|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
| A Night of Listening
by Vince Capano
Far be it from me to eavesdrop on anyone’s private conversation but hearing just
isn’t a faucet that can be turned on and off, though I do have a friend whose
listening abilities mysteriously malfunction when the discussion turns to whose turn
it is to pick up the tab. But that’s another story. As for this story, it’s a look at my
night of listening to idle bar chatter. And it's all true. But before I continue, a word
for those who might recognize their words in this story - forget the law suit. I stand
behind, not to mention in front of and on both sides of the First Amendment. And
every other amendment for that matter, excluding the 18th of course. Besides, I
think it’s a federal law that anything said out loud at a bar officially goes into the
public domain once it leaves someone’s lips. As the old saying goes, loose lips
sink ships and make for an interesting night of listening.
This night’s adventure unfolded at The Tap Room in Warren, NJ. Tiger Woods
was making his sincere (?) apology to anyone who cared enough to watch. That
also went for anyone who didn’t care since he was on each and every one of the
eight TVs in the bar. Fortunately for we who were disinterested in this billionaire’s
peccadilloes the sound was turned off. On every TV. No sound and, just as nice,
no closed captioning. I hate closed captioning, especially at a bar. It’s almost
impossible to ignore. Start reading the thing and soon you can’t turn away.
Eventually your mind will say pick up your beer but your eyes will stay on the
screen. Next think you’re asking the bartender for a towel. Embarrassing.
Tiger’s mouth was moving but it would take an expert lip reader to know what he
was saying. And wouldn't you know it, one such rare individual was sitting a few
seats away from me. Well, at least that was his claim. Arny, the gentleman in
question, loudly announced, to no one in particular, that he had trained in reading
lips for years and knew exactly what was being said. The woman next to him
pleaded to know just what that was. “Tiger’s saying ‘after this is behind me all I
really want to do is open a brew pub!’” The woman looked a bit perplexed. I
however softly applauded Tiger’s goal. His heart was in the right place after all.
On the other side of the bar sat two gentlemen who obviously were on their third or
fourth pint. They were talking about the latest beer geek controversy between
Cigar City Brewing and BeerAdvocate. One of them said that Cigar City beers
are “red hot; they’re selling out everywhere”. His buddy Jay or John, or Jake – see
I wasn’t totally eavesdropping - replied, “so was Zima when it first came out.” Ah,
true insight gleaned from the bottom of a pint glass. Zima was that infamous,
clear, lightly carbonated alcoholic beverage, made and distributed by Corrs. It
was marketed not as a beer but as a “beer alternative”. It hit the market like a
thunderbolt and then went bye-bye almost as quickly as a New Jersey politician
goes to jail. Zima’s dubious legacy is that it was arguably the world’s first
alcopop. Hopefully Cigar City will heed Jay/John/Jake’s warning. And for the
record I’m siding with Beer Advocate no matter what the particulars. I don’t want
to go the way of Zima either.
When Tiger had mercifully finished each of the TV’s returned to their original
programming. The large screen at bar central had the Fox News channel while to
the far side, nearly hidden by a Spaten sign, a small TV was tuned to the Winter
Olympics. Yawn. The only ice I want to see is with some Scotch.
I noticed one individual among a group of suits, probably from the nearby Citi
Bank office, lean over toward the bartender. “Can you put curling on the big TV?”
Did he say curling? Curling?? Curling??? Yes, and he wasn’t kidding. Within
seconds the accommodating bartender had switched the channel. I was now
watching shuffleboard with brooms. I could only imagine how countless bars
across the country were also making sure their TV’s were showing curling. In
biker bars pool cues were put down, in Wall Street watering holes deals were
derailed, and in every pub from Montana to Oklahoma bucking bull machines were
turned off. Stop the world, curling is on TV.
A neatly dressed guy near the corner of the bar was not happy. “Of all the beer
bars in all the world this one has to show curling.” I’m with you; say it again Sam.
