All this week I've been trying to think of something to write about for The Session's "Beer People" topic. Being my first crack at this thing, I wanted to give it a proper go and post something worth reading. But for the life of me, nothing really stuck out.
Then, last night, while sitting in a local watering hole, it hit me. "Look around you," I thought, "you're sitting in a place founded by beer people." That place was none other than Capital Ale House.
I know I've waxed poetically about that bar before, but since this Session is about the social aspect of beer, what better subject than a few of the people who make my social enjoyment of good beer possible? Therefore, I've picked a sampling of the staff, rather than just one person, who I feel reflect the beer culture the company is trying to foster here in Richmond.
A couple of narratives will accompany this, to help bolster my case. And I may get a little long-winded, so humor me.
Steal the Glass Night is a weekly event hosted by Cap Ale at both their Downtown and West End locations. The name is exactly what it implies: drink the beer, take home the glass. Several breweries have been featured over the years, having their branded glassware carried away in the hands of many a thirsty drinker, from the erstwhile after-work patron to the die-hard regular.
One standout was last year's Oktoberfest STGN, in which giant dimpled Spaten mugs were given out, being filled to the brim with Marzens from various Munich breweries, all at a quite reasonable price. I trudged up there feeling sick as a dog, having come down with some sort of sinus pressure headache, and almost considered not even going. When I finally got to the bar, having waited outside in line for a while, I found that some of the kegs were already kicked, giving a new meaning to the phrase "Ozapft Is!". But no matter, because I was able to get served promptly by the helpful bar staff, wading through a sea of people, and still have a good time.
Just recently, this past Tuesday night to be exact, they featured Allagash offerings and their rather appealing glassware. I arrived at the Innsbrook location at quarter after six, trying to lift my spirits from a grueling day at work. Allagash Black had already kicked. I couldn't believe it. I went with a glass of Odyssey instead, and wasn't let down at all. Plus, I got the last pour before they ran out of that!
The Allagash Victor was being tapped at 8:30. That was one of the reasons I came out, too, so I waited patiently, and in the meantime enjoyed my black bean burger and frittes. Fearing not being able to get a pour of Victor, I made sure to let the bartenders know that I'd be interested in one beforehand. After perusing Celebrator Beer News, I hear someone call out "Eric!" I look around, eventually to find Chris behind the bar, holding up a shimmering glass of Victor and pointing at it. "All you, man!" he said as I took my drink and thanked him with a knowing grin.
When the Victor was tapped, administrative staff Jacob and Bridget came out from the Downtown location to celebrate. These are two people who know their beer, and make a dogged effort to get the good stuff here in Richmond. I feel perhaps that we're seen as a smaller market not worth the consideration, or a place many might overlook. But the fact is that with a few great beer stores, and an even fewer amount of excellent beer bars, we still hold our own when it comes to drinking quality beer. And it's all thanks to these fine beer people. Nevertheless, it's always great to see them and be able to have a more personable discussion with the people who are pulling the levers (or the pints!) and making these kinds of events happen. Reaching out to the better beer community in our area is something they do with great fervor, and it doesn't go unnoticed.
Seeing a bunch of beer lovers out that night, like my jovial buddy Ed who always comes bearing gifts, and Anna, who got off work and joined the fun on the other side of the bar, left an impression in my mind about so many things related to the social side of beer. For instance, how many establishments today can you develop such a friendly rapport with the help? With efficiency and commercialization running rampant these days, it feels like we suffer on the human side of the equation. Capital Ale House, in a way, restores my faith in people. May sound a little bold or melodramatic, but I feel it's apt.
So there I was last night, enjoying a 1996 Gale's Prize Old Ale, an '05 Liefmans Goudenband, and later, splitting a bottle of Blue Mountain Brewery's Mandolin with fellow cerevisaphile Steve, all the while chatting it up with the folks around us. What I thought would be a quick beer after work turned into an evening of socializing, good food, and even better beer. One guy even stopped to talk to us about the Mandolin, commenting that he had savored some earlier in the night. He was on his way out, but didn't make it too far; he ended up staying and hanging out with us for another hour or so, all of this coming together thanks to beer.
And there I sat, that little voice in the back of mind going, "What am I going to write about?"