This morning while setting one bare 22-ounce bottle after another onto our mom-and-pop-jam-shop labeler, identifying each as a future vessel by way of which carefully crafted Gateway Kolsch will populate the tidy but growing radii of our reach, I listened to Morning Edition on NPR and heard David Green interview Rosie Schaap. Schaap writes the “Drinks” column for the New York Times and recently came out with a memoir entitled “Drinking With Men”. Here’s an excerpt:
“…although loyalty is upheld as a virtue, bar regularhood–the practice of drinking in a particular establishment so often that you become known by, and bond with, both the bartenders and your fellow patrons–is often looked down upon in a culture obsessed with health and work. But despite what we are often told, being a regular isn’t synonymous with being a drunk; regularhood is much more about the camaraderie than the alcohol. Sharing the joys of drink and conversation with friends old and new, in a comfortable and familiar setting, is one of life’s most unheralded pleasures.”
How simple and right that is! It has long been evident, even from the partial outsider’s perspective I’ve enjoyed as one not directly involved in Tasting Room operations, that the scene there is typified not by raucousness and cacophony but by languorousness and ease. This of course is less true on some nights than others. But after the weekend crowds have dispersed who remain are the regulars, whose identities graft over time with that of the Tasting Room. They are the DNA of our barn by the stream in the same way that our DNA is bagged up on pallets of malted barley in the warehouse and pools in frothy collections on the brewery floor and is written into the movements of our arms as we mill and churn and lift and as we hand over pints. Here’s another excerpt:
“Knowing how to read a bar helps. My favorites have never been big, rowdy sports bars teeming with testosterone or trendy spots featuring cutting-edge cocktails, but intimate, friendly neighborhood places where relationships with other regulars–and bartenders–have the right conditions to take hold, and where my instincts tell me it’s a safe place to be a woman in a bar. At its best, bar culture is both civilized and civilizing, and at the end of a long, stressful day, I know I can head to my local and the bartender will know exactly what I want…and will set it down before me, ask me about my day, listen to me vent. And instantly, I relax. I remember to exhale.”
I don’t think anyone ever consciously set out to create the conditions Rosie Schaap favors in a local in our funny, hand-me-downed Tasting Room, nevertheless here they are, in spades. Maybe this speaks to something native in us, some built-in craving for a drink shared in low light, a need for structureless and unhurried commune with company and libation. Left alone, a bar like ours is shaped by the people who attend it.
Rosie, you’ll feel safe here. First one’s on us.
Now here’s a picture that will make some of you think about Indiana Jones.