His companion chimed in with an analysis of curling. “It’s all about beer. All they
do is drink between throws.” To prove his point he went on his blackberry and
found a curling rink in South Plainfield about a 45 minute drive from where we
were. “Let’s go and check it out”. The taller gentleman proved to be the prudent
one however as I heard him say “let’s call first to see what’s on tap”.
At that point a couple wearing beer t-shirts walked in. His said Anchor Liberty,
hers Sam Adams. The male began whispering in his partner’s ear. Perhaps
some romantic musings I thought. Then I saw him gesturing wildly toward one of
the tap towers near the other side of the bar. Huh? This time I admit to leaning
over and deliberately trying to listen in. It paid off when I heard him say
“Weyerbacher changed their tap handle for the Double Simcoe. They’re not using
that wooden bottle anymore”. Gee, do you think this place is a beer geek
hangout? As for the young lady, she had the best two word phrase I heard all
evening when she described her pint of Double Simcoe. “This is traditionally
elegant”. I really don’t know what that means but it sure sounds, well, traditionally
My bar friend, Tim, was the next to enter the pub. He looked stressed out. Quite
understandable since he’s a day trader. Between long sips from his pint of an
imperial IPA he mumbled semi-coherent things about stops, calls, futures, and
short sells. From what I could interpret this was his third or fourth stop of the
evening for his self prescribed stress therapy medicine. When I asked what bars
he had visited his only answer was “wherever you go they can pick you out if
you're not normal.” With that he finished his beer and abruptly left. I think it’s
called self awareness.
A few seats to my left I overheard a voice complaining. “It’s the economy stupid.
Trust what I’m telling you. I had an interview yesterday so I know what I’m talking
about even if it didn’t go well.” I wasn’t able to get most of rest of the conversation
but heard the tail end of his advice to his equally jobless friend: “when you go to
that interview don’t bring a beer”. His friend nodded intently, I smiled, and the
bartender just shook her head.
A quite proper looking younger couple obviously dressed for some affair later in
the evening wandered in and asked for the beer list. As they studied it one turned
to the other and said “you order it.” Her friend said “no you order it. It has to be
legal. The government approves these names.” Their dilemma was
understandable in a politically correct world. After all, it just doesn’t seem right to
beckon the bartender and say “I want a bitch” or yell across the bar, “a bitch over
here”. They wisely took the easy way out and simply said “two pints of the Flying
Dog, please”. To which the bartender shouted back, “oh, you mean the Flying Dog
RAGING BITCH”. The now red faced couple ducked down at that but they
should have been consoled by the fact hat a great beer by any other name is still a
I turned left and noticed a bottle in front of a young woman seated at the open end
of the bar. It was a standard 12 ounce brown variety but the label was discreetly
covered with a bar napkin. As the bottle began to sweat the napkin became firmly
affixed but also a bit transparent. The letters C….O…..O….R….S slowly became
visible. Well, I guess that explains why she wanted to cover it up. But what it
doesn’t explain is why she ordered it in the first place and even more strangely
why she did so at a bar featuring Chimay, Orval, Rochefort and Achel, plus
another dozen great Belgium beers. Maybe she didn’t realize that today was
Trappist Tuesday at The Tap Room. In fact every Tuesday is “Trappist Tuesday”
there. The deal- $4 off any Belgium beer, Trappist or not.
Not wanting to be left out of the Tuesday fun I ordered an Orval and followed it up
with a Piraat. Score two home runs for me and an $8 savings. I leaned back
satisfied. It was a good evening. I had enjoyed great beer and got some material
for this month’s column. Then I heard a voice from the small table next to the bar.
It was Tom, a Tuesday regular. He held up his glass of Chimay Blue and with
saintly sincerity said ““I want to be a Trappist.”
To which I added, “and so do I”.
And I’d say it again no matter who was eavesdropping.
|A Night of Listening