More Time To Reflect


Before I begin, I wanted to share a thought. Restaurants, but not the bar area, in
some states have already gotten a limited opening with more states to follow and that’
s GREAT! I can’t wait to get out and a have a craft beer on draft, not that I haven’t
had a bunch of great cans in the past couple of months. Hopefully whatever place
you go has been open for takeout and selling growlers to move their draft beers, but
if they weren’t and they’re just going to start with the same kegs on tap that have
been sitting…for two months, well I for one am not super interested. I understand it’s
not economical to dump beer but hopefully they’re tasting it first and if “okay” then
moving it quickly at reduced prices to get to fresher stuff…I’m just saying…

If there’s one thing many of us have had recently it’s more free time; and yes, I did
say many of us as I know there are others who are cooped up with the family and
might actually have less. When you’re into the second month of sheltering-in-place
you may well have already made a big dent on reading and projects on the “to do”

Sometimes it’s good to just sit and relax and reflect. Covid 19 has proven itself pretty
deadly, more so to older folks, but it doesn’t discriminate and we see all ages who
have succumbed. And it appears to travel very easily from person to person. With
the reality of the situation one might take time to reflect on “why am I saving/keeping
this”? Many of us put things aside for a rainy day or a special occasion and then it
just sits waiting in the wings for that special occasion and the coronavirus has
eliminated the possibility of that special occasion for many.

I’ve always been a beer drinker and enjoyed “taste testing” beers from other
breweries / parts of the country (it also helped that one of my drinking buddies
collected beer cans so we were always on the search for a new one for his collection,
which is pretty much worthless now, but that’s another story…). When craft beer
came along in the late 80’s it became a much more delightful exploration. I also
started to taste and drink more wine and have included wine tasting into numerous
trips to Yakima Valley in WA, the Willamette Valley in OR, Mendocino, Lake, Central
Coast and Paso Robles in CA and even the Finger Lakes in NY. Years ago, I put
together a large IKEA wine rack that can hold almost 100 bottles and have managed
to keep it stocked with chards, cabs, zins, sauvignon blancs, roses and numerous
other red and white styles over the years. The vast majority are basic drinking wines
but there are a few I bought to hold onto for a special occasion.

There was a wine column in the WSJ by an interesting couple, Dottie and John,
whose articles I enjoyed. They would have an Open That Bottle Night once a year,
where they encouraged their readers to open something they had been saving and
then write in to tell about it. Many times, the wine wasn’t all that good anymore but for
some it was more remembering the time or place or people one was with. I’ve got a
few I’ve been holding so decided it’s time to break them out.

First was a 1986 50th Anniversary Beaulieu Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet.
They release one every year and it’s definitely one to keep for a while, but how long
is optimum. I went online and found a few reviews from people who opened one
recently and they’re saying it’s lost most of its fruit, not a good sign. Opened it to
accompany a nice filet mignon. It was definitely drinkable but not a lot of the rich fruit
you’d expect for an expensive cab.

Next up was a Dom Perignon, which I’ve had for twenty years, with some cheese
before dinner. Not as bubbly as a usual champagne, which I’m attributing to age
rather than the style, darker in color and richer taste, more like a wine; definitely
good but not great.

Third up was a 1985 Opus One, an expensive small production cab collab between
Baron Phillipe Rothchild and Robert Mondavi again with a filet mignon. The cork did
not cooperate, much of it fell into the bottle. I used an aerator figuring it would catch
the cork and hopefully help the wine open up and…bummer, still drinkable but this
was the worst of the three.

Since it’s baseball season, without any baseball, my alternative “wine at bat” was a
definite STRIKE OUT! I’ve kept these all too long and did not get the valve for what I
spent on them. We craft beer drinkers don’t cellar beers as much. We all know lagers
and definitely IPAs are not good candidates just as many of the white wines aren’t.
There are a couple of types that could lend well to it. Wild beers (lambics, gueuzes,
etc.) that use live organisms other than yeast to produce flavors which need some
time and can over time continue to change and hopefully enhance the beer in the
bottle.  Also strong beers with higher ABV (barleywines, imperial stouts, etc.) that can
hold up and continue to accentuate the different tastes. So maybe you’ve got a
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and an Orval Trappist Ale and a Sierra Nevada
Bigfoot and a few others sitting somewhere. First, they are hopefully in your
basement standing upright or if you don’t have a basement in a cool dry dark place
like a closet. And you should be organized by keeping a simple list of when you
stored. It can definitely be interesting but please whatever you do don’t hang on to
them forever like I did with my wines; that’s called alcohol abuse…

Okay so enough about the wine rack in the basement, let’s move up to the office on
the second floor. One of the pieces of furniture in that room is my old roll top desk. I
probably got it when I was about ten or so years old and I did much of my high school
homework on that desk. When I moved out of my parent’s house it came with me
wherever I went. After college it was a place to keep papers and take care of bills, but
for quite a while it’s just been a place to keep things. Once we got into home PCs a
roll top isn’t all that functional with a monitor on it, not to mention there weren’t any
access holes for all the wires. Nowadays it could be more functional with a laptop, but
we have a big workstation.

