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Sep 20, 2014

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An Innocent Man

September, 2000

By Bobby Bush

This dull Wednesday night started out slowly, as expected. My business meeting in a Washington, DC area hotel actually broke up early. A quick change of clothes and off in a taxi I sped to one of my favorite DC restaurants. District Chop House has been open since May 1997 and is part of the expansive Rock Bottom chain from Colorado. They know food and they know beer.

So amongst a noisy crowd of local business people and politicians (I felt out of place without my briefcase), I slithered through the compact bar room and found a lone spot at the dark hardwood bar. Six beers and two cask-conditioned ales to choose from, I selected the cask Rye and settled down to people watch. No one seemed to notice baseball flickering on the tube. Live and in person, politics were at play with stakes a lot higher than mundane professional sports. Penniless, a young preppie used her credit card to pay a $7 tab. Disgust, sarcasm and cynicism - all mine - flared amidst cigar smoke and District hypocrites. In such an atmosphere, I suspected that hard liquor would be the beverage of choice. Surprisingly, beer and wine each comprise 40% of the Chop House’s business, leaving only 20% to mixed alcoholic beverages.

Oh, but the beer. Medium bodied, the Rye was grainy, almost woody with an orange-like citrus finish. Also on cask, Bourbon Stout was a piquing combination of chocolate and liquor. The latter sensation derived from conditioning in used Old Grand Dad casks, constructed of American White Oak. As good as it was, the Bourbon Stout was no match for the spicy mussels placed in front of me. It took the roasty, fruity, almost sweet Oatmeal Stout (which is the same stout without the bourbon cask treatment) to soothe my savage mouth. Dinner was topped off with a pint of brewer Jason Dorpinghaus’ Nut Brown Ale. A little over-carbonated, this almost American-style brown was somewhat hoppy with a dry finish.

Next on my list was an alleged beer-friendly DC bar. At least that’s what Stan Hieronymus & Daria Labrinsky’s new “The Beer Lover’s Guide to the USA” told me. What I thought would be a short walk, turned into a pedestrian tour of a construction site. Picking my way carefully around barricades, My Brothers Place was located on a grungy alley. Through a small outdoor dining area, up a couple of stairs and a darkened room of people and, sure enough, about 30 tap handles waited. My suspicious nature must have been sleeping when I shrugged at ten non-functioning tap handles, reducing the selection by one-third.

Lots of Anheuser-Busch products, luckily including three from Red Hook (partly owned by A-B), too many duplicate handles (who needs two Michelob taps?) and a few decent brews like Yuengling Lager, Widmer HopJack, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, this was a beer bar with no pride. And to top it all, it was Corona night! Somebody get me a lime-scented barf bag!

Among the off handles, I spied Bass, Harp, Wicked Pete’s Summer, Guinness, Blue Ridge Amber Lager and innocuous selections like Shiner Bock, Rolling Rock and - hold on for this one - Miller Redskin Lite. My disgust was oblivious to the young, noisy crowd fighting over limes behind me. Believe me, I’ll have a word with authors Stan and Daria. If you’re curious enough, seek out this dirty beer hole at www.mybrothersplace.com. Please don’t tell them who sent you.

In defiance, I slurped my pints of HopJack and Red Hook Double Black Stout (made with Starbucks expresso) with nose and pinkie in the air. Forced to use the Women’s restroom - the bar’s only operating toilet - I fumed out into the sticky night. But not before leaving a trail. I handed my Beer & Loafing business card to the under-qualified bartender, leaving a precise bit of hand-written information on its reverse side. It read simply: Brickskeller.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Until proven guilty, I am, indeed, an innocent man. Let the journey continue (see Another Brickskeller Night.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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