Thursday, 5 April 2018

Collective tour and the #keep5alive drive

Tony now continues his trade at Collective Arts
Brewing in Hamilton, a mere 10-minute drive
from his home. Talking to both him and his wife,
Charis, neither misses the rush-hour commute.
Oh... and that's her hand holding him upright.
On March 23rd, I got a text from Tony Cox saying, "Wish David a Happy Birthday for me." Now I have known Tony since I started this little column in 2013 and became a regular customer at Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington where he was their cellar-man. And David, well, that's my boy.

You see, way back on March 23, 2014, I went into Nickel Brook with David to get a couple of growlers filled with Headstock IPA, which is - and forever will be - one of my favourite IPAs. When Tony came out from the back into retail, I introduced him to my son and explained this was a "big day" as it was his birthday. "Oh, well, then," said Tony to David, "Since it's your birthday, would you like a tour?" David enthusiastically agreed and soon we were in the back where Tony showed him all the shiny equipment. My boy was an instant fan of the big silver canning machine because it was big... silver... and a machine. Boys are ridiculously easy to please. Be big. Be shiny.

Now there's a birthday tie between Tony and myself. My birthday, February 14th, is the same as his father's, who passed in 1988. So, I dunno, maybe it's kinda nice for him to have someone to wish Happy Birthday to on Valentine's Day again. And Tony shares his birthday, May 2nd, with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. So my birthday texts (when I remember) tend to be of the "Can you SMELL... what the COX... is COOKING?" variety.
The sexy-ass building, Collective Arts Brewing, is now Tony's
new digs. When he gave me the tour a couple of weeks back,
I asked, "So what do you do here?" His answer: "Whatever
they need me to do." So he jumps around from station to
station here. And he's pretty damn happy to do exactly that.

But every year since that little tour, Tony texts me on March 23rd with birthday greetings to pass along to David. There's no family connection or person or celebrity he knows with the same birthday. So how then does he remember David's birthday?

He just does. Every year. I have no idea how he remembers but I think it's pretty cool he does. I mean, he's not even using a Facebook reminder, without which I'd be seriously screwed because I wouldn't know anyone's birthday ever. Most days I'm happy to simply remember people's names, much less their birthday.

But that's Tony. He's a better person than me (which, in all honesty, just makes him part of a pretty huge club.)

Anyway, moving along, Tony recently shifted from Nickel Brook to Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton. He now has a 10 minute commute to work, which is pretty sweet. And a while back, he asked what day I was off. He wanted to give me the tour of his new digs.
On my birthday - which was a big one - I decided I would pose by
the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign but I took five brewery
shirts with me. In the end, I decided Collective Arts would get the
Las Vegas Sign honours. This is me getting easily five inches of air. I
know, that's impressive, right? An amazing vertical leap like that?
Turns out my son isn't the only one to whom that appeals. Bigly.

As an added bonus, Tony was going to show me their new canning machine. They already have one, obviously, I say, looking at my can of Ransack The Universe IPA. But a new one? Big! Shiny! Silver! That hits all of the check-marks on my list.

And I did see the new canning machine. Kinda, sorta. It was in three separate pieces on industrial-size skids. Covered with tarp. A brush with Kryptonite earlier in the day had left my X-Ray Vision on the fritz. However, I feel certain I can still describe it accurately with a 99.9% success rate. It's big! It's silver! It's shiny! But truth to tell, the trip into Hamilton was a chance to reconnect with Tony and check the insides of the brewery again more than anything else. When he told me he applied there and a week later, I got a phone call from him at my work, I answered my cell phone by saying simply, "This better be you telling me that you got the job at Collective Arts!" (Far Too Late Spoiler Alert: He did.)

After our tour, we were joined by his wife, Charis. Now Charis and I also share some comradery. You see, she collects those cool cat bottles from a German winery and I work at a Beer Store, where those bottles are brought to after consumption of said-Riesling wine. For some reason, they only seem to come out around Christmas. That said, it takes some people a while to clean out their garage. So they dribble our way throughout the year.
Why would I even go to Collective Arts Brewing
without my growler? That's where they keep all the
fresh Ransack The Universe Hemispheric IPA! I may
be foolish about many things but brewery-fresh beer?
Yeah, that's not gonna happen. One of my favourites.
My coworkers have always been instructed to set those aside, should they come back. From there, they are given to Tony, who, in turn, presents them to a very appreciative Charis. He gets the Husband Points. I get a hug when I see her. It's a win-win thing.

So I was joking with her how much Tony hated when I posted a Nickel Brook staff picture of him and captioned it in this space as "Ontario's Sexiest Cellarman." He really hated the photo (hey, I didn't take it!) so of course, I used it several times with the "sexy cellarman" tag because that's what guys do to their buddies. As she laughed, she showed me her phone. Tony's handle in his wife's phone? "A Sexy Cellarman" The poor guy. Even if he escapes me, he can't escape her. But that's the end of the Tony and Charis part, which brings me to Part Two of my Collective Arts Story. Because there's always a Part Two with these guys. (Nah, I'll get back to Tony in a bit.)

It was two days before Good Friday. Young co-worker Jordon and myself were doing our groove thang at the Beer Store. Now here's the thing. Because Easter Weekend is the first real long weekend of the year, a lot of very unfamilar faces do come in.
Hamilton artist David Buist does the COOLEST
illustrations for craft beers in his free time. This is
one of my favourites: his cartoon for Ransack The
Universe Hemispheric IPA by Collective Arts. While
he normally draws for childrens' books or comics,
when he crosses into the adult world, things get fun.
Because, you see, it doesn't matter if you're 25, 35, 45 or even 55 years old, everyone wants those wine, liquor and beer bottles out of the garage or basement before Mom and Dad show up for Easter Dinner. You know, the ones that have building up since Christmas? And you know why? Well, does anyone really want their parents knowing how much booze they plow through? Hell, no! Parents can and will always find reasons to lecture you. You don't hand them the bullets to put into the gun that will kill you with their "concern."

