It was a Thursday. Specifically, it was the Thursday of the BeerGraphs meetups in Chicago and Philadelphia. It was before noon and T-Bone and I were on the road – headed south, to Philadelphia.
I'd like to say the air in the car was heavy – because it would have matched the feeling in our hearts, hearts that in past years would have been headed to Chicago for the annual spoonful of sugar that is Eno Sarris – but T-Bone drives with the odd combination of windows down and air conditioning at full blast, so the air was a breezy trifle of warm and cool air.
Our first stop was Tired Hands' Fermentaria, their new, bigger, and brighter place located just down the road from their original brew cafe in Ardmore, PA. The plan for the day was to attempt to eat more than we drank, or at least eat a lot in an attempt to stay out in front of all the drinking, and the Fermentaria offers a burger and a beer for $14 from 12-4 on weekdays. So while one could argue whether a plan that strives to “stay out in front of all the drinking” is really a plan at all, one certainly could not argue that we were committed to trying.
Similar arguments could be made about my commitment to fatherhood as I sit in front of my laptop, my two-month-old son contently strapped to my chest via some sort of Swedish implement, writing a story that essentially ends with me terribly hungover and sleeping in a park.
Ask yourself, “Does Batman exist?”
Now ask yourself – “Should he?” – and seriously consider responding to that email about being part of a focus group at your local zoo. If selected, consider attending dressed as a zookeeper. Or a gorilla.
Better yet, wear your Che Guevera t-shirt. Then, during a refreshments break, sidle up to another group member and say, “I dressed up as a guerrilla for today's meeting. Get it? Guerilla? Go-rill-a.” Be sure to alternate between quickly saying guerilla and sounding out go-rill-a, all while doing an underlining motion with your hand to emphasize both your t-shirt and your wit.
Regardless of your life choices, the burger at Tired Hands was quite good and the beer was even better. I started with Shambolic, a spelt saison dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe hops. The smell was a delicious herbal pineapple, pepper and grape. The taste was all of those things plus mango juice and then a finish that offered a dank-oak-effervescent bitterness.
Next, I had Reactionary, a oat saison dry hopped with Equinox and “a touch of Citra”, according to the Tired Hands' menu. It was drastically different from the Shambolic but equally delicious that ran through flavors of hay, pepper, lime, and grapefruit before it all turned back around on itself and ran back through those same flavors again but in reverse order, like some sort of tasting note palindrome.
T-Bone and I wanted growlers to share for the end of the night so we ordered a few more tasters to help us decide what to get and then moved on to Monk's Cafe in Center City. While waiting for fellow BeerGraphers Alex Fossi and Nick Campion to join us, T-Bone and I split a duck sandwich.
Once Alex and Nick arrived and introductions concluded, T-Bone and I moved onto the mussels. My order featured bacon, T-Bone's featured apples, and we collectively ate 3 pounds of mussels, two orders of frites, and mass quantities of bread, in front of our new friends Alex and Nick. If there was a moment in which Alex and Nick feared for their lives, I imagine this was it.
In between mouthfuls of food, I drank Nodding Head's Ich Ben Ein Berliner Weisse, a lightly tart, refreshing Berliner with hints of lemon and mineral water that Nodding Head has been doing since before Berliners were the “in” thing. I also had a Midnight Brett by Allagash, which I thought was going to blow me away but did not.
Now a foursome, we moved on to Jose Pistola's for tacos and more beer and to see if any other people would be joining us. There was Yards Citra IPA on cask that was have-more-than-one delicious. There were Firestone Walker's farmhouse ale Opal, and Perennial Saison De Lis. There was a moment where a young-ish looking male wearing a Phillies hat came in and sat near us and I thought maybe he was there for the meetup but then nothing came of it. So either he was not there for the meetup or he got a look at us and changed his mind.
There was another moment where an older, white-haired, gentleman wearing a Florida Gators polo asked us if we had seen his father-in-law. When we said we had not, he spit in his beer, set it on the bar, told us he would be right back, and then went outside, presumably to search for a father-in-law that, based on this gentleman's look and decorum, could not have gotten very far.
After it was clear via social media and unflinching street smarts that our current foursome was the entirety of the Philadelphia BeerGraphs meetup, we moved on to a beautiful rooftop deck where we drank Tired Hands growlers and, I shit you not, watched the sunset.
It was around this point that it was clear that all the eating had not quite kept T-Bone and I out in front of all the drinking. Typically, it is in moments like these where the beers all start to blend together and it is rare for something to stand out. However, when those final two growlers from Tired Hands were popped open, everyone – by everyone, I mean all four of us – took notice.
The first was the DIPA Extra Extra Knuckle. Hopped with Mosiac, Simcoe, and Citra, the beer was such a perfect blend of tropical fruit and intense citrus. It was one of those beers that made someone say, “just stop with what's in your glass, you have to drink this.” And so I did.
We finished the night with Honey, I Love You – a tart, honey saison hopped with Amarillo. The combination of the tart with touches of honey, along with dry notes of hay and sweet notes of grape and guava (and yes, I'm stealing most of those words from the Tired Hands menu because why mess with it) was completely eye popping after a day of maybe, just maybe, too many beers, most of which I did not mention in the above paragraphs.
Incidentally, this was one of the beers that T-Bone had started the day with. It wowed us then and was wowing everyone – by everyone, I mean all four of us – at the end of the night. Immediately, I declared that I would be heading back to the Fermentaria the next afternoon to get another growler of the delicious beer.
And then I woke up. Specifically, I woke up to the sound of T-Bone's phone alarm going off but with the ringer turned down very low. So low that for the first few moments, I was not sure if it was a sound coming from inside or outside the hotel room, or even my body, for that matter. At this moment I would rank my headache somewhere between a 2 or 3 out of 10. Pretty minor. I woke T-Bone, who had to go to work, and I went back to bed. It was a just a bit after 6 a.m.
Fast forward to 9 a.m., when I woke up and took a shower. My headache now at a 6, I watched a show about the Bermuda Triangle while trying to figure out the train schedule out to Tired Hands, then back to Center City, and then onto the line that would take me to where my Wife was picking me up around 3 pm.
My headache now at a 7, I decided I should try fresh air and coffee. With both of those things in my body I now regretted checking out of the hotel early.
With the headache slowly approaching a 7.5, my body full of fresh air, coffee, and regret, I stumbled upon Philadelphia's iconic Love Park. In spite of myself, it was a beautiful day so I decided to sit in the shade and try to collect the shattered pieces of my head and soul. I quickly came to the realization that I am not even going to attempt to get out to Tired Hands. Honey, I Love You was a delicious beer but Shirt, You Hate Yourself was the prominent sentiment of the early afternoon. I opted instead for a short nap in the park followed by looking for a nearby place with a decent tap list that opened before noon. If I had my wits more about me, I would have just returned to Jose Pistola's for more of that Yards' Citra IPA.
Follow JR Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to the Drinking With Shirt podcast, featuring T-Bone and I, right here at BeerGraphs or iTunes.