Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Great Pacific Brewery Tour, Day 1: Long Beach to Seattle

The insanity begins before we even leave the airport. Ken and I are waiting at Long Beach airport for Duffy and Vlad. While I'm waiting to check my bag they arrive with … this girl.

“I'll see you guys at the bar!” This Girl says. She zig zags off towards the second floor.

“Who is This Girl?” Ken and I ask Vlad quizzically.

“We were drinking with her at a bar in Long Beach,” Vlad sways drunkenly with a mad grin on his face. “When we said we had to get a cab to the airport, she said she could give us a ride. But she was too drunk, so Duffy drove us here in her Escalade.”

“This is true,” Duffy says sagely.

We regroup at the bar and have a few drinks before our flight. We tell This Girl about our trip, and about our friend Dan, who was originally supposed to be the 7th member of our crew before he came down with pneumonia at the last minute.

“That's ridiculous!” she cries. “Put me on the phone with this Dan so I can tell him what I think of that!”

Duffy hands her his phone and dials Dan's number. It goes to voice mail and she leaves a long rambling message. I hear snippets like “... letting your bros down,” “... being such a big pussy,” and “... you big faker,” all laced with the kind of language you wouldn't expect to hear from the sort of nice young ladies you meet at airport bars.

When I board the plane and arrive at my aisle Duffy and Vlad are already sitting down and the last seat – my seat – is filled with a girl I've never seen before.

“I think I have the window seat,” I say to her, holding out my ticket. Why do we phrase things like this? I
know I have the window seat.

“It's fine,” Vlad says with a wave of his hand. I frown.

“No, really, I kind of need a seat,” I say. The girl half stands up, confused.

“No, really, it's fine,” Vlad says again vaguely.

Eventually I figure out that we had the window and the aisle seats and the girl had the center, and Vlad decided to let her have the window instead of sitting crammed between two guys. But instead of simply making a one-for-one swap, everyone is now sitting in different seats. Why no one is able to articulate this to me clearly is beyond me, but eventually I sit down in what was originally Vlad's seat.

Vlad's phone rings before we take off. It's Dan.

“Why are you guys having some psychotic girl call me and leave me abusive messages!” he yells.

“Calm down, Dan. She's just some girl we met at the bar. Besides, she only left you one message.”

“No, she left me
three messages! I got one message from Duffy's phone, and two from some random number!”

“Oh my god,” Vlad blinks. “She must have memorized your number and called from her own phone.”

“Well, stop giving my number to crazy drunk girls!”

“All right, I'm sorry. Get better so you can meet up with us in a couple days, right?”

“Whatever!” Dan hangs up angrily.

As we walk off the airplane in Seattle, Vlad pulls me aside discretely to let the girl from my seat pull ahead. He whispers confidentially:

“That girl sitting next to us was

“Oh.” I say. “
Then why are you whispering?

We meet up with Leo and Murali at the hotel. It is just now growing dark, despite the fact that it's 10 pm – I'd forgotten how far north Seattle actually is. It is long past time we started drinking beer. We enlist two town cars from the hotel to take us to our first brewery in Seattle.

Leo is in the second car and tells the driver our destination. “I think this is gay bar,” she informs him in her thick Eastern European accent. Leo calls Vlad frantically.

“Calm down, it's a brewery,” I tell him via Vlad. Our own driver laughs uproariously at the side of the phone conversation he can hear.

“I know why she says this,” he informs us. “Do not worry, I take you to correct place.”

Except we run into barricades about eight blocks from the bar. It seems our trip to Seattle has coincided with the city's gay pride parade, and we have just discovered the block party. After our drivers seem stumped at finding a way around the blocked off streets, we bail out of the cars and proceed on foot.

Shortly thereafter we arrive at Elysian Brewing Company and sit down to our first round of tasters, then our first pints, and ultimately our first pitchers. We call Dan. For some strange reason he doesn't pick up the phone and we leave a voice message saying "Dan, we're drinking beer!
Woooo!" Or something equally clever.

Elysian has some good stuff. Their flagship Elysian Fields Pale Ale is easy drinking, as is their Loser Pale Ale. The Immortal IPA is also a decent beer.

We stumble out and wander down the street, back into the gay pride block party. We figure “when in Rome ...” and follow the crowd into a bar.

Ken gleefully orders the special chalked up on the board: “I'll have six gay martinis.”

“There's no such drink,” the bartender says stoically. “The special is a Gay Martin.”

The Gay Martin turns out to be a pretty good drink. We have two of them. Plus some British drink called a Pimm's Cup that Ken is recently fascinated with.

“If we're going to be stuck in the middle of a gay pride parade, I want to see some chicks kissing!” Vlad declares.

“Well then, turn around,” I say, pointing behind him. Vlad turns around, then shrieks in horror at the two girls who are making out in the bar.

“That's not the type of lesbians I was talking about!” Vlad protests.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I shrug philosophically.

As we leave Vlad asks the bouncer, “Is this really a gay bar?” The bouncer is dressed as a clown with his face painted white and a big button on his shirt that reads “Legalize gay cupcakes.” Vlad is not at his most observant state at this point in the evening.

“It's mixed,” the bouncer responds with a straight face.

After walking down the street, we randomly find a pub called Quinn's that boasts an impressive stock of beers on tap and in bottles. When we tell the bartender about our trip he is ecstatic about the idea and gives us an enthusiastic list of recommendations for places to go in Seattle and parts south.

I like Quinn's a lot – they have some great craft brews on tap and an insane menu of Belgian and other aged beers in the bottle. I order a 750 ml. bottled of '08 Achel Extra, a cask-aged, trappist ale, and it drinks subtle and smooth like wine. The bartender recommends another great Belgian-style ale they have on draft, Salvation from Russian River Brewing Company in California, and is very happy when we assure him that Russian River is on our itinerary.

At closing time we return to the streets. There is a continuous stream of cabs preying on people leaving the block party, so we have no trouble finding transportation back to the hotel. “You guys are going to want to buckle up,” our cabbie advises us before careening down the streets of Seattle like a ricocheting bullet.

Thus ends day one.