One of my sequestering projects is going through the many paper files, deciding
what to keep, scan, recycle or shred. I have a reasonable idea what’s in my roll top
but with all this time why not take a look and see what’s there and if I really need to
keep it.

One of the interesting things I pull out are a few of the Whitman Publishing Company
blue coin folders. Wow can’t believe I still have any of these and unfortunately the
ones I have are Lincoln penny and Jefferson nickel. The coin collecting market really
sank many years ago so the vast majority of these are worth $.01 and $.05
respectively. If I empty both I might be able to afford a $3 at The Cloverleaf, but hey
it’s better than nothing.

In each of the three side drawers in addition to pictures, old greeting cards, a couple
of decks of cards and an old hand crank pencil sharpener are piles of…beer
coasters. I started collecting coasters years ago, but not just any old dirty coaster, it
had to look great, be new and preferably a beer I liked. And besides if I’m out at a bar
I can’t peel off a label or take the empty bottle or can home and the bar’s not paying
for them (the distributor should be giving them out for us patrons to see and
encourage us to buy their beer) so it’s a very economical way to collect and doesn’t
take up all that much space.

Most of these coasters have been in here for years, some decades. I always thought
I’d make some type of display with them but never have. I remember seeing a couple
of great displays up at Willi Brew up in Willimantic CT. Have been there numerous
times as it’s just south of Storrs where UConn is and it’s also typically the #1 ranked
brewpub in CT. I’ve enjoyed many of their own as well as guest beers and their food
is very good also. (And no, I’m not getting paid to endorse them, they are really good
if you’re in the area!)

Since I’ve got time, I think I’ll go through these coasters and see what I have. Well this
is a trip down memory lane; there are approximately 60 different ones but I have
multiples of practically each one. As I went through, I put them into different

Having gone to UConn and worked in New England for nine years I’m often up visiting
friends so here are 5 from up there; Catamount (closed in 2000 and bought by
Harpoon), Shipyard, Stone Coast (closed in 2008), Harpoon and New England.
Along with that are a handful from Pete’s Wicked, one of my early favorites and I still
have my VIPete’s membership card! Opened in ’86 they were a hit and for quite a few
years the second largest craft brewery. Unfortunately, their flagship Wicked Ale was
a brown and when all of sudden browns went out of style so did Pete’s and
Gambrinus bought them in ’98, but they had a good run.

Next up is the “on my travels” category; North Coast Scrimshaw, Mendocino Red Tail
Ale (one of my all-time favs), Cirque in Prosser, WA, Jamesport in MI, a Fat Tire
postcard from New Belgium, Kokanee Gold from Columbia Brewing in British
Columbia, Dogfish Head (definitely a good reason to visit DE), Frenchy’s (well okay
that’s a restaurant in Clearwater Beach, FL that makes the absolute best Grouper
sandwich…and usually have a good selection on tap), Sleeman in Ontario, Seafarers
Ale from George Gale in the UK, The Sherlock Holmes (which yes is really a
restaurant where I had a pint or two to honor the world’s greatest detective) and
lastly a 250th anniversary Guinness, which tastes amazingly fresh and delicious
when you’re at the brewery.

Oh baby I’m on a roll…only a few more current categories left!

Let’s look at my TAP NY coasters; being a TAP regular for quite a few years
(although this year’s was cancelled ☹ ) it’s fun to pick up souvenirs as you go from
booth to booth trying enough beers that you’ll sleep on the bus ride home: Ten
Springs, Malt River, Lake Placid, Great Adirondack, Wagner Valley, Hyde Park, Troy
and lastly non NY, because Pabst owns it now, Ballantine IPA, which was a great
recreation of one of the first IPAs that I wish was still around.

Beer is made all over the world so the internationals are represented as well,
although I probably got some here: Hoegaarden, Younger’s Tartan, Belle Gueule,
Pilsner Urquell, Leffe, John Courage, Bieres de la Meuse and De Groen’s.
And lastly the classic crafts; Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Victory Hop Devil, Firestone
Walker DBA & Barrelworks, Sam Summer & Rebel IPA, Cape May, Founders, Green
Flash, Mad Hatter, Grey Sail and a cork coaster from Von Trapp.
Oh, and then the last one which had nothing to do with craft beer but sports. I took
off the beer names since it was the largest family owned US brewery who got bought
by InBev…

That was a nice remembrance. Just goes to show that if you’ve been along for the
entire ride craft beer has been an amazing and wonderful journey. And for those who
haven’t been along for the entire trip don’t worry, there’ll be plenty more, so no
matter when you joined enjoy the ride and the special moments along the way.

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer. presents
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