Tuesday, February 26, 2008

John Wells: The Beer Man's Report

"Little Rock Loves Beer"
(Image from EBeerSnob.Com)

This blog is turning into some sort of online anthology, what with Uncle Cranford's story from yesterday and a report from Mr. John Wells today, but they can say things so much better than I.

Regular readers will perhaps recall Mr. Wells as the cultivated fellow who hosts the website EBeerSnob.Com and sends out every week a publication that he has deftly graced with the literary title of "The Official Size & Weight EBeer ENews Email."

The acronym reads as "TOSAWEBENE," which might or might not have literary significance. TO SAW EBENE? That looks almost meaningful . . . . Could it be an abbreviated Dickensian reference? Perhaps Tiny Tim taking revenge on Ebenezer Scrooge by sawing him in two?

Perchance I'm reading too much literature into things. I am a bit touched in the head by tangents, in literary, geometrical ways.

Whatever I may fancy about it, the e-beer email in fact provides a report on the weekly encounters of Mr. Wells with good, great, and even profoundly wretched beers.

Sometimes, as with "The Official Size & Weight EBeer ENews Email 42," it reports on the encounters of Mr. Wells with profoundly wretched individuals such as I. What follows is his account of the harrowing experience, interspersed with my explanatory, oxymoranically exculpatory mea culpas:
A Tale of Travel

It was a treat last weekend to spend some quality time with a particular EBeerNews reader. It was early in our effort that I received a request for a subscription from South Korea. Imagine my surprise. Dr. Jeff, native of Northern Arkansas, childhood friend of Bruce the wine guru, is a man of many letters, with a pedigree that is beyond reproach. A quick check of the right column of his blog site shows how extensive his studies are. Speaking of the blog site, it will be a great place to hear his side of the story regarding his trip home here to Arkansas.
True, I do report on my Ozark journey, but without photos and not in sufficiently descriptive detail . . . as anyone perusing those entries has surely already concluded. I blame the insufficiency on that damned 'hillbilly' computer. Or perhaps on the tornado. Or the ice storm. Or the snowstorm. Or something other than my own lack of talent...
M and I met the good doctor and his wife at Bruce's house Friday night. The doctor's wife is a charming, lovely soul who is a native of South Korea. We enjoyed their attention as we told them of how we met, and then enjoyed their story as well. It turns out that they met on a train, in Germany, and got acquainted by speaking to each other IN German, which of course was neither one's native tongue. They now speak fluently in each other's language, or at least I can vouch for hers. Her English is quite good.
Everything stated here by Mr. Wells is absolutely true. Even the fact that Sun-Ae and I have learned each other's native languages. She can now speak fluent English, and I can indeed speak with fluid grace the language of love, for I can speak her name, "Sun-Ae," which means "Good Love." Yes, it really does. Scout's honor.
We made final plans to meet again in the North Arkansas community that Bruce and Jeff hail from, to get down to some serious beer tasting. The Friday evening was devoted to wine, with our resident expert hosting a wonderful evening of food and drink. The beer tasting would be Saturday Night.
Mr. Wells is exactly right about Bruce's excellent wines and wonderful meal, but I should add that Sun-Ae and I arrived about 1:00 p.m. and enjoyed an afternoon of fine wines and good cheeses long before Mr. Wells and his lovely wife were scheduled to arrive. I am, I admit, forever indebted to Bruce for the entire epicurean experience. No exculpation possible there unless he makes a trip to Seoul.
Saturday afternoon, we met up with Jeff and met both his Arkansas family, as well as the rest of his Korean one. His children were there, speaking fluent English and interacting with the family as if they came there every weekend. His Arkansas family members were warm and welcoming. Bruce warned me that I would like them immediately, and he was quite right.
Yes, we have our way of worming ourselves into the souls of the unwary --- and even of the wary, the forewarned. Mr. Wells, you now belong to us. Sorry about that.
Saturday evening at a small country house in the remote reaches of the Ozarks, the beer tasting was held. I had no idea what Jeff's taste in beer was, so I came prepared for a wide variety of possibilities. I wanted to be able to adjust what came next based on what he said about the beer he was drinking. I'd been saving up from the beers I bought in Memphis , and put that together with the beers I could get here, so I was prepared.
And I once again am in another man's debt. Yet, as one with profound insight into our fallen condition once put it, "a grateful mind / By owing owes not, but still pays, at once / Indebted and discharged; what burden then?" (PL 4.55-57)
We started off with a very safe bet. I had a growler of (a Jackson favorite) Bosco's Flaming Stone (50) brewed right here in Arkansas . We went a little hoppier each time, and he never flinched. The grand finale was Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale (98), to which he drank with zeal. I would never have predicted that his palate would be so diverse, particularly with the correspondence we exchanged. He describes being trapped in Korea, with minimal selections available in this part of the world. He told me via email that he lives vicariously through our writings, drinking bad beer and imagining he was drinking what we describe. He could only dream of one day drinking beer in the Land of Oz.
Lest my Korean readers protest, let me interject that one can in fact obtain good beer in Korea if one goes to a bit of trouble and pays a rather high price. However, Korea offers nothing like the selection reported upon weekly in the beer newsletter sent out by Mr. Wells. My palate just happens to tend toward the bitter end of the taste spectrum, possibly a unique benefit of my life's bitter experiences . . . for which somebody, somewhere, owes me an apology. Actually, I'm reminded of a line popularly attributed the great W.C. Fields: "It was a woman drove me to drink, and I didn't even have the decency to thank her."
Sunday morning we discussed the tasting over coffee. He had detailed and intellectual questions for both Bruce and I. He read every label of every beer we tried the night before, and interviewed me about what each phrase meant. He really did ask different and deeper questions that I have ever heard. "I wonder what the word origin of 'malt' is?" I've never heard this question at a bar or at a tasting, how about you? I had a great time talking to this eager beer enthusiast in residence. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll soon be asking him the deep questions about beer. He strikes me as a quick study.
Well, I wish that I were a "quick study," but in all honesty, I'm not. In fact, my dullness of mind adequately explains the rigorous questioning with which I badger all those I meet. I'm trying to make as many neural connections as possible in my brain so that I don't forget as much as I otherwise would. By the way, I did look up the origin of "malt," and my guess that it could be related to "melt" happened to be correct. Both are also related to "mollify," in the sense of "to soften." For more details on this interesting link, see the Etymological Dictionary's entry on "malt." Perhaps I've now exculpated myself for that excessive badgering.
Rather than detail the tasting any further, I prefer to wait until his blog catches up, to get a kind of point/counter point version of the event. I note that his blog already speaks of his return to Korea , and trust that he will tell us more of his adventure as time permits. Stay tuned.
Indeed, I shall. Sometime. I have less than a week to gear up for the new semester and am suddenly threatened with far more students than formerly promised, so my blog on beer will be either delayed or abbreviated . . . perhaps the latter, as part of a more general blog entry on my Ozark trip before the details fade from my porous memory.

