It was a few years back on Father's Day, as I diced up a red bell pepper, that out of the blue my Dad said, “So tell me what you know about crystal skulls.”
I paused from my kitchen prep for a moment and threw a quick glance at him over my shoulder. As I started back up with the slicing and dicing, I said, “Everything I know about crystal skulls is based on that Indiana Jones movie.”
“Well, you know how I was always taking trips to Mexico and Central America while you were growing up?” he said.
I paused for another moment, thought backwards, and shrugged in that, “sure, go on,” sort of way.
“Well, I was looking for crystal skulls,” he said.
“Wait, wait, wait,” I said, putting the knife down and turning my back on the diced pepper, “you've been searching for crystal skulls? For how long?” My tone silly but interested.
“Most of your life, I suppose.”
I thought back on the trips he mentioned. I had always assumed they revolved around some sort of drug or gun smuggling operation, you know - in that way that kids create big fish fantastic ideas about their fathers. And so as the image of my Dad, the 80's yacht pirate smuggler, morphed into my Dad, the cut-off jean shorts shaman, sporting a head lamp and fanny pack in the bowels of some Central American pyramid, he chimed in with, “And I finally found one!”
He didn't find in the way that he had always envisioned, rather the crystal skull found him – in a parking lot in Sedona, Arizona. The abridged version is that a woman approached him and asked him if he was in search of a crystal skull. And much like we learned in the film Ghostbusters regarding when someone asks if you're a God – when in Sedona, if someone asks if you're in search of a crystal skull, you say yes.
The woman, who I'm now picturing as Gozer the Gozerian, but older and weathered by years of desert life, walked my Dad to her car and explained that her spirit guide had led her to him. She performed a short car-side ceremony, pulled the crystal skull from the back seat, gave it to my Dad, and then simply drove away.
I imagine shit like this happens all the time in Sedona. Obviously, it would have been cooler if the story ended with the woman turning into stardust or a hawk or something, but my Dad assures me that while it most certainly would have been cooler, it did not happen that way.
Much like my Father's years of mystical pursuit, I too have been in search of something equally mystic and nearly as elusive. So tell me what you know about Dad Beers?
Dad Beers are more than beers – specifically, they are places and/or scenarios that allow one to simultaneously enjoy delicious craft beer and provide the expected amount of fathering that comes along with leaving the house with one, two (that's my number), or how ever many one might be required to leave the house with.
I imagine that there is an upper limit of children that make Dad Beers even a consideration. I feel strongly that if such a limit exists that it is different for different people. A sliding limit if you will allow it. I also feel strongly that for me that upper limit is two children.
In other words, I am currently existing at my personal upper limit. Let's talk about vasectomies!
Just kidding. I've been searching for Dad Beers, well, for as long as I've been a Dad – which as of this writing is 4 years and 92 days. Of bliss! I meant to say of bliss – 4 years and 92 days of perfect sleeping patterns, even-keeled-soft-cooing-baby sounds, odorless diapers, getting out the house effortlessly and punctually, clean floors around the dinner table, toys always put away, never stepping on Legos BLISS.
Poo-plosions? Tantrums? Your daughter almost being swept away in a creek moving a little faster than you realized? Never heard of any of those. I've only heard of fatherly bliss. And Dad Beers.
The most recent leg of the Dad Beer Summer Tour Extravaganza pulled into the parking lot of Victory Brewing's Brew Pub in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. We knew we were in the right place when I noticed several Dad's walking through the parking lot, each holding the hand of a small child. I'd like to rattle off a list of things that when you see them you know you are in Dad Beer territory but really it's kids and that's it. And maybe cargo shorts.
I realize that to a non-Dad Beer seeker, you know, just a regular beer seeker, finding yourself in a Dad Beer environment could be terrifying. Perhaps you are out drinking to get away from your crying two year old.
I totally get that, as many of my non-Dad Beers are self rewards for changing two diapers in one day and I like to have them in as kid empty of an environment as possible – preferably dimly lit with no reflective surfaces (I find beers are most enjoyable when you can't look at yourself). However, in my limited Dad Beer experience, the places that truly succeed at it have found a way to neatly keep things separated. Whether it's the large outdoor beer garden and playground at the Outer Banks Brewing Station that I experienced last summer, or the clustered placement of high top tables away from the lower tables and booths at Al's of Hampden, home of Pizza Boy Brewing Co., they seem to have subtle things in place that allow for enjoyable experience for all parties.
