Beer Tasting Among Friends

A cold beer tasting in a miserable heat wave hits the spot.

Ice cold chardonnay, I find, is an excellent resource for taking the edge of this never-ending heat wave, so I walked into Concord Provisions the other night to purchase a bottle (or two).

"Interested in our beer tasting," a young man who barely looked old enough to drink asked. "No thank you, I'm driving," I answered. But as I walked away, my inner hedonist spoke up, "Why not participate in an impromptu beer tasting? Live a little."

So I found my way back to the table where a large tin bowl was filled with ice and pints. Crackers and smoked salmon pâté adorned a serving dish. Two others joined me. A great lady I know from the gym who had just dropped her two children off at playdates, and a suit-and-tie guy on his way home from work.

"Oh my God, I can't believe you never see me in the gym anymore and the next time you see me I'm in a liquor store," gym gal confessed forgetting that truism could have been said by me to her.

All guilt disappeared as the young guy, whose name is Rick Sebastian and is old enough to drink, began the demonstration.

First up was "Clown Shoes," from Mercury Brewery Co. in Ipswich. This seasonal summer brew is the proud brainstorm of Lexingtonite Gregg Bermann. Rick poured us each an ounce of Clown Shoes into a paper cup. We were advised to take in the aroma of Clementine and sweet orange peel.

We each sampled the flavor and all agreed we could taste the vitamin C.

"This is definitely a good beer," said Mr. Suit-and-tie.

Geary Summer Ale, a crisp cold-style ale brewed in Portland, Maine, was up next. You will notice a lager taste," said Rick in the most natural sommelier voice. "It gets its bitterness from hops."

We all agreed about the lager taste and bitter hops. Suit-and-tie cleansed his pallet with some pâté for the next round. "I'm going to have to go with one of these tonight," he said.

Larry, the beer not the basketball great, was the final round. Larry is a double-fermented IPA from the Wachusett Brewing Co., brewed with amarillo, chinook, simcoe, magnum, and centennial hops. "The fruitier flavors mellow out the hoppiness," said our barely-of-age sommelier.

The beer tasting took all of 10 minutes and we three participants barely sipped an ounce of beer each. We did, however, go home with a bottle. S&T bought a Larry and gym gal and I each bought Clown Shoes. (We liked the name.) I never did buy the wine.

Concord Provisions offers the free beer tasting every Thursday from 5:30 p.m., to 7 p.m. Wine tastings are Friday nights at the same times. This week happened to feature local brews, but Rick said the staff hosts tastings on beers from all over the world, including Belgium, California and even microbrews from Oregon.

"So, where did you learn so much about beer, I asked. "You were so professional."

I liked Rick's honesty. "Google," he said.

Traffic Signs

A man dead set on having Barack Obama yanked out of office stood beneath the American flag in Monument Square last week with a homemade sign urging passing motorists to impeach our 44th president.

The man, who would only identify himself as a divorced 40-year-old unemployed Republican Red Sox fan from a neighboring town, received plenty of attention from drivers and passengers alike as he smiled and waved. In response, he got a series of supportive honks and waves. He was also the recipient of a few hand gestures indicating not everyone agreed with his political views.

"Get a life," shouted the driver of a white pickup truck.

Our sign-wielding friend was unfazed. "I actually get a kick out of it when people give me the finger," he said, adding he estimates he receives one obscene hand gestures for every 10 waves.

So, what prompts one to construct a sign, spray paint "Impeach Barack Obama," on it and stand in the sweltering heat in a rotary just hours after Congress sent Obama a bill to regulate Wall Street? I had to know, so I parallel parked (I actually did a pretty good job! didn't hit cars on either side of me.) and, risking life and limb, jaywalked through 6 p.m., commuter traffic to ask him.

"I'm just kind of fed up with the way things are going in our government right now," said the man who refused to give me his name. "The president's job is to enforce the nation's laws not make them."

He said a bunch of other things but I was so blown away by how much this guy looked like Alfred E. Neuman, I forgot them.

"There seems to be too much power, too much regulation," the guy I decided to call Alfred continued. "Take these 2,500-page bills. How can anyone possible vote on these without months of study and deliberation?"

Alfred said this was his third time in two days protesting Obama in Monument Square, and he will be back. "I've been surprised how much support I've gotten. I thought Concord and I thought Concord was the last bastions of liberal democrats." It's not all location, location, location. Alfred's ex-wife had their kid last week.


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