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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Worth it?

Yep.

A few weeks ago my beloved Austrian Snickerdoodle traveled the plains to Omaha on a day trip. "Is there anything you vant?" she asked on her way out the door. "Fine silks from India, perhaps, or rare spices from the mysterious Orient?"

"Bring me some beer," I said, pecking her on the cheek.

"I go to the World Market in Omaha and he asks me for beer," she said. "Beer."

"Well, okay," I replied, "get me some exotic foreign beer, then..."

She smiled at me. "He has the world to choose from, and he picks beer. My husband." She kissed me on the nose and headed off for the big metropolis.

About six hours later, the light of my life returned with her spoils of conquest. I forget exactly what she bought, but there was some kind of fancy popcorn salt and six happy bottles of beer. There was a Guinness, something from Germany, a bottle of Texan beer (which I still haven't tried yet - I'm still sore at Texas for foisting President Bush on us), a few others, and a beer called "Abbey." I chose one of the beers at random and put the rest in the fridge and went about my business.

A few days later my wife was again on one of her mysterious errands (I think she was with her mama across town, actually), so I took the opportunity to get some yardwork done. And, you know, nothing finishes an afternoon of semi-arduous yardwork like a happy beer... Again I grabbed one of the "mystery" beers at random.

About an hour later Dagmar came home. According to her report, I was still sitting on the front stoop, bottle in hand, stunned look on my face. "Vhat happened?" she asked. "Are you okay?"

"I think I've found it," I said. "I've finally found it."

"Vhat have you found?" she asked. "Und just when did you lose it?"

"You know how when you're a kid you see beer, and hear about beer, but you've never tasted beer, and you have an idea in your mind of what beer is supposed to taste like?" She nodded, a quizzical look on her face. "Well," I continued, "I just found a beer that tastes like beer is supposed to taste like." I glowed. (Glew?) I could feel my aura pulsing happy colors. The world smiled at me. "It's like, well, bananas and coffee. That's not right. It's like, maybe, I don't know... It's good!"

She pried the bottle out of my hand. "Abbey," she said. "We'll have to remember that."

Well, you know, within days the name of the beer had left me. I couldn't find the empty bottle anywhere, and all I could remember was that taste, that incredible taste! I knew it had something to do with some kind of religious order... "Nun's Buns?" Nah... "Bishop's Balls?" No, that wasn't it, either... Thankfully my beloved remembered the name! I went around for days mumbling "Abbey... Abbey" under my breath, afraid of forgetting the name again. (Notice that I'm not bright enough to simply keep the bottle or write the name down? That may explain why it took me seven years to get a four-year degree...)

For weeks I thought of this beer. The sweet, nutty flavor... The gorgeous aftertaste. But how to find it? I know I've never seen that particular label on the shelf. I couldn't even remember the brewery. A quandary.

Yesterday I was e-mailing back and forth with a buddy of mine who now lives on the left coast. "Man," I wrote, "I had the best beer a few weeks ago. Something called Abbey." Within minutes, my pal wrote back "I know that beer! It's from the New Belgian brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. They make Fat Tire there. My in-laws bring it to me whenever they go through Colorado..." I do believe my buddy knows beer so well he could probably tell me the exact recipe of the beer, and who designed the label to boot.

I staggered through the rest of the day yesterday, and made it to quitting time today before I broke. I just couldn't take it any more. "Honey," I said into the cell phone as I punched out, "I'm going shopping. Do you need anything?"

"You? Shopping?" she said. "This I have to see. Pick me up." Two minutes later, we were on our way to the first booze outlet. Eagerly I pushed my way to the beer aisle and started scanning labels. They probably had 200 different kinds of beer, but nothing called Abbey. A bit downcast, I led my bride back to the car and we made our way to the next vendor of liquid happiness and joy.

"Can I help you," said the nice lady, after she noticed my wife and I staring intently at the rows of brightly colored bottles. "Yes," I said. "Do you have Abbey? It's made by the Fat Tire people."

