The Comfort of Pubs

I’ve always liked pubs, I see all kinds of people there. People come and people go, some are old regulars, and others only come once and never again, but it’s people, you can’t help but be sympathetic. They have all sorts of stories and all sorts of backgrounds, and some like to talk, others like to listen, and the pub is the perfect place for it. This blog won’t even nearly be like a real pub with all the hustle and bustle of guests, and the spillings of beer on the floor, but I’ll make the assumption that if you’re reading this, you share my love of pubs.

Beer is a great excuse to go out and hang out with someone, better than coffee, I’d say, but it would be weird if you drank beer at 8 am, so let’s just say that beer is coffee’s nighttime counterpart. A great beer is like a great friend – it makes you open up to the world.

Pubs are the best places for making friends, if you ask me. I’ve met many of my closest friends in pubs. Well, not all of them, but with some, we were just acquaintances, and then one day at a mutual get-together at a pub we found out we had a lot of things in common, like, we both liked beer (haha), but also had the same views on some things, or the same sense of humor, or even some of the same interests.

Some people think that pubs are a waste of time. If they feel that way, they have probably either never been to one, or haven’t found the right people. Because, you see, pubs are for friends, I said this already. It’s more than just drinking beer. It’s also about having conversations, making plans, discovering something new, having fun, escaping the world for a while, meeting new people…

Beer and pubs are like bread and butter – inseparable. Sure, you can make yourself a nice soda with your soda maker from Appliances Reviewed, it’s ready in an instant, but beer, you have to wait for weeks and then taste the fruits of your labor. And it’s always worth the wait, even if it’s the most disgusting beer you’ve ever made.

I went off on a tangent there, but I hope you can see my point. There are few things as charming as a nice pub. A pub is a big hug with a beer in its hands.

New Year, New Bill?

Beer drinkers are known to have a little paunch. It comes with the territory so it seems. If you indulge in three or four at a time, you will soon pack on the rotund pounds. It is the only drawback of this wonderful beverage. There is something about brew that morphs your abdomen into a keg-shaped monstrosity. My doctor has warned me many times and so far, I am not there yet. While men are the most common victims of a “beer belly,” there is something they can do to ward off the inevitable. For appearance and health reasons, it is important to take up bike training or some other aerobic activity to keep the fat at bay.

Don’t panic. Beer is not dangerous. It is how much you imbibe; in other words, a mere matter of calories. It is like anything else: sweets, bread or pasta. If you drank beer but didn’t eat, I suppose there would be no weight gain. Nevertheless, I like more than one a day, so it is time to start my New Year’s resolution of a new Bill. If it is a choice between beer and exercise, I won’t have to make the tough decision as I can do both for maximum benefit. Alcohol calories are tough to control, especially for a brew lover like me. This means more time on the bike with the encouragement of my trainer. I don’t mind the hours at the gym as I can watch TV, read or talk with others.

My doctor warns me that beer goes well with hamburgers, chicken wings and pizza, and the like, and so is extra caloric as a rule. I would prefer to cut back on the food rather than the suds. I just put an image of a big belly before my eyes at a party or sitting at a bar, and I have self-control. When I have a lapse of judgment, it is back on the bike trainer – it’s one of these: This is good advice for anyone in my shoes. We all have a different body chemistry so take it as a general rule of thumb. My doc says that men have less subcutaneous fat than women, so extra calories automatically go to the stomach rather than the hips. You can spot an inveterate beer drinker a mile away.

If you aren’t active, your belly will show as you get older, so get on that bike right now! Hormone changes in middle age are a big culprit. If you develop bad habits while young you will regret it later. It is tougher to cut back than to start out with the right attitude. If you aren’t convinced, read any article on the subject and you will get a warning about diabetes type 2, obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. I don’t want to spoil the fun, but without that bike trainer, you are aiming for trouble. A final word of encouragement: there are some great lite beers. It can be a win-win situation.