And Victory's Downingtown Brew Pub is no different – the place has a bit of an L-shape to it and a majority of booths are one end of the L, while the bar is at the other end. And the place is big! Big seems to be a common component of Dad Beers. Families need space. And the non-Dad Beer customers would most likely appreciate a little space between the Sour Monkey they are enjoying at the bar and the family of four just trying not to spill chocolate milk all over the table (a table that incidentally was covered in brown paper that my daughter enjoyed drawing all over – in the land of Dad Beers everything is covered in paper and crayons and ketchup are the only condiments that matter).
The other Dad Beer plus one for the Brew Pub was the sound level – something was playing, music I guess, and it was just loud enough that no one could hear my infant son let out his little screams, but not too loud that I couldn't hear my daughter's soft butterfly voice. Also, no one could hear me tell my daughter to stop touching her feet and sticking her fingers in her mouth over and over again. “You'll get hoof and mouth disease,” I said.
The beer list had over 30 Victory beers on it – nine of which were below 5% ABV (another Dad Beer score). I had the Braumeister Pils Spalt Select at 4.8% ABV. The Braumeister Pils – actually a series of pilsners as they change the hop each time they brew it – may be my desert island beer, which is a little weird to say since it is multiple beers (but that also might be the perfect loophole that I've needed to actually commit to a desert island beer). I've had it several times, several different varieties, but each time it was one of the most enjoyable beers I've ever had. It's a draft only offering so it's not that as easy to find, but if you see it and you're a fan of pilsners, get it.
Not nearly as hoppy as the more readily available Prima Pils, the Braumeister Pils always has the most superbly smooth feel with a perfect pilsner whip crack in the finish. The flavors aren't over powering though, and everything seems to play nicely together – particularly in the Spadt Select variety, the bready notes of the malts seem to just spread out behind the flowery perfume-like aspects of the Spadt hops and then managed to get all intertwined with grass and earth notes as they came forward.
Damn, I love a good pilsner.
The food was delicious as well. My daughter inhaled what must have been the most delicious applesauce ever and then ate some of the mac and cheese it came with. Wife had a Baby Iceberg Salad with skirt steak that she said was awesome and I had the HopDevil Barbecue Chicken Pizza, which was also absolutely delicious. I ordered the personal size and still ended up taking half of it home.
But damn, that Braumeister Pils – over 30 beers on tap and I just couldn't pull myself away from it to order something else. I'm pretty sure it's the best pils being made in America but if you think you've had one that's in that category I'd sure like to hear about it. I'd like to say it's the best in the world, but let's face it, except for that one trip to that Sandals Resort, I've never left the country, so it's probably best if I keep my hyperbole contained to the continental 48 of the United States.
Braumeister Pils – Spadt Select, Victory Brewing Co.
Appearance = 4.25/5
Pale yellow gold with a bit of haze. True white head, about a finger, most of which hung around for about half the glass with nice lacing as I worked through it.
Smell = 4.25/5
The aroma is bread and biscuits with some grass, earth, lemon, and flower notes. Not the most fragrant pils but the aroma that is there is quite pleasant.
Taste = 4.5/5
Bready pilsner malt flavors, with almost a top layer of a flowery, maybe just maybe faintly citrus, flavor with some earth, grass, and even a hint of pepper in the pop of the finish.
Feel = 5/5
So smooth in a dry and walking on air sort of way with a great pilsner crack to it at the end.
Overall = 4.5/5
Like I said – desert island beer. I can't be sure that I rate the other varieties as highly as I don't have any notes and I only checked it in once (rated it a 4 then) and perhaps this particular rating is merely to drive home the point that if I had to pick just one and only one for the rest of my days, this one might be it – or maybe this Spadt Select variety is just hitting all the spots for me. I went between 4.5 and 4.75 for Taste and Overall a couple times between my first and final sips and really I think the decision to play it safe and go with the 4.5 says more about me than this beer.
Follow JR Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to the Drinking With Shirt podcast here at BeerGraphs or on iTunes. The next episode will feature Evil Twin's Mission Gose and Sixpoint's Jammer. Get those beers so you can drink along.