is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|Is the country opening up too quickly or not quickly enough in these Covid 19 times? I have no idea which probably
qualifies me as much as anyone to be an “expert” commentator on any of the evening news shows. Move over Dr.
Fauci, Dr. Beer is here.
For the record by “country” I only refer to what is truly important in the nation and in life for that matter - bars and
breweries. So be forewarned, this article will not be a learned treatise on the Covid 19 cure I’m working on in my
garage. That will be next month.
In my state outdoor drinking at bars, breweries, and restaurants is currently allowed since we are in Phase 2, section
3A, paragraph 10, line 78 of the Official New Normal Recovery Plan. As such, those saintly purveyors of our favorite
beverage have carved out a bit of territory in the front, side, back or roof of their establishments to serve customers.
Stick a table somewhere “outside” and they’re back in business.
According to the regulations outside can also mean not outside. If 50% of your building has a wall/window that can
and is open then anyone sitting inside is legally sitting outside. You might say the definition of outside has been
turned inside out. I’m very confused by it all but then again I never was able to even figure out what the meaning of
the word ‘is’ is.
Despite the fact breweries/bars/restaurants can serve you outside they cannot build a makeshift bar you can belly up
to. Drinks must be ordered with a server who will eventually deliver it to your table. Yes, it must be a table. And you
must be seated at it. If you want a beer. You cannot be standing anywhere including behind, in front of, or on said
table or its accompanying chair. That goes even if you double the mandated 6 feet distance away from any earthling
or visiting extraterrestrial. There’s also no kneeling in prayer for the brewer’s good health. If caught you will not be
given what that brewer’s good health (thanks to you) has produced.
For the rule breakers out there who think leaning might be a loophole the law didn’t foresee, forget it. That too is
prohibited. In fact, in addition to the leaning clause the rules specify there’s no running in place if you want a drink.
Just as well, the spillage can be a bit much.
The bottom line is that our leaders have wisely concluded that standing enhances your virus spreadabiity /
susceptibility quotient. That conclusion is based on the known fact that short people drinking beer are less likely to
catch the virus than those of a taller ilk. Therefore anyone seated has instant stature reduction which effectively
fools the virus. This is the kind of stuff they don’t want us to know.
Interestingly some breweries are actually demanding you reserve a table if you want to drink in their outdoor “beer
garden”. Thanks to Covid 19 even a 3x5 foot section of cracked, uneven sidewalk cordoned off by portable highway
dividers is now magically a garden. But wait there’s more. Not only must you reserve space there is a limit to the
time you can stay. The shortest time allowed I’ve seen was 45 minutes, the longest 90 minutes. We’re not talking
about breweries like Trillium, Tree House, or Russian River on Pliny The Younger release day. Time limits there help
more people get a chance at great beer. No, these are mostly places that make, at best, mediocre beer and were
never crowded before Covid 19. Now through the power of beer deprivation by virus they have suddenly become in
demand. I recommend they name all their beer Pretentious Hooey.
Wearing a mask is mandated when walking to a table, or leaving it for any reason even good ones. It is not required
when you are sitting. That begs the question just what do you do with it when it’s not on? Stuffing it in your pocket is
an option but then you run the risk of mistaking it for a tissue. There’s nothing worse than having to wear a mask
after sneezing in it except maybe if it was after two sneezes. You could let it hang nonchalantly over one ear
affecting a chic sort of Euro Continental Moe Howard look. You might also consider using it as a beer mat, arm
badge, or chin supporter. Of course if you have a really fancy custom made mask like my BeerNexus colleague
Glenn Deluca (a diamond studded “Big G” next to a gold outline of a beer mug) you can simply slide it down around
your neck so it is always visible to inspire people or to rapidly deploy in case of an instantaneous virus spike. And if
you’re wondering, I’ve been using the same throw away paper covering for the last 3 months. I’m trying to save
money to buy more beer.
One of my local less than good breweries sends out marketing e-mails weekly extolling the various cans they’re
selling and inviting you to their beer garden with “reservations strongly recommended” with a time limit of 75 minutes.
