start. It was then that the sheer magnitude of my mistake began to become apparent. In looking at the brew pub (which served basic bar food, as well has fresh beer from the brewery) I realized that we were surrounded. Surrounded by a mob of people dressed either as Abercrombie & Fitch models or second tier golfers. Sometimes they looked like both. Instead of sitting in the pub, waiting for the tour, I took a step back. I decided that waiting in the souvenir stand was the best plan.
I looked to Tara for sympathy, where she graciously indicated that I was to be dragged to her next medical conference. And not some exciting conference either, but one with the title of “Our friend the Spleen” or “Ingrown Fingernails: The Hidden Danger!”.
By the time Five o’clock rolled around, we found ourselves in a group of 48 people. In a quick glance at the demographics of the crowd, I discerned them to be 90% white, 74% male, and 97% obnoxious. When our tour guide, Laura, showed up, the “Oh shit” look in her eyes confirmed my fears. There was to be precious few kernels of information learned on this tour.
Quickly Laura corralled the participants and led us all up the steps into the “tour room”. This room was our centralized location from which the rest of the tour would be completed. There was no linear format to the tour. No beginning, middle and end which would have helped demonstrate how beer was made.
Nope. Instead, we got a home base, in which the unruly mob would shout “Beer! Beer! Beer!” in order to quell their thirst for beer and free things at the same time.
Laura started by saying how all beer is made of barley, yeast, water and hops. She then proceeded to pour us the Sunrye, which was made from Rye. So apparently all beer is made out of barley, yeast, water and hops….except for when it’s not. I was learning things already.
The unruly mob voiced it’s approval of the beer. But the din of their unruliness drowns out Laura’s oratory of the initial brewing procedure. Which was just as well, as I couldn’t see out the window from the free beer room.
“Any questions on that part of the process?” Laura asked.
“More beer!!!”, the Unruly Mob responded. Suddenly Laura was transformed from an knowledgeable tour guide to a bartender. A bartender without any odds of getting any tips.
Laura then proceeded to pour out 48 glasses of Red Hooks India Pale Ale. The Unruly Mob murmured it’s approval. Sensing this was a good time to take control, she herded the mob into an adjacent room where the yeast is added to the sludge made in the first part of the process.
“Here is where the yeast is added, and fermentation takes place. The yeast creates helps create the alcohol content and the Carbon Dioxide in the beer. Any questions?”, Laura asked.
One of the sheep decided to stray from the flock and raised their hand. “Where does the CO2 go?”
Laura gazed at the stray sheep with pity, anger and shock….which made her face do weird contortions that made her appear as if she was channeling some long forgotten vengeance demon.
“Where does… huh…what?” Laura asked. “You drink it.. it’s the bubbles in the beer.”
There is an uncomfortable silence. I cover my eyes, embarrassed for the stray sheep, I hear a few chuckles from behind me. Tara, who has so far kept quiet, relishes the ignorance of the Unruly Mob. But soon, Laura grabs control by shouting “Who wants more beer?!?” The Unruly Mob now thinks of Laura as a just and right goddess. The Beer Goddess. The bringer of free beer. “Huzzah!” they shout, bringing in the stray sheep. The promise Laura to never again ask a stupid question, or nay any question for the rest of the tour.
Laura then serves another beer, and then takes us the warehouse/bottling room. Which, being Saturday, was non-operational. So we essentially were drinking free beer and looking at machinery. Very boring, non-working machinery. But it was shiny, I will give it that.
The Unruly Mob was no longer unruly, yet still mob-like. Free beer had calmed them down. Laura could lead them anywhere, as long as the promise of three more ounces of Red Hook’s Latest Porter held them firm. They sang the praises of Laura, and promised her their first born, as long as she kept the beer coming. They painted their faces in red and gold, the official colors of Red Hook, and took over the brewery, making Laura their queen. And lo, they found it good, as their was free beer, and jalapena poppers from the brew pub down stairs. Laura, being the playful, vindictive queen would sometimes serve beer made of wheat, barley, corn and rat piss to those who did not favor her well. And then drank it, not because it was good, but because it was free.
Or at least that’s what I imagined what happened. Because after being herded to see an empty warehouse, Tara and I left. I was a little wiser, but not in the ways of brewing. The one thing I learned was that people will do anything for free beer.