Under the Tent – Our Present Home

For BeerNexus.com

Well that’s it, we survived the “dog days of August”! But I must say there were
obstacles along the way. On August 5th I’m at the liquor store needing to
replenish my beer and wine frig in the basement and as I’m walking down the isle
there it is; I had to stop and collect myself and wonder if I was having an out of
body and possibly mind experience - - - a pallet of pumpkin beer. I was not ready
for that, heck yes, I know I’ve been around the block a few times but are you ever
ready for the Spanish Inquisition…or the annual mid-summer release of pumpkin
beer? It’s hot and humid out there, I want a nice pilsner or lager, a nice tropical
NEIPA, maybe even a fruited sour, but NOT a pumpkin. And of course it got
worse about ten days later when there were multiple pallets with multiple brands. I
admit I’m not a big pumpkin fan, there are a few I like and will have a couple but
I’d much rather have an Oktoberfest than a pumpkin.

But to be honest when it comes to the dreaded early release it’s not just beer. I
love my Dunkin Donuts coffee (although they sell so few donuts anymore, they’ve
shortened their name to Dunkin) and they’ve begun advertising their pumpkin
coffee and muffins, and yes Halloween displays are now up and pretty soon the
stores will have winter coats out…it’s a never-ending cycle.

And speaking of coffee, have you seen the ad for the Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew?
Okay so here’s the deal, it’s actually cold brewed for twenty hours, as opposed to
using hot water and then chilling it for iced coffee, then it’s put into kegs and
poured using nitrogen so it comes out with a nice foamy head. Humm, remind you
of anything, like maybe a Guinness?? As you just read up above, I’m a DD coffee
guy and not a Starbucks fan at all so I didn’t realize they introduced cold brew in
2015 and the Nitro in select locations in 2016.

I don’t think they’re shy about using the beer comparison, probably hoping to
attract some of us craft beer drinkers. But here’s the kicker; this must have been
an ad for the Nitro in a can as they said….wait for it…pour it in a pint glass. McFly
have you never heard of a “beer clean” glass?!? That means you use if for
nothing but beer! So unless you want to BUY a pint glass with a Starbucks logo
which I’m sure they must be selling, many of us now have a collection of pint
glasses so if you want to separate one out for your Nitro cold brew go ahead, but
then it gets parked in a whole different cabinet since you don’t want to use if for
beer again.  I guess you could say that ad got me a little foamy…

And there was a very strange article on Shorts Brewery way up in Bellaire,
Michigan. According to their Facebook post it seems customers have sworn,
yelled and laughed in staff’s faces as well name-calling, threaten negative
reviews and belittling their taproom staff members to the point where Enough is
Enough they’re not going to be bullied and rude behavior will not be tolerated
anymore. Wait, what? This doesn’t sound like the craft beer lovers that I know or
see in my travels. Most craft breweries are very community minded and there is
usually a very friendly atmosphere in their taprooms. Outside of changes to day
to day operations as the pandemic evolves, they don’t specifically mention why
some in their customer base are reacting like that.

I took a look at their website and they’re open seven days a week; it does say
dine in by reservation or call ahead, no walk-ins and they also do take-out. I’ve
got to guess that this must have to do with Covid restrictions and maybe they
don’t like wearing masks, which you wouldn’t have to do while at your table
dining, or maybe they have to wait as there are less, more spread out tables, but
to be honest I couldn’t care what they don’t like, that’s no reason to abuse the
staff that works there. I’m glad they’re not going to put up with obnoxious people
because no brewery wants jerks for customers and I believe if I saw something
like this, I would intercede on the staff members behalf! I’m hoping most of us
craft beer lovers would Do The Right Thing…

We still have no indoor dining here in NJ, although that wouldn’t help much when
you want to go in and sit at the bar and have a few drafts. As I’ve mentioned my
go-to, The Cloverleaf got permission and rented a large tent for part of the
parking lot. There’s probably about twenty-five tables under and at the edges as
you still need to spread them out. So that’s been our current normal for a few
months now. It was exciting to get back out somewhat and be able to socialize!

We’re back to our normal Tuesdays and Fridays. We get one of the bigger tables
in the middle as there are usually upwards of five or more of us and we’ll be
joined by some of the other regulars (the CW, Grizzley Adams Greg, AK, Kevin)
as there are a limited number of tables and there’s the ebb and flow of people in
and out at different times. Its fun getting together a somewhat diverse group, as
we all have craft beer in common, and see where the different conversations
head. It’s summer so definitely more hot and humid than being inside but
personally I’ll look to some of the lighter crafts on those “dog” days. We’re not in
the direct sun and don’t have to be constantly ducking it around an umbrella and
many times there can be a nice breeze. We also don’t have to run for cover when
the skies decide to open.

What amazes me most is that they’re not more crowded. I’d guesstimate they’re
at less than 25% of their indoor capacity and a typical Friday happy hour they’d
be packed and yet outside is slow to fill. Maybe I’m not appreciating the many
different circumstances we’re all in since it’s not on the way home since you are
home, or that with everyone home it isn’t fair if only some get to go out or maybe
they’re still avoiding social settings, which makes all the sense in the world.

With less customers the beers don’t turn over as often, but I have noticed we’re
getting some brands we rarely or haven’t seen before which is exciting for craft
beer drinkers. I’m guessing there’s a fair amount of available draft out there
because many places haven’t reopened while those that have only have outdoor
space and distributors are happy to move it to those who are selling.

The other big change is with so many new servers! Since I used to sit at a bar
table inside, I’m most familiar with the bartenders, but they’re inside now so we
have outside table service. But I did see the servers and become familiar with
them as they hustled back and forth to the bar. I’m sure some are afraid to come
back because of Covid, some might have to been home as the rest of the family
is home and yes some did make more money staying home getting the extra
$600, but I hope they were wise with it as they probably don’t get first dibs
deciding not to work when they first opened.

So, it’s not what we’re used to but it’s the “current“ normal as we know they’ll be
more changes ahead. It will be interesting to see if some more familiar faces
begin to show up now that summer’s over and the weather begins to cool off a
little. It’s always better to appreciate what you have rather than moan about what
you don’t and that’s always better with a craft beer in hand and some
conversation and laughs.

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

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Glenn DeLuca
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