Sunday, 6 March 2016

Comic geeks vs beer geeks

If you are NOT looking forward to this movie when it
comes out on Friday, March 25th in North America,
then you quite likely are a ginger and have no soul...
Being a charter member of both groups, I can say without hesitation that there is a huge difference between Comic Geeks and Beer Geeks.

As a member of both, I belong to countless Facebook groups on both sides. And lemme tell you, when someone posts a picture on a Beer Geek page with either a newly-found beer score or anything to do with beer making, there are countless questions about said beer/beer making. The questions are always upbeat and productive and the positive affirmations abound like wild yeast growing.

However, you take your life in your hands posting anything on a comic book page. In fact, I never have with good reason. For instance, if you post your theory that Superman could beat Batman simply by picking him up and throwing him into the sun, a three-week contentious and nasty argument will begin. Your heritage will be questioned. Who your mother does or doesn't sleep with will become an animated sidebar. And you will be dismissed as perhaps the stupidest person to ever walk the globe with abundant vitriol. Comic geek pages are not for the faint of heart. That said, they are a viciously entertaining read.
Wait? She's Supergirl, as well as Kara Danvers?
How can you tell? She's wearing glasses, which are
the perfect disguise. There is no cracking that code

Now Beer Bro Stevil St Evil and I definitely fall into the category of being both. Beer Bro Glenn does as well except the only hero he really pays attention to is Marvel's Daredevil, a blind lawyer who dons a bright red uniform and fights crime. I mean, have you seen this guy's costume? Well, he hasn't. Just sayin'... It takes a pretty rotten criminal to not beat a blind guy. Think a poor man's Batman but, you know, minus the whole seeing stuff. That said, they both got started crime-fighting the same way. Well-adjusted, normal children who turned to crime-fighting when they took a bullet to the parents.

But as well as movies, Stevil and I faithfully watch every TV show starring super-heroes and then talk at length about them because we are 14 years old. Now to be frank, Stevil has always been a Make-Mine-Marvel kind of comic geek. I think he likened the 78-year-old DC Comics (home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) to the same level of disdain with which he holds mainstream beer. So your Dad's beer and your Dad's comics. He much preferred the younger, hipper and more realistic approach that Marvel Comics (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America) brought to the medium many years later.

How does Batman keep his identity a
secret? He simply has Superman dress
up as him so Bruce Wayne and Batman
can then stand side-by-side. Of course, at
times, Superman isn't smart enough to
take off his own costume underneath...
However upon viewing The Flash TV show when it debuted a few years back, I noticed Stevil softening on his anti-DC stance as he found it an entertaining and clever watch. But our patience was sorely tested this year when DC released a Supergirl TV show. When it started, it was way too much Melrose Place and not nearly enough the most powerful woman on Earth beating the tar out of bad guys. Producers, no doubt, instantly faced the wrath of the Comic Geeks, the great majority of which are male, and have sufficiently amped up the action ever since.

And the one thing the TV show did early on which I very much appreciated was defusing the whole wearing glasses as a disguise thing that both Supergirl and Superman employ. I mean, glasses? Really? That whole lame-ass disguise scenario has been the bane of many comic readers for decades now, causing us to question how stupid Lois Lane truly is. For instance, imagine Clark Kent looking at Lois' dog and asking her whose dog it is. Lois: "Clark, don't be dumb - that's Buster. He's been my dog for seven years!" Clark puts glasses on Buster. Suddenly Lois gasps, "Oh my god, whose dog is that?" Or perhaps a more modern take on it. Lois: "I just saw Batman. Holy crap has he gained weight." Clark: "Maybe we should call him... *takes off glasses a la CSI Miami* ... Fatman." Lois: "What the hell? You're Superman!"

