I'm listening to Down at the Corner Bar by Tony Booth while heading home from Alefest with Hank, which seems somehow appropriate given his - and the song's - straightforward appeal. There are few nicknames that fit as well as "Hank" for Ron. When you think Hank, you think bigger than life but having common sense. He arrived slightly late but with the excuse of helping others, which, as far as excuses go, is as good as it gets.
It didn't look like the outing would happen due to the dumping of twelve inches of snow, but the plow-crews came out and the worse I experienced was the shelling of horseshoe crab-sized snow blocks from the car in front of me. Which provided no trouble greater than the momentary distraction of white discs exploding on the dark, nearly dry asphalt.
Ron says he is reading the Reeves' biography of Bishop Sheen and sees the paradox in the man, and thus the paradox within us all. Sheen fought the sin of vanity while quietly doing works of charity. I ginn'd up the early eve by bringing up the controversial subject of the church carpet replacement. Hank's not a fan of church expenses.
As you enter they give you all sorts of things to carry around: party favors, a pen, a sampler glass, a program, matches. I try to keep track of the beers we drink and find with every drink my dexterity at writing while walking actually increases, ala my grandpa who was said to drive better after a couple.
In the meantime we burnt through blue tickets like confetti at a parade. Somewhat shamefully I note six unused tickets even now, but there are only so many beers one can taste without it feeling a duty. Chesterton said that the purpose of an open mind is to clamp on some truth, and the purpose of an open palate is to clamp on one taste. Later I would find out that it's best to stick to pale ales before IPAs before stouts. Everything to its season.
While still early in the tasting Ron brought up, out of the blue, the idea for a bet: $3 to the person who finds someone he knows in this venue. It seemed a longshot that we'd know anyone, but I took him up on it as we began our journey to some thirty-nine tables of beer, each with at least three varieties. We started, randomly, at table 33 and tried the Great Flash West Coast IPA. IPA is the beer lover's beer, hoppy and bitter, and I figured it was a good starter beer. It was as advertised: hoppy & bitter. He bumped the bet to $5.
We decided to go in order from there on in, and table 1 brought a Edmund Fitzgerald Porter that piped a very earthy, bass note. Table 2 was Sam Adams, and it proved a pleasure to introduce Ron to the double bock. I relished his appreciation of it.
Tables came and went: Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, which wasn't as chocolately as I thought, and then a Rogue Chocolate stout that was. Onto the Bluegrass Bourbon Barrel Stout and a fine refreshing pale ale at table 10. The Belhaven Twisted Thistle was on draught, and Ron tried and liked the Drop Top Amber. He also liked the Xingu Black Lager, while I tried, naturally, the St. Peter's Organic Cream Stout. Stouty goodness.
Ron paid me the compliment of wanting to read my journal entry from our last gathering, while a man walked by wearing gold beads. "Not a good look," I said, to Ron's approval, as we tried an Abita Purple Haze (Raspberry).
Ron tried a Trappist Tripel, finding it sour and bitter and inconspicuously pitching it, while I was in the mood for something sweet, a Samuel Smith cherry. One Flying Dog Gonzo imperial porter later, I had the Mad Hatter "Poet", a serviceable oatmeal stout. And then, just as things were winding down I run into Neil, a former work comrade. The little bet paid off. And, coincidentally, Neil was raving enthusiastically about the first beer we'd tried: the Green Flash IPA.