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
Hotline Hall of Fame
The Beer Hotline is a beautiful thing. It’s more informative than Twitter, more personal than Facebook, clearer than Youtube, and more complete than Linkedin. The Beer Hotline’s technology is ground breaking; in fact it’s so new it’s old. The Beer Hotline is a phone call. Not just any phone call but one from a certified beer nut to another to report something exclusively about, what else, beer. The genesis of the term “hot line” can be traced back to the Cold War. No, not the debate over climate change or the issue of which turns blue faster the cold activated can or the cold activated bottle. The more historic but less fun Cold War was actually a struggle between the US and the USSR. You remember the USSR don’t you? It has Ukraine girls that would really knock you out; they leave the West behind; it has Moscow girls make you sing and shout that Georgia's always on my my my my my my my my my mind. Ah, anyway, the Beer Hotline, has become a true art form of communication in the hands of my good friend and BeerNexus colleague Dan Hodge.
Dan activates the Hotline by pressing a series of buttons on his phone. That magically connects him to one of his many fellow beer travelers each of whom is only too happy to get Dan’s latest scoop on a pub, brewery, or the latest greatest beer he’s ever had. Since the Beer Hotline can, and is, operational 24 hours a day, Dan often leaves voice mails about his latest beer adventure. That however is a problem for me because my low IQ phone can only hold a minimum number of messages until the mailbox is full. Having reached that limit the other day I had no choice but to erase several inspiring Hotline missives. However before sending them off into cyberspace here are some that deserve to be forever enshrined in my newly formed “Hotline Hall of Fame”.
Message #1- “This is the Beer Hotline sending valuable information from a speeding open convertible on Rt. 78. I have just left Ships Inn. My belly is full of a great dry Irish Stout. It may not be a brew to die for but at least it’s one to catch the flu for. Also having an absolutely delicious summer wheat ale, the only wheat ale I’ve ever had served on nitrogen. Get here before they run out of this stuff. This is the Beer Hotline signing out.”
The Ships Inn is actually the first ever brewpub in NJ located in Milford, NJ. Milford is about as easy to find as an autographed copy of an unopened vinyl album of Captain & Tennille’s semi-legendary recording “We Love Beer”. Well, that’s true for most of us unless you, like Dan, have a classic convertible in pristine condition and love to drive it. Anywhere. In that case there’s no such thing as an obscure beer venue. Besides, Dan is an expert on Pennsylvania beer and Milford is within 200 meters of the PA border. I’m not sure what that means but it sounds like it should mean something.
Having been to the Ships Inn on several occasions I can attest to the high quality of their British style offerings. However having had the flu on other occasions that’s not a tradeoff I’d want to make. On second thought, if we’re talking a tiny touch of the flu (a couple of sneezes and maybe one cough) I’d make the deal now. As Dan said, they make really good beer.
---------------------------------------- Message #2- “This is the Beer Hotline from beautiful downtown Allentown Pennsylvania at Fegley’s Brew Works. I’m reporting on the availability of the most wonderful, ah what do they call this stuff, ah, who knows, something or other IPA. It’s great; something to die for. Also on tap they have one you would like. It’s called Bodacious IPA. They got the right name since it is 12% or some crazy number. Seven percent is bodacious enough for me. The bartender says they’ll be out of it soon so try to stop by before it’s gone. Hey, there’s a street fair going on with a lots of artsy crafty stuff and people communing with nature; I’ve haven’t seen this many beads and candles in my life since I toured the Trappist monks residence at some Abbey in Belgium, or maybe Jersey City. Amen, brother. This is the Beer Hotline signing out.”
I ask you, who wouldn’t save a bodacious message like this? Okay, it’s probably the 12% part that got my attention. Big beers to me are good beers. As for the art festival, I always told Dan he should keep a pair of sandals and tie dyed shirts in his trunk just for random events like this. Of course I understand why he doesn’t, it would take room away from what’s already there - a bunch of growlers ready for emergency filling.
------------------------------- Message #3 “This is the Beer Hotline with a fast breaking news Denver International Airport. I’m reporting on a argument between I just had with the innkeeper of the ‘Runway Pub’ on whether or not to have my beer in the iced glass he brought me. I clearly told him I didn’t want one of those. What’s wrong with this guy? He tried to tell me cold beer tastes better. Look, I repeated, I don’t want one. I don’t need a fancy glass. I don’t need one with an etched brewery logo or little elephants or a gold painted rim. All I want is anything that will hold beer that didn’t come out a freezer. He then tells me that he only has iced ones. When did Denver become Nome? Somehow the logic of my suggestion that he take a glass out of the freezer and just let it sit awhile escaped him. To that he said ‘Sir, in my opinion you’re making a rather strange request’. Something is strange here and it’s not the request. Eventually he did take a glass out. Too little, too late - there's the call that my plane was boarding. There’s no justice in the world anymore.”
Dan must have forgotten that Denver is in Colorado and Colorado is the home of Coors. Yes, the makers of the Silver Bullet which, as every son and daughter of the Centennial State is taught from childhood, should always be served cold, very cold, very, very, very cold. It’s hard to argue with that, Cold tasteless yellow water is much more refreshing than warm tasteless yellow water any day in the week.
