Looking for it in the wrong place

At night on a sales trip, I fly into Dulles Airport from Boston and check into my hotel in Fairfax, VA. It’s almost ten o’clock, and everything else around the hotel is closed, except for the Hooter’s across the street. It’s been over twenty years since I set foot into a Hooter’s, but it in a flash of twisted logic, I figure they might have some local beer on tap or in bottles. Not ready to crash in my room, I mosey across the street to see what’s on tap.

Of course, you’re probably thinking I’m really going for something else besides the beer. But I’ve found good craft beer selections in unlikely places like dingy airport bars, squeaky-clean suburban convenience stores, and dilapidated liquor stores that one would otherwise assume specialize in 40 oncers of malt liquor to be consumed immediately outside from a paper bag. So maybe craft beer has arrived at Hooter’s. Then again, Hooter’s is not exactly one of the more progressive organization in the world, so if you’re snickering at me for claiming I’m going to Hooter’s for the beer, well you have a point.

The best they could muster was Sam Adam’s Boston Lager. They were sold out of Sam Adam’s Octoberfest. The closest thing they had to a local brewery was Yuengling on tap, even though my waitress couldn’t pronounce it right. Sorry, while “Jung-ling” sounds like an psychologically fascinating beer, it’s pronounced “ying-ling”. Yuengling is a toasty lager I enjoy, and they don’t distribute into California, so it wasn’t a complete waste on the beer hunting front. Oh, you really don’t think I was there for something else, do you?

Firm female cleavage is something I’ve totally been in favor of for since I was twelve. My eyes work pretty well, and I’ve got plenty of male hormones, so like any red-blooded heterosexual male with the evolutionary drive to implant his DNA into a healthy, fit female, I enjoy looking at women’s breasts. Linda, my girlfriend of nearly four years, understands that, and as long as I don’t look at other women’s breasts for too long, she’s OK with that. Or at least that’s what she tells me.

But believe it or not, all the slender 20-25 year old Hooter girls, quietly gliding around the place, looking eager for the night to just end so they could leave and change into something less ridiculous, just didn’t interest me in the slightest. Maybe being twice the age of the eye candy had something to with this. I’ve recently suspected that I’ve officially become an old fart, and perhaps this is God’s way of confirming that for me. Then again with Linda in my life, who is demonstably good for me and my kids, when you’re lucky enough to be in that situation, things like Hooter’s girls become a pointless distraction.

Beer Running Baltimore: Running Up Federal Hill and Mick O’Shea’s

Day two in Baltimore, and decide to run a different route. I head down towards the Inner Harbor as before, but once there, still proceed south to Federal Hill, which overlooks the Inner Harbor district. Hill running is a great way to get a hard work-out in the middle of a run. It’s also a great way to experience the land topology, as you actually feel the ups and downs of what you are running through. There’s a small municipal park at the top of the hill, with great views of the city. It turns out this location high up above the harbor with all the great scenery was used as a tactical military location during a difficult moment in our nation’s history, the Civil War.

The first casualties of the Civil War are believed to have occurred during the Baltimore Riot of 1861 on April 19. Union troops travelling through Baltimore on their way to Washington, DC needed to transfer to a different train to complete the trip, since no direct rail route through Baltimore to Washington, DC existed at the time. Mobs of secessionists and Southern sympathizers attempted to block the troops changing trains, which escalated as the mobs started throwing large rocks and objects. Finally, panicked Union soldiers opened fire. Twelve civilians and four Union soldiers died before the Union troops made it to their destination.

That night, Union troops under the cover of darkness lead by General Benjamin Butler quietly occupied the hill, and set up a cannon aimed at the heart of the city. The city of Baltimore had long been a city sympathetic to the Southern cause, and a city so close to Washington falling under Confederate control was a major Union concern. The occupation of Federal Hill was a Union success, as Baltimore remained in Union hands throughout the entire war. So the hill I ran up that morning played a small role holding this country together.

That night, I stopped in at Mick O’Shea’s, just a couple blocks from my hotel in downtown Baltimore. As you might expect from the name, it’s an Irish bar, with plenty of dark wood fixtures, Guinness signs, and brick and mortar walls. There’s a couple of TVs inside so patrons can follow the Orioles or Ravens. Trish, the bartender greets everyone walking through the door by their first name and pours their favorite drink in a single motion. I’ve never been there before, so tell her I’ll have a Yuengling lager.

I order a Yuengling (pronounced “Ying Ling”) not because it is the oldest brewery in the United States, but because it is a great lager. Sometimes, I hear beer geeks talk about getting into lagers. Why did they get out of them? To me, Yuengling lager is a study in simplicity, with a crisp caramel malt and earthy hop finish. That’s it. It isn’t a beer that requires nine different fruits and spices to describe, and that’s why I like it.

I had a few Yuenglings over that week at O’Shea’s. There’s really no neighborhood bar where I live, and so when on the road, I sometimes adopt one for a few days. You can easily beat O’Shea’s beer selection, but you can’t beat O’Shea’s as a place for people to get together. One night, I struck up a conversation with the person next to me and turns out, he was a Chicago Cubs fan just like me, and grew up in Holland, MI. I had actually been to Holland, MI for a collegiate cross-country race so we talked a little about the town, and what it was like for him to grow up there. One of the many great things about beer is that it brings strangers together.

Mick O’Shea’s had another tasty brew on tap called Resurrection by a local brewery called The Brewer’s Art. I enjoyed this smooth Belgian style beer with a cherry-like tartness, and wondered where it came from. I ask the bartender,”I’m from out of town. Can you tell me where The Brewer’s Art is located?”, figuring it is somewhere around Baltimore, but miles away.

To my surprise, she replies,”It’s a brewpub about eight blocks up the road, you ought to go sometime.”

Just eight blocks away? Looks like I need to check this place out.