PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

Pretty Ridiculous Things

One night this past December, the rumor mill informed me that the Somerville, MA-based beer brewery Pretty Things would be closing shop.

I loudly guffawed as I always do when I hear something too absurd to be true, waking my slumbering children upstairs as well as several babies in the neighborhood with my melodramatic explosions of laughter, shaking my head vigorously at the preposterousness of it all, ending the laugh session with a chortle and a few trailing snorts as I wiped away tears of laughter.

Once in control of my senses, I followed up the laughter with a few indignant harrumphs. “Someone is spreading stupid lies!”

Pretty Things was the responsible party behind one of my all-time favorite beverages, Jack D’or, a “Saison Americaine.” I’m not saying that Jack D’or was one of my favorite local brews, or one of my favorite farmhouse ales. I’m saying it was one of my all-time favorite beers of any kind. And it was soon to be gone forever!

I went out to the Macy’s in West Roxbury to stock up, but my beer guy gave me the bad news: “They’re all gone. No more of the Jack D’or for you, my friend. Thanks for all the bottles you bought these last several years. Now run along like a good boy.” (Slight embellishment.)

Is this what it feels like when your favorite obscure insect becomes extinct? Jack D’or was a bright and happy beer, sharp and crisp, a little spicy, a little tangy, a mouthful of flavor from the first to the last sip of the 22 oz. bomber bottles they came in, all acheived without slapping you in the face with hops. To give you a sense of how much I loved Jack D’or, I’ve made a few lame attempts at cloning it, and then gave up, telling myself to make my own beer instead of trying to replicate the perfect saison.

My beer guy surmised that the reason Pretty Things closed shop was because they were blackballed by Boston bars for calling a few out for the illegal practice of requiring distributors to pay for tap space. The owner of Bukowski’s Pub was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying that Pretty Things had “an inferior product” at its cost.

More excessive laughter. A Jack D’or used to run me $5.99 for a 22 oz. bottle, whereas Hennepin (another great Saison by the Ommegang people in Cooperstown) costs more like $11.99. Favorite beer plus low price doesn’t equal inferior product at its cost.

I’d say that I’m never going to set foot in Bukowskis again, but they won’t miss me, since I’ve had maybe one beer there my whole life. Not to mention that after the Red Sox won the world series in 2004, they denied entry to a certain acerbic high school principal I know because he was emotionally exhausted.

Anyway, I suppose I have the moral duty to take up the Petty Things mantle and start brewing farmhouse ales for public consumption. Stay tuned.

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Heathers

 

A friend of mine, having drunk (unassisted) a 22-oz bottle of my high-gravity Belgian Trippel, which required him to rest his brain for the ensuing hour or so, asked me recently (or rather challenged me) to brew something a wee bit less powerful. “Like a heather ale,” he suggested, having enjoyed several of these at a Scottish pub called The Haven.

Sure, I’ll just get online and find myself a good extract recipe for a heather ale, my friend. Of course, all the recipes I come across require an ingredient called "heather."

 

Heather GrahamBrewin' With HeatherThis makes me wonder: what, exactly, is heather? Google, which currently controls every atom on this earth, can help with that! A quick search for “heather” results in a few pictures of flowering evergreen shrubs, and several thousand images of women, one of which reminds me that that I once had a thing for Heather Graham (after Boogie Nights, who didn’t?).

I modify my search to “fields of heather,” and soon find myself at a Yelp page where people are posting their opinions of a bakery in Chester, Maryland called Fields of Heather. No, what I want to know is “where to find heather in the northeast,” imagining that I might cut flowers from a wild shrub to dry-hop my brew. Instead, I discover that someone named “Heather Northeast” is on Facebook, and based on a photo she has (perhaps ironically) posted, seems to have traveled to Southeast Asia. I try once more with the search term “wild heather.” The Internet Movie Database tells me this was a film made in 1921, whose storyline is “A dying senator weds a girl reporter to make her guardian of his three sons.” (A rather curious selection for a guardian, though I imagine the senator's boys didn't argue with him about it.)

Perhaps I’ll just brew an IPA.

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Happy Smile Guy

 

Good news! I’ve decided to refocus this blog’s tone from quirky, tongue-in-cheek commentary on our meaningless existence toward something much sunnier. That old, stodgy Pat, forget about him and all of those hilarious things he used to write! From now on, this website is where you’ll go to have a smile slapped onto your face.

It's time to think of the good things in life, rather than all the bad that is constantly happening around you each and every moment: all those deranged psychopaths running around with guns; the sad state of our environment and the peril our coastal cities face as sea levels rise; the couple of billion people around the world who go to bed each night hungry. Let's concentrate on things that are uplifting, like beer! And mustard! Can you imagine a world without beer and mustard? Actually, don’t, because imagining it is not an uplifting thing. Instead, imagine you’re at a ballgame on a sunny day, eating mustard and drinking beer with other happy people who don’t own guns.

Are you feeling the vibe yet?  

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No Chicken Skin Off My Nose

You’re probably wondering if I ever enjoy a glass of red wine. Sure, now and again. I am not, however, obsessed with the life-affirming nectar, peering through a goblet held to the light to observe the density of a newly opened bottle, bathing the inside of the glass with the purple-hued fluid such that the luscious juices finger back down into the inviting pond of carefully crafted spirits. I mean, sometimes I do that. Okay, often. Like, daily.

A former graduate student at a certain well-known institution of higher education I’m affiliated with (no, not Boston College) once told me that the wines in a particular region of Spain smell like sheep’s testicles. If that doesn’t prompt a fellow run out to his nearest “packy” to buy a few bottles, what does? You may be surprised to learn that this was the very first time anyone had ever used the phrase “sheep’s testicles” in my office. (Fact checkers, please note: I’m willing to admit that this graduate student might not have said, exactly, “Wines in my home region of Spain smell like sheep’s testicles.” It was probably more like, “Wine experts are able to identify 50 distinct aromas in Spanish wines, including the peculiar scent that is given off by the nuts of our local sheep.” Actually, he wouldn’t have said “nuts” either.) Needless to say, even if a wine vaguely suggests the scent of sheep’s testicles, most wine dealers are loathe to highlight that in their literature.

Now, I come to find out that Clos Fantine Tradition Faugères 2011 presents, according to New York City’s Le Du’s Wines, with “kirsch liqueur, violets, mustard seed, horseradish, and fried chicken skin on the nose.” When I first read this, my reaction was that fried chicken skin was not an aroma I wished to smell in my glass of wine. Upon further reflection, however, I have to admit it beats sheep’s balls.

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J'Biden Era Haikuage

 

People's Arms. That's right!

200 million shots

In 100 days

 

We are good people

But we still have far to go

Repair. Restore. Heal.

 

There's nothing new here

The Affordable Care Act

We're restoring it 

 

America's Day

Democracy is fragile

The world is watching 

 

Strategy is based

On Science, not politics

Truth, not denial

 

 

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