"Fat Tire?" she said. "No, Iowa law won't let us get anything from the Fat Tire people - there's too much alcohol in the beer. We have to stay under five percent. You might try South Dakota or Nebraska..." With that we thanked her and headed for the door.

"I'm getting tired," my wife said as we got into the car. "I haven't eaten all day. Do we have to go to Nebraska?"

"It's just across the bridge," I said. "There's a liquor store right at the end of the bridge. It'll only take a minute." Sure enough, a minute later we were across the bridge in Nebraska, perusing the five different kinds of beer in that particular store. Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite and Michelob for the fancy folk. "Just one more store," I pleaded. "It's right across the street..." Of course, there was nothing there called Abbey either.

Downfallen, we headed homeward.

"Vell," said my bride, "We can alvays go to Omaha again sometime this summer..." Being too sad to answer, I merely sobbed, dripping beerless tears on the steering wheel.

Once home, I put on my jammies and comfy slippers and resigned myself to one more night without the perfect beer. Dagmar puttered around in the other room. We ate something. It wasn't beer. I probably didn't enjoy it much.

A bit later, I found myself at the computer, randomly hitting keys. Inspiration struck! I started up Google Earth and did a search for "Nebraska Liquor" and started sifting through the results. "Honey," I called. "Did you know there's a liquor store in Dakota City? That's not too far away." She looked up from what she was reading, "You're still thinking about that beer?"

"Yeah, and there's a Hy-Vee grocery store that has a liquor store in it just across the bridge in South Sioux City, too," I continued. "And there's a store in Wayne, and it looks like there are two in Fremont..."

"If you're going to go dat far," my wife said, "you might as well just go to Omaha. We know there's beer there!" I started doing mental calculations. Eight-five or ninety miles to Omaha, sixty-five miles per hour, it's seven o'clock now...

"Vait!" my wife said. "Did you just say there was something in South Sioux?" I nodded. "Why don't I just call them and ask?" She rummaged around and found a phone book whilst I stood in my flannel jammies, fidgeting. She pushed the buttons on the phone with her perfect pink finger as I chewed my nails. She held a mumbled, one-sided conversation while I silently raged. Finally, after seconds and seconds of anticipation, she hung up and said...

"They have it."

By the time she was finished with those three short words, I was running buck naked through the living room, trying to find my britches, flannel jammies fluttering delicately to the floor. Within ten minutes, we were across the bridge, running into the store. I was still buttoning my shirt. "Abbey?" I gasped.

The lady looked at me. "That's funny," she said. "Some lady just called me about Abbey."

"Dat vas me," my wife answered.

The lady looked at us, shook her head slightly, a small smile dancing around her eyes, and pointed to a corner. "I DON'T SEE IT!" I wailed.

"Here it is," my level-headed better half said. "It's right here."

"Oh, man... And they have lots of it, too! How much money do you have?" I said, grabbing wildly at my billfold. "I have five bucks!" My wife rolled her eyes. "This beer better be worth it," she said, reaching for her purse.

We bought two six packs. "Do you sell much of this Abbey beer?" my wife asked the cashier lady. "Or is it just my crazy husband?"

"Oh, no," the lady replied. "We sell a lot of it. We're the only people who carry it around here. One guy drives in from fifty-five miles away every week to buy some." She probably talked more, but I was glazed over and drooling by that point and didn't really pay attention. My wife took me gently by the elbow and led me out of the store.

A mere matter of minutes and we were home again. I put half the beer in the fridge. Dagmar grabbed one bottle and put the rest in a chilly corner of the kitchen. "Hmmm..." she said, peering intently at the label. "It says to serve cool, but not cold. Okay, we have some now." She popped the cap and took a tentative swig. I watched, hopping up and down on one foot, trying to gauge her reaction. Her eyes widened. Her eyebrows went up. Her pupils dilated. "Mein Gott!" she breathed. "Now THAT'S beer!"

