The Six Days of Carl (Don’t Try This At Home).

I’ve finally done the basic housekeeping necessary after having my pal Carl Pietrantonio on the premises for just shy of a week: fixed the garbage disposal and bathroom door, replaced light bulbs and checked around for taps and bugs in the walls (I’m still not convinced, knowing his affection for George W. Bush back from his days of Texas governor while Carl was stationed in Laredo, that my buddy’s retirement is just a ruse and that this long cross-country journey of his isn’t check in on suspicious characters as designated by the president’s Big Dick). And I’ve soothed my battered psyche with several handfuls of high tension pills and a tad of beer here and there.

So let us begin.

The first place I took Carl upon his arrival on Wednesday, July 2 was to Victory Brewing Company, where he immediately bonded with the local riffraff, including a resident bar fly of some note. Richard quickly inculcated him into the mysteries of the slow pour and regaled him with tales of how he travels daily between breweries and brewpubs in which he has invested much of his vast fortune. I like to call this photo The Confluence of Confusion; I mean, just look at them. We shared a pizza for what I thought was dinner, one which was good enough that Carl pronounced it his personal favorite of the visit. Among several beers which passed our lips during a two or three hour late afternoon visit, I was virtually blown away by the Kolsch and (brought out just as we were about to leave and thus lengthening our stay, the Sunrise Weiss. Truly two of the best brews I’ve had this summer. No-Longer-Wanderin’ Joe Meloney was on hand as well, and it was seeing Joe and Carl exchange the secret Bush Handshake that brought me to my conclusion that I may have been harboring a gummint spy most of last week. It seems to me we stopped at Sly Fox Phoenixville a a roundabout way home but I can’t quite recall why. I suspect it was for him to eat more food. The boy do like his vittles.

On Thursday we ventured into the big city late afternoon, stopping at Nodding Head where I introduced him to Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse, a beer his tastes are not yet sufficiently developed to appreciate; The Wumpus, a superb ESB; 60 Shilling, and Grog, a most goodly selection indeed. Gordon Grubb, as excited as I’ve ever seen the resident brewmaster, which is to say “very minimally,” took us around back to show us the large wine barrel (from Chadds Ford Winery) that “Kurt bought me,” wherein he is aging a batch of Da Funk, which will be (I believe) the first sour beer from Nodding Head. Nothing would do but that he share a sample with us, so, after a vigorous protest (yeah, right), we acquiesced. The batch is early on the process so not much sourness or complexity as yet but I suspect it will become a darling of the geeks once released this fall. We then set out for our destination, the event which had drawn us to the big city for the evening, stopping briefly at Fergie’s Pub for a brew on the way.

Said destination was Triumph Brewing Company where Patrick Jones had brewed a special pilsner to be tapped in memory of Jay Misson at 6pm. Despite promises that Lew Bryson, America’s Most Beloved Beer Writer (© Liquid Diet – the Blog, 2008 ), would be on hand to do something or other, he  wasn’t, so the gathering was relatively sedate, or as sedate as any gather of the beer clan can be. Some of the Usual Suspects are shown in the photo at left, (taken by Carl): Steve Mashington, Yards; a rose between two thorns (whose name is, [UPDATE] I have now been reliably informed, Julie) who inexplicably arrived with Casey Hughes, Flying Fish (white shirt); Mike Fava, Dock Street ; Tom Kehoe, Yards; Patrick Jones, Triumph; some Old Fart and, up front, Rosemarie Certo, Dock Street. The beer was good, the company was good and it was all good. Not that evening was over yet. Did I mention that my pal, Carl, he likes to eat every now and then? Mostly now? That meant a swing by Iron Hill Phoenixville on the way home, for a late night pizza, excellent once again (one of the benefits, or curses, of Carl’s visit is a reawakening of my Pizza Jones). With it I had a pint of three of Tim Stumpf’s Bohemian Pilsner, always a good idea, pizza or not.

Friday, of course, was the 4th holiday and that meant an afternoon on the terrace at Sly Fox Phoenixville with that Old Gang of Mine. Tasting Time! Despite a blatantly erroneous report over here (what was that boy smoking?) that I’d been overcome with some sort of weird death wish and wanted to spend my time taking notes and reporting on what happened during the afternoon (where’s Massey when you need him?), I paid little attention, mostly just fending off the vicious barbs tossed my way from right and left as everybody tried to prove to Carl that they are not part of my posse, simple folk such as they are. In the photo, which he took, from left front: Big Dan Bengel; barely visible Patty Kolesar and peeking-forward other half Bryan; Your Humble Host here; Barbie Riker and Joy Rubeo in the rear (we shall talk of them again, obliquely, keep an eye out); Deb and (drinking) Ted Johnston; well-posed Joe Meloney; The Hand (peeking over the top just ’cause she can) and Lori Limper, nicely obscuring less photogenic hubby Tom Foley. Carl wished it to be known, by the way, despite that other guy’s cautious phrasing, that he was the one who said, accurately, that he’s too old to be cougar bait. Whomever it was who brought up that term in reference to a pair of unattached wives whose husbands were off wandering in the mountains out west (Brokeback, anybody?) shall have to remain anonymous.  The sum of the day: much beer was consumed. As it should be.

