Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bear Republic rolls into Missouri beer scene

Though I've just been applauding the satirical edge of Tom Schlafly's new Top Fermentation column, with its brash "buy local beer" theme, I will now encourage you to buy some Sonoma County Beer.

I got the drop from the essential STL Hops blog that Bear Republic Brewery had rolled into Missouri, and instantly I knew what we all were in for. Bear Republic has had distribution in Illinois for some time (one of the many reasons I have made regular pilgrimages to Corral Liquors, in the town of my nativity, Granite City), though I first discovered its delicious beers in New York City.

In a previous, more indulgent incarnation, I was a travel editor, based in New York. The bad part of this job was the "my reporter on assignment went to Tasmania, and all I got was to chop his sentences and paragraphs in half" experience, which was (admittedly) more than half the job. But, the other half!

I was paid to see the world, when I could find the time to give myself an assignment, and I was paid to be schmoozed. I could always find the time to get paid to be schmoozed. This involved taking a long lunch or afternoon off in the city, getting wined and dined while someone told me how wonderful their part of the world was and why I should assign a reporter to go find out personally. Travel PR people, I discovered, tended to be either grizzled former journalists, in effect enjoying a paid retirement (very interesting men or women), or young, perky college grads, getting their kicks out of a cush first job (invariably beautiful young women). Either way, very good company - and their company was always buying the drinks!

California Tourism - which must be facing an end to these things, with a state budget crisis - used to set up shop in New York once a year. Really, I had to attend these events out of professional responsibility, but surely the number of times I would visit the Bear Republic vending stand to taste the beer (again) was more of a personal decision.

The Racer 5 India Pale ale is a classic golden West Coast IPA, The Red Rocket Ale is as fiery and red as its name, the Hop Rod Rye is another big bold IPA, but with rye in its grains, and The Big Bear Black Stout is in a Russian Imperial style, and again well said in its name: it's big, it's black, and it's stout.

Imagine a travel editor working the room for press kits and tips for new developments in California tourism, basically killing time before it might be acceptable to make my way back to Bear Republic. "Could I try that rye beer again?" The man pouring the beers looked like a bear himself. He was owner and master brewer Richard Norgrove. It's not hard to have fond memories of someone who poured you delicious free beer for years in New York City, but I remember him as a nice man, and I welcome his beers to Missouri.

Toward the end of one of those schmooze fests, maybe a little woozy from all that bear on my back, I saw her, as if in a dream ... a shimmering maiden ... another of these gossamer girls who work in tourism ... young, fresh, warm, open ... but don't I know her? ... don't I know you? ... from a newspaper in St. Louis? ... she is calling my name, as if in a dream ... and, then, she walks with me, a basket of apples in her hand ... a basket of oranges in mine ... we leave the exhibit space, we leave the convention building ... she walks me through the streets of the city ... she says, "I found a church, it's right over here" ... maybe she wants to marry me? ... but I am not already married? ... "I always ask for a nearby church with a shelter," she says ... she represents a fertile valley ... "I can't bear to just throw away my display apples and oranges ... and all the writers like you ever want to do is get drunk" ... this golden young girl takes her apples through the church and leaves them on the alter, I leave her oranges on the altar, we leave our offerings on the altar, her offerings for the poor and hungry ... and I walk her back through the city at night.

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