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
HOPS AND HOOPS
All I could think of was the medieval practice of trial by combat.Two diametrically opposed philosophies relying on Divine guidance to emerge victorious in mortal combat. Here it was playing out for all those who could appreciate the true cosmic meaning of the evening’s showdown. Unfolding at Spectators sports pub, as oblivious patrons chatted on, was the final showdown of massed produced beer v. true craft ale. And even more, it was being played out through the battle of the sexes.
This was to be an evening of a true epiphany for me. It ranks with those key moments of life, like when you first truly understood the WWE was exactly what they say it is, sports entertainment, or when you realized for the first time that the main function of the ubiquitous lime in a Corona is to provide the watery beverage with its only flavor, or finally recognize that your friendly neighborhood bartender is truly a helpful pharmacist, albeit one with a limited inventory.
Here’s the scene. Spectators Pub, besides being known for good beer, decent food, and dining tables inside a faux boxing ring, also boasted of a basketball court. Really. Right there in the pub. Not more than 5 feet from the bar itself. Inside a 12 foot wired cage was one regulation hoop on an extremely downsized court. The battered sign hooked to the gate simply said “10 minute time limit on all games”.
Taking my usual corner barstool that fateful evening I happened to notice two attractive young women place their beers on the wooden ledge surrounding the basketball court as they surveyed the cage. Somehow, they looked oh so familiar. Then it hit me - the day’s sport pages, collegiate women’s basketball. Now I remembered. It was that picture on page 2. Even without their uniforms it was the same two people. The taller woman was the nations leading scorer, Danielle Cerise, her partner was Karen Piasecki, national record holder for most assists in a game and a ball handling wizard.
I leaned forward as the two returned to the bar and ordered another round. To my pleasant surprise they ordered from the specialty taps. One ordered something called a 1920’s lager and the other 80-Shilling Ale, both made by the highly regarded Gaslight micro brewery. The other few people at the bar who cared to notice their choices snickered at the women’s order, convinced their Buds, Millers, and Coors were the true anointed elixirs. Beers in hand, the women headed back to the courts now acting like, for some strange reason, the two most uncoordinated females on the face of the earth. Note please, that was uncoordinated, not unattractive. They missed shot after shot. Then it started. The parade of male challengers. Budweiser drinking males lined up for “next game. Coors carrying partners waited their turn. The stakes were simple; losers buy the winners another beer.
As the bottles of the challengers’ swill sat next to the pints of the women’s craft ales, it became clear to me. This wasn’t about basketball, it wasn’t about some boy meets girl ritual, and it wasn’t even about women’s rights or sports skills. It was really all about the beer. Craft ales were in a duel with mass marketed suds. Each side had brought its champions to the fray and only the best would survive.
The night and the games wore on. The women were an incomparable marvel. I sat and joyfully watched as countless duos of mystified and disgruntled males meekly left the field of their defeat dutifully paying off their debt. Row upon row of upside down shot glasses, signifying prepaid beer, lay on the bar awaiting the winning women.
I could almost imagine hearing the juke box suddenly grow silent as a booming voice– James Earl Jones would do - blared from the speakers: “These are not just two troubadours of women’s sports reeducating unsuspecting males, you bozos. They are chosen crusaders for quality beer lovers everywhere.”
This truly was the triumph of good beer over evil beer. This was payback for every bartender that ever laughed when asked for a glass of John Courage, Bass Ale, or a Samuel Smith Stout. It was retribution for every pub owner that refused to carry Old Speckled Hen, Victory Hop Devil, Weyerbacher IPA, or Gaslight Alt. The beer gods may have chosen unlikely champions, but they were champions nonetheless. The message was clear - you are what you drink.
As they finally left the court, the triumphant women turned to me with a knowing smile. I leaned back, proudly saluting them with my glass of dark tinted stout high over my head. Then, moved by it all, I raised the glass even higher; high enough so even the Coors drinkers in the back room might see. I gently waved it in a welcoming circle… symbolically telling them “join us…all are welcome…. the revolution is successful…. good beer has won……. it’s now truly is all about the beer!