Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now  a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of

Vince's  Adventures in Beerland
It isn’t often that dreams do come true, but it only has to happen once to become a
believer forever. Well, count me in the flock for I hit the jackpot at the 5th annual Garden
State (NJ) Craft Brewers Festival.

The story of my rare stoke of good fortune began in the recessed corner, TV side, of the
spacious rectangular bar at the Gaslight Brewery in South Orange, NJ.   I should have realized
that getting this coveted seat, squarely in front of six taps and a glorious hand pump, was an
omen of the glorious fate that awaited me.  The evening began auspiciously as the affable
bartender/beer raconteur Jeff Levine showed perfect timing in placing a pint of Gaslight’s tasty
cask ale, Hop Heaven, in front of me the moment by rear hit the bar stool cushion.   Ah that
Jeff, such a saintly and efficient man.  He then beckoned me to lean closer for a private
word.   “We’re one person short for our pouring team at this weekend’s beer festival.  Would
you like to join us?”  Huh? Me?  Move to the other side of the taps?  Well, I’m no bozo.  I
immediately assumed there had to be a catch for this dream come true. But no.  There was
nary a donation to be made, a lottery to be won, or a quiz to take. This was simply a friendly
invitation to help out.  Jeff’s logic was sound as he concluded that anyone who has drank as
much of Gaslight beer as I’ve had would probably be able to handle the job requirements: hold
a glass upright, efficiently pull the tap handle down, and show up on time.  Considering beer
was involved, he was right on all counts.

I arrived early, very early, at the Gaslight on Sunday, festival morning.  I thought that seeing
the bar at 6 AM might be a revelation but it really didn’t look that much different.  I guess not
much changes in four hours.  I was led down to the bowels of the brewery to rendezvous
with the rest of the team: brewer DJ Soboti, a member of his staff, Eric Smitty, and of
course, Jeff.  Although my first thought was I’d be the Shemp to their Moe, Larry, and Curly,
we quickly banded together in a motivating cheer of “Goooooooooo Gaslight!”  Perhaps a bit
basic, but that’s the best we could do as the official Gaslight Cheerleaders were still out at the
National Pub Cheering Championships.  Our spirits were further buoyed as we began to load
the pick up truck with its valuable cargo - beer.   Although almost everything that had to be
placed on board weighted more than me, the euphoria of the moment gave me the strength
of, oh, Woody Allen.   I skillfully maneuvered it so that I was the one who picked up the
hoses and valves while my erstwhile brethren got the weighty kegs.   Obviously, beer writers
are not quite as dumb as they look.  Eventually all was loaded and the official Gaslight vehicle
was ready to disembark on the highway to real hop heaven.  With Jeff at the wheel we
zipped down the NJ Turnpike quite nicely, that is if nicely is defined as traveling a minimum of
85 mph.   I didn’t complain however for I was aware that official  pouring team etiquette
required that even if terrified, passengers must maintain a stoic demeanor.  Silent prayer
however was allowed.  

We arrived at the Trenton hockey arena that was to become the home of the festival with,
no surprise, time to spare.  Jeff neatly backed the truck up into the loading docks as my
excitement mounted.   It was now time to unload and set up the Gaslight booth.  I quickly
picked up the hoses and headed into the cavernous building that seemed more suited to
hibernation than inebriation.  Scores of workers from each of the pubs busied themselves
decorating their assigned cubicles hoping to magically transform the stark building into a beer
garden of mythical proportions.  And that they did; though mythical proportions might be just
a bit of overstatement, excluding of course the majestic beer mug ice carvings on each end of
the arena floor.  

I bowed my head in joyous awe as countless weighty, silver hued kegs were noisily rolled into
the arena. The beer was here!  Hoses were quickly and expertly connected as the dull roar
from the patrons waiting outside welled up to the building’s rafters.   In syncopated rhythm
the ticket holders pounded on the door while shouting a heart-rending chant of “we want
beer”.   Their wait was soon to be ended; everything was ready. The arena’s loud speaker
crackled on and an officious voice bellowed: “GENTLEMEN COMMENCE TO POUR”.

