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Oct 31, 2014

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Another Brickskeller Night

July, 2000

By Bobby Bush

What a build-up, huh? (Accompanying article, "An Innocent Man," should be consumed before reading this one). Every beer drinker of note knows something about Georgetown’s famed beer bar, the Brickskeller. But I wonder if they have as many wild stories as I do?

Once is was a $70 beer night, all by my lonesome. Another time I stumbled in upon a Sierra Nevada beer tasting party and wound up meeting the Chico, California brewery’s plant manager and buying an embroidered jacket in a silent auction (the exorbitant price went to charity). Met Bob Tupper, designer and contract brewer of strongly hopped Tupper’s Hop Pocket, that same night.

This time, the upstairs room was hosting a tasting of single-hopped beers. Had I known (I had checked their website before leaving home, to no avail) I would have arrived earlier. Trying to talk my way in, to no avail, I swiped two coasters from the counter and dejectedly bounced downstairs to the regular bar area.

Sitting at the crowded bar alone, I studied the coasters in my hand. Belgian beers both, I ordered one, the strong Delirium Nocturnum, difficult to find cousin to Delirium Tremens. Its label and coaster featured a playful pink elephant for a good reason. From the bottle into a glass into my eager mouth, even cool, Tremens warms the throat. Supple fruity body, this 8.5% ale is so sweet it’s sour, almost grape-like. And, unfortunately, like most Belgian ales, it is deceptively intoxicating. STRONG, with all six letters upper case, is the only way to write and say it.

I’d already decided to have just one more of Brickskeller’s 600+ bottled beers before calling it a night. The frothy head was still standing on Villers Oud Vielle, a sour 7% abv Belgian Abbey ale, when I heard my name called. Phone call. Fresh on my trail, two beer-curious buddies had caught up with me. Will I wait for them? Hell, it was only 10:30. Sure. I drank slowly.

Moments later, bursting through the doorway, the pair secured neighboring barstools and off we flew. The one that I’ll call the Westerner (he resides in Greater LA), has been to brewpubs and festivals with me before. The other, a likable lad, was unskilled in the ways of Belgian ales. Corsendonk Brown Ale, we professional beer drinkers screamed. And a corked jerobaum - three quarts and five ounces - was produced from the back bar cooler. Tall and green with classy silk screened label and gold script, it was immediately obvious that this beer, at least quantity-wise, was too much for the three of us to handle. Extra glasses, we demanded. And our fellow bar mates, all strangers a second ago, became instant friends. The Westerner walked through the restaurant, sharing tastes of our wondrous, sweet and wine-y elixir with all outstretched glasses.

A glittery label Scaldis Noel - Christmas in Springtime, why not? - was next in our sights. This “Special Belgian Ale” in a magnum (50.8 ounce) bottle from the province of Hainaut was nutty with sweet-and-sour flavor complexity. Sharing and beer tales proliferated. The neophyte was waxing prolific on beer and life.

Then it was a small, only 16 ounce, crock bottle of Sailer Jubelfest, a German Christmas beer, actually a strong alt beer. It lasted only seconds among this thirsty, growing group. Chouffe, someone cried. Bless you was offered, but a magnum of 1997 N’Ice Chouffe, a 10% beer from Brasserie D’Achouffe in Belgium appeared.

That’s when my note-taking ceased, though we did leave a trail of bottles, which I’m staring at intoxicatingly as I write. Somehow we ordered a second magnum of N’Ice Chouffe; a two liter fancy crock Rauchenfelser Steinbier, made in the ancient hot stone process; two UK ales - J.W. Lees Moonraker Old Ale (7.5%) and George Gale & Co.’s Prize Old Ale (9.0%); and an out-of-place US micro, Mobjack Pale Ale from Bay Brewing of Richmond, Virginia. We also got kicked out of the Brickskeller’s walk-in coolers twice. Don’t ask.

Our bill - hope you’re seated - was $325. No food, just beer, albeit some damn great Belgian beer in collectible bottles. It would have been higher if the 43-year-old Brickskeller sold beer-to-go.

Box of dead soldiers on my lap. Headed back to the hotel, still sweet and innocent. Thank goodness for taxis.

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

© Bobby Bush

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