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
A Tough Day
It’s hard to believe that anyone as honest, law abiding, and downright nice as my friend John might have done
something to rouse the devil's wrath but he surely had one bad day last Tuesday.   Seems he made a date for golf
and of course it began to rain.  I think the appropriate word is monsoon.  He then invited his golfing buddies to his
apartment for a few drinks to wash away their disappointment only to have the landlady downstairs complain.   They
all probably should have taken their spikes off.  Then again, maybe it was John’s non-stop coughing from the cold he
just caught.  I really don’t think it was his scream from the golf bag he dropped on his toe that bothered her since it
really didn’t last that long.   It couldn’t have been noise from his TV since the rain storm had knocked out the power
in his place.  And it couldn’t have been his phone’s loud ring tone since he had it on vibrate when he took a call from
the IRS about an audit.

With a day like that you can’t blame John for thinking the bird singing outside his window was probably a vulture.  At
that point he wisely,decided to retreat to a place that is an oasis of peace, harmony, and good vibes – a bar.  The
bar in this case was the
Libertine Pub in Washington, NJ.

Both John and I were introduced to the Libertine by my friend and BeerNexus colleague
Dan Hodge who always touts
it not only as place with a fine craft beer selection but one that “keeps out the evil spirits”.  I think that’s Dan’s way of
saying they don’t serve cheap booze.  John however has always taken that a bit more literally.  So much so that
every time his rear end hits the Libertine’s bar stool he instantly takes on a look of calm and peacefulness worthy of
any transcendental guru or celebrity zombie.  

I get that same feeling of well being from The Libertine too.   No matter how bad the karma I lug in it never
overcomes the halo of golden goodness that surrounds this place.   I think it’s the beer stained floor; it’s to evil as
garlic is to vampires or a bagpipe is to music.  Besides, it is a historical fact that beer makes you happy.  Ancient
Mesopotamians invented beer.  They drank lots of it.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw an unhappy
ancient Mesopotamian?  

Unlike me, John is not a superstitious man.  He’s quite the rational individual so he doesn’t actually believe that the
pub itself has some magical power to confer good luck, just that it just might keep bad luck away.  He was confident
the tide had turned as he walked in to the Libertine, took the seat next to mine, and told me his woeful tale.

As I drank my pint it was easy to see this was a guy who really needed a beer.  “I can’t tell you how thirsty I am” he
confided.   He then waved over our regular Tuesday bartender, Michele.  She is a favorite of just about all the
Libertine patrons.  She actually knows something about beer and what she doesn’t she makes up for with an
engaging personality.  That in turn makes up for the sometimes lengthy waits to get her attention.  In this case the
attention getting was easy; the beer getting wasn’t.

After giving John as warm a greeting as propriety would allow, Michele moved over to the service section of the bar
to mix several cocktails for waiters serving the dinner crowd.  The greeting John had received was nice but it didn’t
take a soothsayer to see he was thinking a beer would have been much nicer.  Michele next moved over to the far
side of the bar to welcome a couple that just sat down.  They asked for a beer menu.   After a long, long search she
found one and brought it to them.

John stayed in his seat.   John stayed thirsty.

The couple asked Michele for a few beer recommendations.  She expounded on various choices at great length.  
After much deliberation they picked their beers, one getting a Flying Dog Kojo and the other a Kane IPA,
coincidentally two of John’s favorites.  The couple then moved their seats toward the end of the bar to get a better
view of the Yankee game on the TV.  Michele moved their beers.

John did not move.  John stayed thirsty.  

Near collapse from dehydration, John abandoned his customary subtle approach and vigorously nodded his head in
an effort to get Michele’s attention.  His effort was reward with “Be right there John.”  She said it so cheerfully and
sweetly that  just about anyone would have waited another 20 minutes for a beer without complaint.  Okay, for the
sake of honesty make that another 3 seconds.

I finished my pint just as Michele appeared in front of us.  She saw my empty glass and took my order for a Founders
All-Day IPA from the tap located just in front of me.   She then poured it.  John, patient as always, then asked for a
Maine Peepers Ale from the tap on the far side of the large horseshoe shaped bar.  Bad move.  As Michele walked
over she was delayed once again at the service bar and then again with another new customer.  To be nice and
show some empathy I asked John, “How’s your beer?”  For some reason I think his smile seemed just a tad insincere.