I took a sip. Nirvana. Sheer happiness, bottled. A bit warm, but very, very good nonetheless! I feel complete. I am at one with the universe.

So, if you're looking for a beery adventure, Abbey Belgian Style Ale, brewed by the nice folk at the New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado is what you're looking for. They have it at the Hy-Vee in South Sioux City, Nebraska. It's well worth the drive! Trust me.

13 Comments:

Blogger mwd said...

Shiner, is definitely a cultural icon in Texas. Can't testify as to the taste despite my long sojourn in Texas since I don't drink anything but tequila when the time comes. But empty Shiner bottles were everywhere in Houston. For a while, I thought they were part of the landscaping at University of Houston. Great story, as always.
BTW, I've used the "birds twitching in the trees" line a few times in conversation . . . it's so bloody perfect.

Look forward to each new post.

5:39 AM  
Blogger steakbellie said...

this was such an awesome post....perhaps we really are related? i HAVE to try that beer, I love Belgian style beers!!!

8:29 AM  
Anonymous bacon said...

Chris,

This really is a great post. I'm going to spend the day telling everyone I know to read it, starting with the mailman (he should be here in a few minutes.) Great, great narrative.

By the waym the word verification I just typed in to get the message posted is Siscorxk, which strikes me as a great name for a Scottish beer.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Aw, shucks... You guys are making me blush...

9:18 AM  
Anonymous icubsfan said...

Shiner Hefeweisen is terrible beer. The Shiner Bock is fantastic. Don't let Texans do German.

9:57 AM  
Blogger mrsleep said...

Shiner Bock ain't bad. I'm in Houston once a month and go to a Cajun Seafood restaurant, Pappadeaux.

I choose to sit in the bar and order a 22 ounce Shiner, then order great Cajun Seafood. A great meal, and I'm out the door tax, tip and everything for 20 bucks.

Think I'll go to BevMo on the way home tonight and see if I can pick up a six pack of Abbey.

With this kind of review, I can't pass it up.

I'm in Fort Collins a couple of times a year on business but haven't tried this one just yet.

Thanks for the tip, and yes, this is a hell of a post.

7:04 PM  
Blogger gerberdaisy said...

I REALLY think you and Steakbellie were seperated at birth, you two are VERY much alike. I'm going to start to speak with an Australian accent and have him grow his hair long!!

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Elysia said...

I thought I was the only one who called my love "Snickerdoodle"!

See recipe below:

Snickerdoodle Cookies
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 cup Shortening -- soft
2 each Eggs
2 3/4 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Cream of tartar
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tried all the beers that NBB produces. I've even been to the brewery. GREATEST BREWERY IN AMERICA!!!! They have this great winter beer called 2 below, and they just came out with a great full flavored beer that has only like 100 calories, 110 maybe? SKINNY DIP was the name. Yummy!

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that this blog deserves some accolade. As one of the brewers, I must say that I got quite a chuckle. Thanks for making my night. If you are ever up in our area, come by the brewery, and ask for Mikey C. I'd love to sit down with ya over a few tasters. I'll be sure to send you home with plenty too. Your blog just got sent to all of us here at the brewery so I'm sure that just about everyone has read it by now. Hell ask for any of us. Reading your blog is what keeps us all so jazzed about what we do.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Gandhi said...

I have to get that beer!

A great blog. You've an obvious knack for storytelling.

8:00 AM  
Blogger mrsleep said...

Another special beer to try "Anchor Steam Beer". Been brewed in San Francisco for the better part of 100+ years.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I see Anchor Steam around here. I'll have to try it some time...

I tried the Shiner Hefeweisen. I ended up boiling my bratwurst in it.

Snickerdoodles are good! Especially my little Austrian Snickerdoodle!

I've had an Abbey every day after work for ten days now. It's still way good! But now I'm almost out, and that makes me sad...

1:59 PM  

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