Monday, March 27, 2006

On beering and nothingness

I've made the short hop from Cole Slaw Blog, the less-illustrious site named for a vegetable-based sidedish but not about food. Nice to be invited, and I feel pretty much at home, even if I'm still intimidated and excited by the post about Angelina's wet spot.

I came today to talk about the end of a quest. Since I left Ann Arbor in the late '90s, I've been looking for the Holy Grail in the form of a full pint glass.

Bell's Beer is brewed in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I started drinking it around or just before I turned 21. It was the time that you make a transition from pounding cans of Natural Light just to get really wasted to drinking good booze just to get really wasted. But Bell's is a great beer in its own right. The Brooklyn Brewery makes some nice stuff, I'm always happy with an IPA, and Loreley's beer garden has turned me on to German beer. But Bell's is different and better. It has a kind of texture and complexity. Not too sweet, not too bitter -- everything is just right. Oberon goes down like lemonade, and its Amber Ale makes Bass seem like MGD.

My parents know what I like. When I go back to their house, a couple dozen bottles are waiting. A friend from Chicago outdid himself by bringing a six-pack of Oberon on his flight to New York. During my wilderness years in Boston and my 3 1/2 years in New York, my search for Bell's turned me into a half-assed Ponce De Leon: Any beer is great, but I'm not going to be totally content until I find the half-barrel of youth.

Two weeks ago, we struck the motherlode.

Professor Thom's is a decent enough sports bar on the west side of Second Avenue, just below 14th Street. It's a little too bright, a little too heavy with the NYU crowd, and on principle, anyplace where the guy who checks your ID looks too badass loses half a grade. Notwithstanding the decent if unremarkable atmosphere, Professor Thom's is beer's gift to New York.

Professor Thom's serves Bell's.

Word spread fast among my friends. A friend who lives in Astoria just trekked there on three consecutive nights. Another has been there three times in 10 days. By the time I showed up for a birthday party on Saturday, the keg of Bell's Amber had been tapped dry.

But the bar is serious about Bell's. Not yet distributed in New York, someone from the staff drives to Philly to buy the kegs. While it was disappointing that the Bell's kegs were empty on Saturday, I soldiered on by lobbing paper wads and dancing with a hockey stick. I've been going without for almost seven years, so one more weekend is fine. If I'm not going to win Powerball or see Michigan nab another national championship, having Bell's in New York is the next best thing.

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