----------------------------------- Message #4 “This is the Beer Hotline from Saloon Number 10 in Deadwood SD, currently enjoying a Crow’s Peak cream ale just prior to watching Wild Bill Hickock get shot in a re-enactment. Also available here are two beautiful beers - Boulevard Wheat and Odell’s 90 shilling, both on tap. Time for one more pint before Wild Bill gets killed for the 16th time today. This is the Beer Hotline signing out.”
Saloon Number 10? Did Deadwood Dan go to saloons 1 though 9 already? I hope so. After all, the only way to appreciate a Wild West reenactment is to get yourself into the spirit of the thing, and nothing does that like getting some spirits into you. Of course alcohol to Wild Bill, as we all learned from those great Hollywood B movies, is anathema. Wild Bill and all his white hat wearing brethren fighting for law and order in the early West never drink booze. No, when they sauntered through a saloon’s swing doors and bellied up to the bar they boldly ordered a Sarsaparilla. Don’t worry, Bill still was one tough guy. He always asked for it in a dirty glass.
---------------------------------------------- Message #5 Hey, this is Leo. I’m selling a couple of tickets to a wine festival next week. Interested? Huh?? Clearly this guy has the wrong number. Wait, now I know. It’s my buddy Leo from the Tap Room bar, or as everyone in there calls him, Vino Dos Equis. What else would you call a wine guy whose shirts never wrinkle, whose business card simply says 'I’ll call you', whose 2 cents in any conversation is worth $475 plus change, and whose passport requires no photograph. And, yes, Bigfoot tries to get pictures of him.
Message #6 “This is the Beer Hotline from my back deck in Union NJ. It’s wonderful to have children over 21 because my son who doesn’t drink beer was at shopping at an outlet center in PA and stopped for dinner at Barley Creek Brewpub. Being a thoughtful lad, he brought home a growler of their Oktoberfest for me. Ah, what a beautiful beer; that figures, after all, it is made in Pennsylvania.”
I like Oktoberfest beers too even if the actual Munich festival begins in September. Why doesn’t that month get any credit? Maybe it doesn’t want to be associated with some of the things at the Festival that aren’t too festive. Last year the number of brawls and beer corpses (people who drank themselves unconscious), set records. Ambulance workers gave medical assistance to over 800 people and the number of police callouts broke 2,000. Something tells me none of that ever happens on a back deck in Union. Except of course for the drinking of good beer. ----------------
Message #7 “This is the Beer Hotline calling in from New Brunswick, New Jersey at the Harvest Moon brewpub. I’m reporting on the availability of an absolutely wonderful Simoce Double IPA at 7.8%. It’s a beer to be treasured as are most of their brews. It’s well worth stopping here if you’re close by, say within a hundred miles or so. This is the Beer Hotline signing out.”
A hundred miles is a bit of a stretch but then again he did say the beer was absolutely wonderful. I once drove 95 miles to the long gone Weyerbacher brewpub in Easton PA because it was the only place to get their great hop bomb -logically named Hops Infusion - on tap. When a transfusion of Infusion was needed miles were meaningless. On one such trip I was stuck in a stand still traffic jam. As people got out of their cars to wait I got into a conversation with the driver of the 12 wheeler truck in front of me. As we chatted he asked where I was going. I said “Easton. I was hoping to get there in less than two hours today. Going for some beer.” All he said in response was “Beer???????? You’re driving 2 hours just for beer?????? You're crazy.” Something tells me that’s one guy who will never get a Beer Hotline call.
---------------- Message #8 “This is the Beer Hotline calling in from Virginia Beach, Virginia enjoying the St. George Winter Scotch ale, I feel like I should be wearing a pair of Wellingtons, a collie dog at my side, a big walking stick in my hand, as I slosh through a peat bog. Ah, this beer is more than a drink. It’s a mystical portal to the world.”
Poetic indeed but if beer can be a mystical portal good thing Dan wasn’t drinking Big Sky’s Moose Drool, Ridgeway’s Santa’s Butt, or Rogue’s Yellow Snow.
---------------------------------------------------- Message #10 “This is the first ever and mostly likely the last ever Urinal Hotline you’ll receive. I’m happily reporting from the Dutchman's Brauhaus in Manahawkin NJ. This place received some damage from storm Sandy. Fortunately the rest room was spared. Oh, it’s not any restroom. In all my travels it’s the only one that has, in every urinal, a little pinwheel. And it’s not any pinwheel. It tells your fortune. I saw it for the first time over 30 years ago and they still have it. All you have to do is aim for the arrow. If you’re on the mark the arrow will spin. Then, when you stop, the arrow will too .... on your fortune. I think mine said ‘you really like beer’. Ah, this is a wonderful attraction. This is the Beer Hotline signing out.”
Urinal pinwheels indeed; What else is there to say.
Now what have I really learned from these and all other the Beer Hotlines I've received? The answer is easy. You can take Garrison Keillor and the lovely folks in Lake Wobegon, throw in the latest tomes from Carl Hiaasen plus the musings of Jack Handey and P. J. O'Rourke but you'd still be hard pressed to beat the fun of listening to a single message from Dan Hodge.
And besides, not one of those guys has ever made a Beer Hotline call.