" 'No Diving, but' - look at this! - 'it don't say nothin' about cannonballs!'," the guy closest to the poster read off it and guffawed to his friends.
It seemed like a good percentage of the attendees at the WYES Beer Tasting at the UNO Lakefront Arena ended up at this painfully new bar in a Lakeview strip mall, where a young waiter seemed obsessed with preventing everybody from sitting at that one empty table - the same table that everybody who came in sat at and was then asked by the kid to get up from the table and put their name on a list, and it would be ten minutes or so to sit at the same table where we had just been. A large number of us ended up sitting at the bar this way and giving our tips to the bartender instead of the empty-table waiter...and one guy in particular ended up there guffawing at the cutesy poster map of Lakeview, circa 1988.
"We used to jump off that same pier," he mentioned in a more sober tone, "but we had to jump off only one side of it. That kid we knew jumped off the other side one day and ended up getting scraped up by the pilings." His friends winced in appreciation of the pain of that moment and sobered up a bit more with other reminiscences of their younger days, as well as many glasses of water. It was the drink of choice at that time of night.
Last time Dan and I went to one of these beer tastings, it was years ago, at the Fair Grounds. We both got more than sufficiently soused, tried waiting on a bus to take us down Carrollton Avenue to our friend Edie's house closer to Willow Street and failed, and instead walked and talked our way there...and began our true courtship of each other, getting married a little over a year later. As far as we are concerned, beer truly is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy (and I really don't care who said it), so this jaunt to another beer tasting was long overdue.
Granted, it's been a while, but I don't remember as many home brewers at the last one I went to, or even the "how logical!" presence of United Cab for those too far gone to drive home from the lakefront. The home brews were, for the most part, rather good, the standouts being a Krewe of Brew Sweet Blonde Ale, a Crescent City Homebrewers' Jefferson's Freezer Lager, as well as their Pineapple Pale Ale (Dan also liked their root beer, which he imbibed when we began to sober up a little for the trip back to the car) , and some stuff from Brewstock brewers. I had to try the Land Shark Lager just so I could make sure the guy serving it wasn't going to come to my house (yeah, the quip wasn't received too well, but the lady next to him liked it...the beer tasted just like Corona anyhow), Dan was pleasantly surprised by a good tasting Asahi Kuronama while being chagrined that there weren't more Oregonian beers being served at the arena, and we were both grossed out by a gluten-free brew (via the Tweeter Tube, if folks implementing health care reform have their way, we may well see more of this type of swill from fewer brewers. HELP. ME.). The big thumbs ups, however (from more than one quarter), were given to a Rogue Chocolate Stout the Bulldog was serving from a keg. Like the Dark Roast Community Coffee we had at the end of our time at the arena, only alcoholic and much, much better tasting. At that point, it was great to find Cliff standing by us as we all watched the bagpipers tune up for another parade around the arena.
Differences between this beer tasting and the last one I attended?
We didn't just stand at each table and have all the beers offered there...which is probably what helped get us into trouble, serious dating, and marriage the first time 'round. Avoiding the beers we've had many times helped our drunkenness stay at a nice, happy, softly buzzed level, and opened us up to having some good stuff from the local brewers (micro and home). Not that there wasn't room for some hilarity: my favorite moment had to be when Dan described one home brew as being "particularly hoppy", which instantly brought to mind a picture of rabbits bouncing off the walls of the mezzanine level and absconding with some cans of Boddington's Dan coveted from afar.
Having said that, the Beer Tasting is a great event, attracting a different, more laid-back crowd than the usual WYES events involving food and drink, and it was especially nice to get a t-shirt with the symbol of the closest thing New Orleans has to a kosher-style deli on the back of it, since I spilled some beer on the shirt I came to the arena in. Which reminds me...I need to wash it. Maybe next year these folks can hand out some samples or something, 'cause hey, don't we all need some "hope in with the normal load"?