Something for Everyone

Beer drinkers make fast friends and my neighbor is no exception. He loves to come over for a cold brew now and then. He knows I have the good stuff. As we talk and watch a game, we bond in seconds. There is something about beer that does this. It is not the only reason to indulge, of course, as there is the great taste and refreshing experience. I love trying out new brands. My neighbor goes along with the ride, either in my man cave den or out at a local brewpub. It gives us something to share. Who doesn’t like beer!

In addition to sharing a preferred beverage, I also like to help my neighbor with odds and ends. There are certain chores that you can’t do alone. I might hold the ladder for him as he climbs to the roof to clean the eaves. I can stand by while he power hoses the front walk so he will include mine. We join forces to clean the yard or garage, especially when heavy lifting is involved. No job is too large or too small to help my buddy. What are neighbors for? I love his family and look forward to the annual block party when everyone on the street comes out. The kids are in full force. This year my neighbor is in charge. Of course there will be grills placed strategically along the street, with each house cooking their own specialty. I can smell it now! Hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs and chicken. The barbecues are a beacon for hungry folk.

There will be fun and games galore and a big bounce house for the tots after I found a cheap one at I have to stick my nose in the planning so we can also have some adult activities. Of course we will play softball with the kids and eat all the great fare, but there has to be a beer keg to satisfy my needs, especially during a celebration. I know most of my neighbors will agree. So, I order the largest size and select the brew I prefer. I expect it to be a winner. The event is a way to get everyone out and mingling for an entire day. After each block party, we come to know one another a little bit better. Now I can help others with their routine chores. Wow. This will keep me very busy.

No matter. There is nothing as valuable as a good neighbor. It also helps improve the safety quotient in the environs. Kids feel free to wander and roam and some find their way into my backyard. Of course, I keep the beer under lock and key lest the teens want a taste of what Smith’s pub has to offer. I have a reputation. But when the guy next door pops over, the cold bottles come out to be shared. Beer drinking is a communal affair and not just for solitary souls.

As Crafty As I Get

Many nights you will find me ensconced on a bar stool sipping my favorite brew. I don’t go for the obvious and like local products along with the larger brands. It is all good to me. No, I am not an alcoholic. Not by far. I just love beer and the camaraderie that goes with it when you enjoy it on tap and in a tall glass. There are a few great places in the neighborhood at which I can find a friendly face and an accommodating waitress. Let’s hear it for the best beverage on earth! While I could certainly make my own at home, I am not into a private mini brewery. As mentioned, I like getting out and about. Smith’s Pub is really in my head as a virtual reality and it consists of many places all rolled into one.

When at home, I have plenty to do. I am a self-styled handyman and a lover of old movies. Sometimes both activities happen on the same day. For example, recently I got some great coasters from a bar and took them to my workbench in the garage to make a unique display. I am not sure if I had seen this somewhere or why it popped into my head; but there it was—a compelling idea. Now I am not an artist by any means and this is as crafty as I get. It is a nice way to celebrate my life with beer as an aficionado. Barhopping for me has a real purpose. Meanwhile, I took the various coasters, not all matching, and assembled them in a “collage.” I found some corkboard in the hobby shop downtown that would serve as a solid background for my wall hanging.

This was a beer-themed artwork for my “man cave” which happens to do double duty as the den. It houses my modest entertainment center where I have everything I need to pass idle hours. The plasma TV isn’t the biggest, but grand enough to watch ball games and entertain my nephew who comes visiting. He likes all the gadgets in the room. I just pray they stay intact. The next time he comes over, he will see something different on the wall. The coasters will be mounted by means of a staple gun from Staple Slinger and will find a prominent position on the one open wall. The rest of the room consists of bookshelves and storage.

If I get tired of the coasters, I can pull them off anytime with a stapler remover and put up new ones. Thus I am in search of something colorful with obvious beer logos. This will not be hard to find. My friends have even gotten in on the action and are starting to look on my behalf. I bet I will have tons of glorious coasters in no time at all. I have a new hobby and it is right up my alley.

What’s Artisanal Mean, and Why’s it on my Drink Label?