A panorama of shapes, sizes, colors, and ages quickly engulfed the floor, united by a singular
motive – fill their sampling glass as quickly and as often as possible.  I readied myself behind the
tap of Gaslight Hopfest Ale awaiting the onslaught.  The lines that rapidly formed in front of
my station were just as quickly dissipated as I filled each glasses with a confidence that belied
my inexperience.   I neatly flipped the tap handles back in a display of dexterity and
nimbleness worthy of the best Bolshoi ballet.   Becoming bolder, I then tried pulling the taps
back with gestures and flourishes that were a close facsimile of Queen Elizabeth’s august wave
and finished my pour by ceremoniously holding the handle down in a demonstration
omnipotent power over the thirsty supplicants.  Heady stuff indeed.  

I was fortunately able to avoid being corrupted by my absolute power by relying on the
modesty clause of the traditional Festival Pourer’s Creed, and by carefully following the section
that said to pour “one for you and one for me.”

I looked over to my beer guru, Jeff Levine, and saw he had been given job of pouring the
Eliminator, a honey laced double maibock of legendary quality.  As he filled each glass his
bracing baritone voice sang out “E –LIM- IN - ATOR”.   He had it going now.  “E-LIM-INATOR”,
“E-LIM-INATOR” reverberated throughout the arena, a siren call for true beer lovers.   

As each patron stepped up to Jeff’s station he asked them what they wanted.  “What’s that?
Can’t hear you.  Say it loud and to say it proud” was his challenge.   And so they too took up
his mantra, “E-Lim-Inator”, “E-Lim-Inator”, to which Jeff echoed an even louder “E-LIM-
INATOR”.  Applause now began to build for each glass he filled.  As I stood next to him,
basking in his aura, a brave soul in my line called out “ HOP- Fest”, matching the sincerity, if
not the bombast, of his peers in the Eliminator line.   Soon singsong matching yells began to
blend into a joyous solidarity of celebration for beer everywhere as I stood mesmerized in its
vortex.

As the afternoon wore on Jeff  was my role model of fortitude and endurance.  Smooth and
ambidextrous, nary a drop, or glass, hit the ground.  He also fielded countless questions, never
leaving a mind inquiring, or throat thirsty.  Nothing fazed him, not even a matronly woman
who had arrogantly pushed in from of the Eliminator line and demanded a Coors Light.   Not
one to let anyone go unsatiated, Jeff surreptitiously filled her glass with water and a tiny
splash of Eliminator for color, knowing she would never notice the difference.  And he was
right.  

Taking a break, I walked to the rear of the arena and noticed a group of individuals wearing T-
shirts proudly proclaiming their membership in something called the HOPS club.  Upon inquiry I
was told they were on a self ordained festival mission to conduct a grass-roots people’s poll of
the best beer at the show and to consume as much as possible, though not necessarily in
that order.  They placed hundreds of nicely prepared paper ballots on a table near an exit to
the men’s room.  “A good place for a lot of traffic” explained one of their brethren.  The ballot
titled “The Real People’s Choice Award, featured a well-designed beer mug logo, lines for the
top three beers, and a space for comments.  

At exactly 5:00 PM the loudspeaker barked: “cease pouring, the festival is over.”  Oh the
empathy I now felt for Cinderella.  As the crowd headed toward the egresses a messenger
from the HOPS Club said I was needed.  With an  almost believable display of disappointment
at not being able to help with my pouring team’s clean up duties, I left for the last reprise of
my dream come true day.  

The HOPS club President, having seen me behind the taps, noted my exalted status and
pleaded with me to be a witness to the veracity of their tallying of the votes.   Somehow, in
only a few hours, I had gone from a guy on a barstool to a well-respected beer official.  Even
more illogically, it seemed to make eminent sense to me.    Ballot after ballot was carefully
totaled and comments recorded under my watchful gaze.  

Finally, I was asked to read the results aloud. “The most repeated comment on the ballots
was larger sampling glasses!” I shouted to the crowd as nods of approval mixed with cheers
from the club members.  Now it was time for the big one:  the best beer at the festival
winner.   I looked down the list of all the votes, nervous that I might misread the winner.  I
quickly saw that my fear was unfounded.  Clearing my throat and bellowed out for all I was
worth - “ E- LIM-INATOR!”

It was truly a perfect ending to my perfect day.  Cheers.

--------
When you Wish Upon a Keg
by
Vince Capano