Anyway, as I said, Supergirl dealt with that quickly as her boss, Cat, suspected her assistant Kara was also Supergirl. In the comics, her alter-ego dons a brown wig and calls herself Linda whereas on the TV show, she just puts her hair into a ponytail and wears glasses.
"You see, boss, I am totally NOT Supergirl!! And this
Supergirl you see here is definitely NOT a Martian
shape-shifter taking my place to convince you at all!"
Well, it would seem Cat is a lot smarter than Lois, confronting Kara about her suspicions and asking her to *gasp* remove her glasses. Upon doing so, Cat instantly knows Kara is also Supergirl. Now that would have been a secret identity deal-breaker except that Supergirl has a buddy from Mars, who conveniently shares all her super-powers, as well as the ability to shape-shift. He poses as Supergirl, stands beside Kara, Cat says, "What was I thinking? You two look nothing alike!" and problem solved. And then if I was writing the show, the Martian would have flown home, stripped off the uniform and admired his naked female body for 18 to 24 consecutive hours. But this is network television (CBS-TV) and I am only allowed to write for HBO so most of my under-appreciated and unused TV writing involves violence, swearing and nudity. And not much else.

But to my thinking, the reason no one has clued in that Clark Kent is Superman is simply this: If you had Superman's powers, why bother being anything but Superman?
This was my second sip of Nickel Brook's Raspberry
Berliner Weisse. I didn't think to take a picture of the
first sip because I was too busy making this exact face.
You save the world a few times and you're never paying for another meal. And let's face it, who's gonna be more attractive to women - Clark Kent or Superman? I mean, come on, Superman is easily gonna score more super-models than even Leonardo DiCaprio. I read that Leo celebrated his recent Oscar win surrounded by a bevy of beauties. So, much the same as he would have celebrated an Oscar loss. Or any given Tuesday. But as Lex Luthor once noted in the comics, "Why would someone with Superman's powers pretend to be a mere mortal? Such power is to be exploited, such power is to be used!" I'm kinda with Lex on this one.

But finally taking off my Comic Geek cap and putting on my Beer Geek hat, much like Stevil's softening on DC Comics, there has been another significant shift in his and my beer tastes. While our first love will always be IPAs (and the bigger, the better), we both seem to be developing a new appreciation of sour beers. Now to be frank, this was a slow process. The first time either of us tried them, we turned up our noses and from opposite ends of the Earth, our tasting notes were unanimous: "Blech!" But our two favourite breweries seem to be swaying us on this style.
Robbie at Nickel Brook thought the Peach
Uber Berliner Weisse could have used a bit
more on the fruit end. I thought it was solid
as it was: a nice blend of fruit and tartness.

For Stevil, that's the guys and gals at Garage Project Brewing in Wellington, New Zealand. As well as being the ambitious crew who started up a craft brewery in an old Shell gas station, they recently opened up a bar across the street. Suffice it to say, since he lives directly around the corner, that bar has become Stevil's favourite hometown haunt. And much like my guys at Burlington's Nickel Brook Brewing, they have been tinkering with sour beers. And Steve has been cautiously testing them. About a month ago, he tried a raspberry one he quite enjoyed... and went right back to his IPAs, which are to us the same as super models are to Leo - readily available and highly enjoyable.

But Stevil recounted how the other day, one of the bar's friendly waitresses suggested he try the new experimental Garage Project Cucumber Sour beer. She persuaded him easily by: A) being attractive, B) not pepper-spraying him and C) saying words that didn't start with "How dare you..." He reviewed it to me as he was drinking it (mid-afternoon for him, previous evening for me) and he was a happy camper. "Fack, it's great! But then I have always loved the taste of cucumbers."
I liked the Mango Uber Berliner Weisse but
thought perhaps it weighed a bit too heavily
on the fruit essence. Also, it's disconcerting
to drink a beer that looks like orange juice.
Garage Project also makes (made?) a gentle 2.9% peach sour, White Mischief, and a much stronger 7.7% Wasabi Sour that I will be tasting when I touch down on Kiwi soil if they are available. Like my Nickel Brook guys, they are always experimenting with new tastes, not all of them permanent. But Steve still isn't 100% sold on the style, making it clear he's an IPA guy all the way and that he considers the sour beer to be its polar opposite.

Meanwhile here in the Northern Hemisphere, I have left it to my favourite brewery, Nickel Brook, to sway me on the style. At this time last year, I spent several hours in the brewery as the ever-patient Brewer Patrick walked me through the entire brewing process. Among the lessons I learned? Buying beer is easier than brewing it. Towards the end, I asked him which craft beer style would be the major challenger to the IPA Throne. He believed it would be sours. Among others in the brewery's Sour Fan Club are my good buddy, Tony and my growler guy, Robbie. Both guys claim they were sour beer fans from the start. I'll be honest - that's hard for me to believe. I definitely consider this style an acquired taste. But then, they work there and are constantly trying new things so there's that.
While I have avoided the Uber Berliner Weisse,
right, I am somewhat developing a taste for the
Raspberry Uber. I've purchased a few one-litre
howlers of it when I drive in to get my two-litres
(64 ounce) growlers filled with Headstock IPA. 