So we get a lot of newbies in the Beer Store at Easter, which is good. It's nice when your place of employment does a brisk business. But part-way through the night, Jordon looked at me and said, "It's weird tonight. It's like some of these people have never been into a Beer Store before." Well, yeah, that's because they haven't. Or at least haven't since last Easter. That means you do get a lot of questions like "I don't remember the name but it has a red or maybe green or perhaps blue label. Is there a beer with a purple label? Which beer is that?" I'm used to it because I have been dealing with it for so long. And also, if I had to find a specific wine at the LCBO but didn't have all the info, man, I'd be just as lost. I know beer. That's it. Wine and liquor? Nope. And as anyone in retail or the service industry, such as restaurants, can tell you, sometimes all you can just smile, be very patient and try your damned best.
One little picture posted on Twitter... so much Twitter chatter. Somehow,
posting a picture of two excellent IPAs - Sawdust City's Lone Pine and
Collective Arts' Ransack The Universe - turned into a side-discussion of
putting Collective Project's IPA No. 5 (New England Style Double IPA)
into the brewery's regular rotation. Will it happen? Well, we don't know,
do we? All we can do is ask. Or beg. Plead. Seriously, whatever it takes...
Sometimes with enough clues, you can help. But just like baseball, there's bound to be a few missed swings along the way. Suffice it to say, it was something of a tough shift. That said, Jordon and I survived it just fine. Still, I'll tell you one thing for free, I was ready for a beer - or two - when I got home.

And that's precisely what I did. I posted a picture on Twitter of a Collective Arts' Ransack The Universe IPA and a Sawdust City Brewing's Lone Pine IPA side-by-side and said words to the effect of, "Rough day. Don't know which of these I'm starting with but they'll both be in my stomach soon enough so it doesn't really matter."
Here this poor beer was... minding its own business when
suddenly it because the centre of a Twitter shit-storm but in a
good way. Long story short: the public is demanding that it
become a full-time release from Collective Arts. I mean, they
can say "no" but we have pitch-forks and torches and the like.
(For the record, Ransack was the first batter, having won the Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo IPA Divisional Playoff. It caught the tiger by the toe, so to speak.)

But within seconds, someone jumped onto the post, noting that he wished Collective Arts' Radio The Mothership Imperial IPA was more readily available. That, in turn, was responded to by my young Nickel Brook homie, Charles - their inside sales dude who calls me once a week to see how much Headstock IPA needs to be replaced at my Beer Store because I've purchased about 87% of our stock. Charles noted: "I agree with you but have you had their IPA No. 5? That needs to be a full-time beer, Collective Arts."

And then it began. I very quietly and subtly responded, "Yes, Collective Arts, (co-owner) Matt Johnston and (media maven) Toni Shelton, just in case you didn't hear Charles, I'll speak loudly. PLEASE MAKE COLLECTIVE PROJECT NEW ENGLAND STYLE DOUBLE IPA No. 5 A REGULAR RELEASE. (Quieter now.) We'd be every so grateful. Thank you in advance."
When Tony took me on the Collective Arts' tour,
I saw this very huge stack of bourbon barrels,
complete with a "Do Not Touch" sign. So, of
course, I touched one as I was walking by. I'm
sorry but wood is not the boss of me. So pushy.
(Okay, for me, that actually is subtle.)

Having been tagged (and on Twitter, thus called out), Toni came onto the thread and noted, "Guys, Matt needs to be told a few times (he's getting to that age *winky face*) so maybe if we keep talking about it, he will listen. I HEAR YOU."

So Craft Beer Diaries (@CraftBeersBlog) helpfully suggested, "Can we put a sign around his neck that rings a bell anytime someone speaks of making IPA No. 5 an all-year beer?"

Responded Toni, "That would certainly make my days at the office more entertaining!" Well, yes, not only that but she'd also hear the boss coming from about 50 feet away. That's handy.

Twitter buddy Graeme (@needmycaffeine) concurred, noting, "Agree 100%. Getting low on my stock. Oh, by the way, it's at the top of my most purchased beers of 2018. It's leading the pack by a dozen."

And finally, S.O.Beer Boys (@SOBeerBoys) finished off by adding, "Four votes from us for more IPA No. 5" but added the clever #keep5alive hashtag. I like that. Gotta have a flashy hashtag. Also there's the fact I bought the last four cans in existence at the brewery.
With NHL playoffs slated to start next Wednesday,
Tony Cox gave me a specialty Toronto Maple Leafs
loonie that he's "had in my pocket for a few months
now." It is now in MY pocket where I hope it will
actually be a good luck charm for our boys in blue.
If I was capable of feeling guilt, I possibly would.

So, lessee, I'm on board with IPA No. 5 becoming permanent. As is Charles. As is Graeme. As is Craft Beer Diaries. As is S.O.Beer Boys. As is Toni Shelton herself.

Who does that leave? (Everyone's heads turn to stare at Matt Johnston.) Ahem, Matt, #keep5alive.

Okay, gang, that's it for today but I've got one coming up about which craft beers turned my macro-drinking brother's head when he flew recently in from Spain. Also I have some killer stuff from Ottawa's Dominion City Brewing, mailed to me from my Nepean Beer Store Brother Ben. And have we inadvertently stumbled across the new release from Muskoka Brewing that will actually cause this stupid freakin' Winter to finally end? We all hope so.

But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...