Saturday I took Carl to Dock Street Brewery in West Philadelphia. Out where he lives, many folks were appalled that he was going to be brave enough to actually visit baseball stadiums in major cities and urged him, virtually pleaded with him, to carry a gun. Seriously. So I thought he should see a part of the city that, while eminently okay, would from its appearance along give those poor benighted souls a heart attack or two. Besides, there was that pizza thing, with both of us now addicted, so this one was a no-brainer given its (deserved) pizza rep. The photo was taken by the bartender at Carl’s request and it is, um, us at the bar. His willingness to drop in on people 30 years since he’s last seen them (see my account of his pushy nature and the story behind his visit over in Mermaids if you haven’t already) is matched by his willingness to involve complete strangers in his daily life. I keep trying to tell him that he is not the hero of the story in which he appears, but to no avail. Hey, the Rye IPA as good as ever. Just sayin. Also tried the Bohemian Pilsner (of course) and the Sorghum Ale (not my cuppa, but interesting).

From there, we tested out Carl’s GPS system and told it to find us the fastest way to Union Jack’s on the Manatawny, where there was a big IPA Festival going on. Once again, the Usual Suspects were in the house–or, more accurately, out on the patio. The photo is of Sly Fox bar manager Corey Reid and his friend and Fox regular, Terry Bishop (Terry and his wife won the Free Trip to Ireland at the annual Sly Fox St. Patrick’s Day Boot Camp last March). Ruch and his entourage, including Meloney, were at a big round table nearby and that’s where we encamped, being joined by Corey and Terry after the others left. I believe Carl and three of the four IPA flights being offered, while I was more circumspect. None of us were circumspect, however, when owner Tom Stiegelmann showed up tabelside to give me with a bottle of Rochefort 8 from a case he had just acquired. I thanked him, asked him to put it on ice and we shared it before leaving. Not a bad way to end a day of beer drinking. Not that we didn’t drink some more when we got back home, understand.

Sunday, we were goin’ to Memphis, Memphis Taproom, that is, and Carl insisted in taking this photo of me entering the place.Or getting ready to enter the place, whatever. I just wanted breakfast and a beer. Inside we found both Spanky and Leigh sitting at the bar watching the Men’s Wimbleton Final, a shocker which blew away that whole working-seven-days-a-week-around-the-clock image they cultivated early on, but at least she got up and went to work for an hour or two. We’d hoped to watch the Phillies game but Spanky let it be known in no uncertain terms (does he let stuff be known any other way?) that it wasn’t gonna happen until the tennis was done. So, of course, it went all five sets and three, maybe four, tie-breakers. It was a classic, historic match so I was perfectly happy to enjoy it; Carl was completely beboozled and bamfuddled since he has no clue about the game. The fact that Spanky announced that he’d just added the very fine Taras Boulba to the bottle list as we came in the door and we each immediately had a bottle of same helped ease his pain, as did his Steak & Eggs, which he pronounced “the best breakfast I ever had” about five times between stuffing it into his mouth, then repeated the claim the rest of the afternoon to anyone who would listen. I had an excellent Corned Beef Hash myself, and, come to think of it, it was also the best I ever had. We drank many beers, finally saw the end of the baseball game and it was all good. Coming home, for reasons which should be very clear by now, we stopped again at Sly Fox Phoenixville and Carl chowed down. The man is gonna blow through his pension on food alone, not to mention what his gas bill will be when he finally pulls his truck back into Bellingham.

Finally it was Monday, the day Carl had been waiting for (quite happily and patiently, I must admit). He blithered about while I did some paying work until early afternoon (I try to do something to pay the bills at least once a week) then we set out, training down to the city and subwaying to the South Philadelphia Tap Room. That’s me interviewing Joe Bedia, the peripatetic brewer,  at the bar inside. Joe just came back from–well, that would be telling, and I want to do the story justice–hence the interview. He’s working at SPTR now and some big plans are afoot there. I’m told the Renata Rushlau, formerly of Brigid’s, is on the staff as well, so owner John Longacre may be assembling an all-star team. We had a couple of quick beers, including my first taste of Founders Rubeas, which was made real good, and then walked back to the subway as the skies opened up.

The seats we had, which I purchased through Corey, were spectacular, ninth row just a section to the left of home plate along the first base line, right behind the Mets dugout. Yes, it was the hated Mets and the game did not go at all well. They leapt out to a 10-2 lead early on and it was very depressing. Even after the Phillies got it back to 10-5 (and we got to see a Ryan Howard homer which set him off on the long streak he is currently on while moving into the Major League lead for both homers and RBIs), I prevailed upon Carl to leave after the 7th inning so we could catch the 11:15 train back out here, the second last of the night. The Phillies, of course, proceeded to get to 10-9 and had the winning run on in the bottom of the ninth, before succumbing. Had they won, He’d probably never have forgiven me, since he’s stayed for every pitch of all the other games he’s attended.

That ends the story. You already saw him leaving in an earlier post. The photo below is us at the game, taken by a Mets’ fan in the row in front of us at Carl’s request. I didn’t like her. I don’t like any Mets fans, but I didn’t like her in particular. I want that on the record.

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