It was a Thursday evening when I took a seat directly in front
of the beloved Gaslight Pub’s beer engine.   I blissfully began to enjoy the
sublime qualities of their cask offering of the week, the oh so appropriately
named HOP Heaven, when the seat next to me was taken by someone only
known around the pub as the “Sage of Beer”.   I had heard of this local
legend but now to finally see him in person was at least on a par with
meeting Michael Jackson’s cousin’s neighbor’s dog groomer.  Yawn.  But then
again, I did need material for a new story.   So being a well prepared beer
writer I quickly took out my notebook– I really grabbed few napkins from
behind the bar - and got ready to scribble down anything he said.

The Sage of Beer looked around.  While I had seen only thirsty patrons - and
the attractive waitress – the Sage immediately pointed out the stunning array
of different styles of glassware around the bar.   The proprietors of this
establishment thankfully, he pointed out, recognized that while the
nondescript macro brews will all have that same no-taste flavor regardless of
the glassware used, finely crafted micros demand fairly specific vessels to
fully flourish and enhance their flavor.

He pointed out that the fruit flavored lambics were neatly placed in fluted
glasses, their striking tall design helping to preserve the delicate bubbles of
the liquid while concentrating the bouquet.  Across the bar he noted that a
Duvel being served in something that looked like a bandy snifter with a flared
lip.   The lip’s purpose, he expounded, was to allow the beer to pass
effortlessly under the creamy head so as to allow for drinking while enjoying
the aroma.   He gleefully showed me that the Kolsch came in the traditional 7-
ounce cylinder of thin, delicate glass and the Kristall was poured into a long,
upwardly flaring glasses.  This was a lecture worth 5-graduate credits in any
beer college in the land.

Moved by the beautiful symbiosis of it all and in a rush of grand inspiration
the Sage began an almost hypnotic sing song chant -- “the vessel that is
special makes the brew oh so true!”  Very clever I thought, though on this
opinion on this was quite divided among those sitting nearby.   Nonetheless I
immediately vowed to throw out all my plastic cups the minute I got home.

The next night I met the Sage for a follow up interview at a nearby Tex-Mex
spot called The Rattlesnake Pub.  Good fortune seemed ours for as we sat
down at the bar we were heartened to see that mixed in with the usual Bud
and pseudo Bud lineup proudly stood taps of Otter Creek Cooper and Long
Trail Pale Ale, rare finds indeed in this locale.   The Sage immediately began
to eloquently extol the virtues of these offerings in that tone of total authority
that a few, make that very few, might call charming.   He placed his order for
the Otter Creek and I opted for the Long Trail.   Almost instantly our glasses
appeared.   Suddenly, the Sage seemed frozen in angry disbelief.   Incredibly,
his beer had been served in a dark, opaque, blue glass of generic form.  His
barstool flew back.  He yelled for the manager.  The Sage’s voice dripping
with incensed, livid indignation haltingly spit out “blue glass…. blue glass….
no, no”.   I tried to assure those around us, a group which by now included
two burly bouncers, that he was not a disgruntled post office worker but
merely someone to whom beer was a near religious experience.  I took out
the napkins with my notes from yesterday and told them of his prime belief
that good ale deserves to be sniffed, tasted and seen.   Unfortunately this was
not a group of regular readers.

As the bouncers, not too gently, sat the Sage down with a whispered
warning, most at the bar turned back to their own glasses satisfied with the
insightful analysis  muttered by one of their brethren “those guys should have
been cut off long ago”.  The bartender mercifully told the Sage she’d pour
him a fresh one in a clear glass.  As she picked up that hideous blue demon
she looked at me and casually said, “do you want it? No charge, I’m just
going to throw it out anyway.”   Oh no.  Why ask me? Was this a divine test
from the beer gods?  Had I really learned anything from the Sage?  Would
the prospect of free ale make me abandon his teachings?   Sometimes you
learn a lot about yourself in trying situations like these.  She waited as I
pondered, for at least two full seconds, every possible ethical ramification of
my decision.   

I looked over to see the Sage’s eyes transfixed in deep study on his newly
filled clear glass and instantly knew this was the moment to act.  Deftly
grabbing that accursed blue albatross with a sleight of hand worthy of any
beer loving prestidigitator, I stealthily poured its golden contents into my
own empty vessel.   The bartender gently smiled; the Sage happily babbled
on; my conscience was clear; and significantly, this round was really and
truly FREE.  I knew I had chosen wisely.  All was right with the world
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.  

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