They proudly tout “beers available to take out and/or enjoy on site”. A friend of mine, let’s call him John, mainly
because that’s his name, recently went there. He knows the beer isn’t good but it’s just too close to his house to
resist. His reservation did score a prime table in the sun. Actually every table is in the sun though he was assured
his was closest to it. That might explain why all the other tables were empty. When he asked for a beer they brought
out a can saying “we’re not serving draft”. Needless to say he did not use up his allotted time.
Another friend, let’s call him Henry (it’s really still John) brought two growlers to his local brewery. They were only
allowing one person in at time, locking and unlocking the door for each customer. Apparently a locked door
effectively stymies the virus if it dares try to enter. Henry patiently waited outside until called in. Reaching the
Promised Land he handed the growlers to the beertender who instantly said “What’s this?? I can’t fill growlers from
any place else but here. You have to buy our growlers for $8 each plus the cost of beer.” “Why can’t you fill mine?”
was Henry’s logical response. “We don’t know if you sanitized them properly” he was told. To which Henry said, “well
how do I know your growlers were properly sanitized?”.His answer was a loud “Next customer”. Henry vowed never to
return. I don’t believe him.
Just about any bar and brewery accepts orders to go. They mean that literally. You can get a growler, crowler, or can
but it cannot be consumed on site. You can however use the little know variation of the famed German
Reinheitsgebot laws known as the Reichenbach Falls Moriarty Holmes Corollary. It allows you to duck behind the
nearest waterfall and enjoy your beer without fear of repercussion unless of course you’re caught or inadvertently
plummet down the falls without a barrel.
The state of NY has just announced another interesting new rule on beer and alcohol consumption. The governor
has bumped the seated mandate up a notch and now requires you to order a food item in order to get a drink.
Somehow he sees this as an effective tool to curb “large booze-fueled gatherings amid the pandemic”. The rule
seems to be just good plain common sense since everyone knows people who are eating are less likely to catch the
virus. I mean, how obvious can it be.
Many a brewery and pub have figured out a cheap and easy way to comply with that edict. They are now selling $1
bags of potato chips. Upon hearing this BeerNexus colleague Dan Hodge suggested they offer a more complete
food menu that would not only meet the legal requirements but also present a variety of items and price points to
provide some small profit margin for the proprietor. He suggests nine French fries - $1, a single piece of celery
(available only in a Bloody Mary) - $1, crackers (only 50 cents if ordered with cheese), five cents for one potato chip
(especially appealing to those counting calories), two olives for a dollar with or without the martini, one penny per
peanut with a limit of 100, and finally The Chef’s Choice in which you get any one and a half items from the menu
personally selected by the in-residence Epicurean Czar. In case he’s not available the busboy will do it.
The elephant in the room or more accurately, in the outdoor area, is the weather. What happens when it rains?
Sitting, even under a tent, during a, downpour, monsoon, cloudburst, deluge, drencher, hurricane, or lightning storm
is dangerous. Water is likely to get into your beer and dilute it.That of course does not apply to people drinking Bud
Light. They won’t notice any difference,
Rain isn’t the only worry. Drinking outside can be quite pleasant in the summer but what if the regulations last into
winter? Some people like their beer cold but drinking it in 10 degree weather might make both the mountains on
Coors cans and the drinker turn the same shade of blue. And what would happen to those who prefer to drink out of
a can? Would they become the beer version of Flick from A Christmas Story who got his tongue stuck to a frozen flag
pole? Not to worry, no one would be dumb enough to do that, unless of course some malcontent teetotaler triple
dogged dared him. Then it’s a matter of honor.
Not a long time from now, not in a galaxy far, far away but in your town the bars and breweries will throw open their
swinging doors and invite you to go inside and down a few pints. But just who will go? After many months of anxiety,
fear, and warnings what type of person will be carefree (reckless?) enough to roll the dice to challenge a virus that
shook the world? A virus could be lurking anywhere inside – under a stool, behind a counter, in a tap handle, or on
the “Remove Mask To Drink” sign. It has to be someone very brave and very special.
Do you have the right stuff to be first to go Inside, the final frontier? Are you the one to take a voyage into the
unknown? Will you accept the mission to explore this strange new world, to seek out new beers and new breweries?
To boldly go where no cerevisaphile has gone before?
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready! Beam me inside, Scotty.
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