So now there's four sours I've tried from Nickel Brook - their regular Uber Berliner Weisse, their Raspberry Uber, their Peach Uber and their Mango Uber. It's mixed across the board. Didn't like the regular (just too sour), was conflicted on the Mango Uber (too heavy on the fruit end), liked the Peach Uber (nice balance on sour and fruit) and am now genuinely fond of the Raspberry Uber (as tart as it is sour.) One advantage to the sours that Robbie pointed out was that they were good session beers, ranging in ABV from 3.8% to 4.2%. "If I'm going to a friend's, I like taking these because you can still drive." So I'm softening on the style but like Stevil, not 100% sold. More testing is required and yes, I do this for all of you. You're welcome. Besides, as well as Berliner Weisses, both Lambics and Goses are sour styles I haven't tried. I like to be thorough. I'm like a Beer Scientist that way. Well, a Mad Beer Scientist.

Two trusted beer sources at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House, being beer technician Kylie and GM Steve, are both sour fans. While Kylie took to them quickly, Steve was slower out of the gate, telling me, "The first time I tried a Lambic, I just looked at the glass and thought, 'Is this intentional?'" His appreciation has since grown. Further testing is needed for me.
Stevil St Evil howled when I sent him this picture of Gary
and I from his 1986 wedding. "Geezuz, that looks like a still
from any John Hughes' movie from that time!" Yup, when
Gary got married, he told me, "We're gonna need some
sunglasses for the official groom-best man picture." He
bought an expensive pair of Ray Bans. I bought $3 plastic
blue ones. Gary looked at my glasses and said, "Perfect."

Not to end this on a downer but I got some bad news during the week. My college roommate's wife messaged me to say my former roomie, Gary, had passed away from heart disease. Now Gary and I were as thick as thieves in college and afterwards. Eventually, he moved to North Bay and while I did do a few road trips up there, we eventually lost touch. We reconnected two years ago when I found his wife on Facebook and had chatted a few times since. He was settled in Ottawa with wife, Pat, and two grown kids. Of course, I promised him I'd get up there for a visit and a right royal college-level beer bender. Well, that didn't happen. But while Gary has been taken away, the memories of Gary cannot be taken from me. And did he and I have some fun.

We met during a First Year Journalism field trip to Ottawa. While taking a dreadfully dull tour through Parliament Hill, he looked at me and said, "We should take our own tour."
Gary was a huge fan of The Who so here's a picture of lead
singer Roger Daltrey, circa 1975, wearing the jersey of our
beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. I am assuming this picture
was taken during one of their countless Farewell Tours.
So we roamed the halls, walking into every unlocked office, stealing things and drinking free booze, which seemed to be in every office! In Second Year, I lived with two buddies, Dave and Dennis, in the same condo building as Gary and his parents Annette and Bob. I was a regular visitor to their place when I wanted to be fed, just as Gary was to our place when he wanted to get drunk. (He snuck home when he knew his folks were asleep.) In Third Year, he and I shared an apartment in one of the scuzziest neighbourhoods in Toronto. Our building looked like the United Nations and we were the only white guys there, Gary even moreso because he was a ginger. We didn't care and frankly, our visiting friends probably scared our neighbours far more than anything else, especially the drunkenly boisterous Stevil St Evil. I was the Best Man at Gary's wedding, a marriage that lasted from the mid-1980s until now - so pretty much the only successful marriage I know among all my friends. And while I was deeply saddened and very stunned at the news of his passing, I don't think that's the point. I talked to his Mom this morning and in her thick Scottish brogue, she told me simply, "Just keep living and loving life, Don, mah love." I will, Annette, just as I will always remember your boy Gary with a smile. A smile filled with dirty secrets of our drunken shenanigans that even now, I can never tell you. Those are the best kind. Like the time we drunkenly climbed onto the stage at Diamond Lil's on the airport strip and joined the all-female chorus line. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...