Apologies to all everywhere...

Labels: , , ,


At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I consider that I know something about speaking with "fluid grace" and I at least think I may have the answer for your quandary.

I once sat on a barstool next to a guy who was "sipping" exotic fluid grain products when he leaned quite close and whispered,"tosawebene?"

I was in Kansas at the time and my Arkie vocabulary did not include an appropriate equivalent answer to an obvious inquiry. However another grain afficionado shooting pool at a nearby location solved my perplexity.

She yelled to my barmate, "the men's room is down the hall and on the left."


At 8:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I'll note that for future reference if I'm ever among Kansans instead of Arkansans.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A word to the wise if you do find yourself in that neck of the unwoods: they pronounce Heaven arKansas, and the river that enters Kansas from Colorado then leaves that unwooded flat and windswept state is known as the arKansas River.


At 11:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the tip. I'll set them straight on pronunciation.

That was your point, right?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

mmmm... beeer...

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Malcolm, you sound as though you yourself might have had a cold one or two.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Not tonight, I'm sorry to say... I'm "on the dry" for a few weeks.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Malcolm, don't tell me that you're a closet Catholic and observing Lent!

But I suppose that if you're in the closet, then you wouldn't tell me, would you...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

A Catholic? Moi? Heavens, no. Nothing of the sort.

Just a little routine maintenance.

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Heavens no"? Ah, I get the subliminal message. I know the truth now, Malcolm.

And what could be more "routine" than the annual maintenance of Lent, like a Weberian routinization of charisma?

Say no more. Say no more.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home