John’s attention turned to the TV behind us as I watched Michele finally pour his beer.  The glass was perfectly tilted,
the tap flowed cleanly.  The pint filled, she walked directly over to us and placed it in front of him.  “Enjoy; people
really seem to like that beer.”  "Thanks” John gratefully replied. “Finally”, he whispered to me as Michele moved out
of ear shot.  We toasted to tomorrow being a better day.

“Ah, this Founder’s  IPA  is really good” I said.  John nodded and sipped his golden hue brew.  “Hey, this isn’t
Peepers Ale; it’s terrible.  It’s like water.  I think it’s….. Bud.”  With 40 taps available Michele had mistakenly poured
from the only crap tap in the place.  John finally had hit a forty to one shot but unfortunately he wasn't at  the race

Now please understand that above John is a gentleman of the old school.  He didn’t think it right for him to chastise
Michele,  In fact he didn’t even ask for the replacement beer fearing it might get her in trouble.  He forced down the
King of Beach Wood Aging and began to wait for his next round.  In this case, “wait” was again the operative word.
Michele made her triumph return just as I finished my pint.  I quickly ordered a Lagunitas IPA since it was right next to
the Founders All-Day IPA tap which was, as noted, right next to me.  John however still wanted another Peepers.  
Actually it would be his first but who’s counting anyway.  I grabbed my overflowing pint as Michele left to once again
seek out the Peepers tap handle.  I lost sight of her as two bus boys came behind the bar to collect dirty glasses but
she reappeared to their left with a sparking pint of fresh beer just for John.  

A thankful John, smiled at Michele and quickly lifted his just delivered pint.  Once again we toasted each other with a
wish for good luck.  “Ah, this Lagunitas is just as good as the Founders” I said.  John again nodded and sipped his
golden brew.

“I hate bananas.  This isn’t a pale ale, it’s some kind of hefeweizen.  She did it again” he stuttered, barely able to get
the words out.  Mere mortals might have lost control but John just let out a resigned sigh.  I could only think that if Sir
Galahad was a beer drinker his first name would be John.  I did my part to help the situation by suggesting that John
imagine he was having a bowl of Cheerios instead of beer, then the banana flavor would fit perfectly.  Once again he
smiled.  Who knew a smile could convey such hostility.   

“No way this can happen to me three times in a row so I’m just going to order the Maine Peepers Pale again and not
complain” he told me while waving his empty glass in Michele’s direction.  As she walked over to us John headed for
the restroom asking me to order for him.  He claimed he really had to go however I thought his comfort stop was a
well timed attempt to ride on my good luck coattails.   I dutifully ordered one Peepers for him and a Southern Tier
Chocolate Stout for me.  Michele quickly brought both beers over.  I sipped John’s thinking I would send it back for
him if there was a problem.  There wasn’t.  It was the correct beer, fresh and tasty, perfect ly poured.

I noticed John rounding the corner hallway that led back to the bar.  As he approached I slid one beer over in front of
his seat and held the other in my hands.  He sat down and stared at his beer, speechless.  It was certainly not  pale,
it was pitch black.  Ouch.

Before he turned too red and before the smoke from his ears turned on the fire alarm, I told him it was just a joke.  
Michele had given him the right beer.  I switched back the beers giving him the Peepers and I took the stout. This
time a smile did not appear.  Hey, at least one of us thought it was funny.  To make amends I told John I’d buy the
next round.  "But there's more", I said. "Your luck has finally changed.  Something happened when you were in the
restroom.  Michele’s shift ended and Karen is now our bartender!”

I sat back waiting for John to realize that his fortunes had  indeed finally turned and that Happy Hours are here
again!  He silently sat, not moving, just thinking.  Then he began to nod his head in a gesture of forlorn acceptance.  
He was a beaten man, one without joy or happiness.    

“That figures” he said.  “Karen trained under Michele”.

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