Popcorn, Peanuts, Cracker Jack, and BEER

Many thanks to my employers for the summer for getting me tickets to a Mariners game last night. While the team lost (one of only 32 times this summer, out of 115 games), it was still an amazing game — probably more so because we were on the first deck rather than up in the nosebleed seats.

Safeco Field, despite the name (who started this whole corporate naming trend, anyway? It’s pretty hideous. Candlestick Park is so much more evocative than 3 Com Park, even if the stadium is in bad shape), is a really great space. Only about three blocks from the water, there’s a great view out over the harbor from the outside and good local color provided by the trains that come by once or twice a game.

The only criticism I have is the beer. I like Alaskan Amber, but it’s the only drinkable draft that I could find in the ballpark (though Red Hook was available in bottles, part of the magic of the ballpark experience for me is draft beer outside). And it cost $6 a cup. Not only that, but they were serving Coors Light in 16-oz. cups, while you could only get 12 of Alaskan. I remember Camden Yards fondly: They had microbrew stands that carried a wide variety of regional beers at much more reasonable prices. Then again, they didn’t have the Number One Team in Baseball.

Tasty Medicine

Why do I obsess on the beer issue? It could have something to do with the fact that I don’t normally follow baseball. But the real reason is that it’s good for you! German and Czech medical research shows that beer lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by raising the levels of folate and vitamin B12 in the blood. While I don’t doubt that the German and Czech researchers had a subconscious stake in the results (what, you thought they’d recommend grappa?), I’m still going to be quoting this study for a long time.

For Amateurs

Not that this has anything to do with the rest of the piece, but my wife and I (yes, she’s back in town for a few days–yay!) ate at Seattle’s famed Wild Ginger last night. Sadly, we were very disappointed. While the food itself was quite good (though very mild compared to the Thai food that inspired it), the service was so far below sub-par it wasn’t even funny. We got there half an hour early for a 9:30 reservation (so we could hang out in the bar and chat) but weren’t seated until 9:45. The waiter was condescending about the wine list (which was overpriced)… Enough rant. Bottom line: go to Flying Fish instead. Much better experience.

So, “for amateurs.” Douglas Rushkoff in the Guardian wrote this piece that echoes my feelings about the possible harm from the dot-com fallout. Rushkoff says, “The point is to do what we do online because we love it…Anything done in this very transparent medium for any other reason gets exposed. It’s as if the more active mindset we use to navigate the internet allows us to detect the intentions of its many posters and navigators. If there’s no real passion for anything but revenue, we know it. We can smell it.”

I have long thought the same about music (in the immortal words of choral conductor Robert Shaw, “Choral music is like sex. Both are far too important to be left solely to professionals”). I think on some very fundamental level this can be generalized to our work, our private activities, our interaction with our families. Purity of motive and honesty about motive count for a lot in my book.

Of Good Beer and Bad

I make it a point to try beers that I’ve never had before whenever possible. It’s kind of the same principle that makes me want to eat tripe in Florence or beef tongue in London–both of which were pretty darn good, btw. The nice thing about beer is that rarely is even the worst stuff anywhere near as scary as the concept of beef tongue.

Le Mal

One exception was a fine brew made by a former housemate of mine. Those of you who have the misfortune to have a friend, relative, spouse, or close acquaintance with more beery enthusiasm than skill know what’s coming and can skip ahead.

After a day of the 1996 version of the snow “storm of the century,” and being thoroughly unable to move my car, my housemates and I decided to empty the fridge of all drinkables instead. There were a few OK beers, which were passed around for tasting in an early 1970s Polynesian-restaurant tiki glass (now in the possession of Jim Heaney). Then we started hitting the bottles with no labels.

It is indicative of the state of our minds that we took a minute to remember that our former housemate Dina, who had left us in the late summer of 1995, had experimented with making beer with her then-boyfriend, now-husband Ian. Both had pretty impeccable scientific credentials, and with much excitement they put away some beer and some hard cider. There were two bottles of each left in our fridge six months later.

We were lucky and hit the cider first. I say “lucky” because the pure alcohol left in the bottles by the yeast they had never removed prior to bottling numbed our taste buds for what was to come. Then we tried the beer. To this day, I can’t remember what it tasted like, only that it cured my desire to make beer for good.

Le Bien

Fortunately, if the brewers at New Belgium Brewing ever had this experience, they moved past it. Michael Jackson (the beer hunter, not the “king” of pop) isn’t kidding when he says that their Trippel has “a huge, earthy floweriness.” If I hadn’t bought the beer myself I wouldn’t have believed it to be an American brew. Figures I had to go to Seattle to find this Colorado gem.

More beer notes to come after the Washington Brew Fest this weekend.