Artisanal is one of those words they’re slapping on everything nowadays. It used to be organic and now half the products in your local grocer’s have “artisanal” on them. Even alcohol! Which is, of course, where it finally came to my attention.

So…what is this term, why should we care about it, and how does it relate back to my favorite beverages?

To be honest, I had to look it up, because I wasn’t sure that my first instinct — overpriced – was 100% correct. While that might be accurate, it isn’t what the word means. For those of us not living in French-speaking areas of Canada (or France, I guess), the word artisanal means “craft” But that’s still a word I’ve heard so often, I don’t even notice it anymore. I tend to treat it like any other buzzword they put on a label to sell beer.

So I did a little more digging. It appears that artisanal means either relating to an artisan (well, that clears things up, thanks, I thought there was a rule about defining a word by using the word being a bad idea) or a product that is made in a traditional, non-mechanized way.

Oooh. In other words, this is not chemically formulated beverages that are mass-produced in huge factories. People are making these in small batches, by hand, paying attention to the flavors and the ingredients. Which is also probably the reason why products with the word “artisanal” tend to be more expensive, too.

If you look around the internet, there are artisanal beer and liquors all over the place. You know it is serious when bon appétit has a piece on the best canned artisanal beers. It’s a real thing. I started looking into what really constitutes a craft beer, and realized one of my favorite beers is actually considered to be an artisanal beer – Sir John A’s. I guess I don’t pay enough attention. Apparently even the honey they use is local. Not sure what to do with that, but it’s good to know.

That got me curious, so I decided to see if there were other alcoholic beverages out there that are considered artisanal. Turns out, there’s an awful lot of artisanal gin to be had in Canada as well. Hooray! You want to try a really good gin, find yourself a bottle of 66 Gilead Loyalist. The flavor is pretty amazing. It smells a little like lavender and baked bread, and it is quite good.

There’s also Urban Distillery’s Spirit Bear Gin. It doesn’t look like much from the label, but the gin is top notch. And if you aren’t a gin drinker, they make all kinds of other hand-made beverages: brandy, schnapps, vodka, mead honey wine, and even whisky.

After reading so much about it, I realized two things: one – I actually learned something and two – I need to go pick up some of the beverages I’ve been reading about and give them a try!

Awkward Party

With a man cave in the basement, I don’t have to leave the house. Socializing has its limits and I prefer to watch a game. I can drink beer, my favorite beverage, and veg out as much as I want. But duty calls when you have friends. A couple I know were throwing a party and I was certainly expected to attend. I do like them, but it seemed like a very feminine event as he described it. The wife is pregnant and everyone is going to want to listen to the baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope. It is, in effect, a kind of baby shower with a new twist. My friend mentioned that I should bring one if I had it, to save them from having to buy more from Now who keeps one at home other than a doctor or nurse? I laughed out loud. He agreed and arranged to borrow some from the nearest medical center. They had a batch of old ones they weren’t using. They still worked of course. No one would go home without having heard the precious fetal noise.

It was a very awkward situation to say the least. Everyone was gathered around the enormous wife. The baby was showing to the max. The due date was a week away. The women were ecstatic and didn’t hesitate to don stethoscopes. While it was a clever idea, it was not for me. I didn’t want to get that close to a woman’s “stomach” and pretend to be overjoyed at the impending blessed event. The small talk was stifling as women compared their birth experiences and child raising tips. Oh, how I longed to be in the man cave with a bottle of the best brew. Instead I stayed until the end. I am a good sport although not into couples’ entertainment. It would only be worse if we played games. I know that they put chocolate in diapers to imitate poop and ask guests to guess the expected weight. Gifts are opened and the ribbons are made into a mock bridal bouquet. You play charades focusing on the theme of childbirth and you eat pretty iced cupcakes and open your favors.

The man cave is the opposite and the epitome of what men want. There is a well-stocked fridge and a wine rack. Snacks like chips, nuts and pretzels fill the drawers in back of the bar. There is a hot plate and coffee maker and a choice of teas for the rare drinker. On one side of the bar is a shelf with neatly stacked DVDs. My movie collection is modest and mostly focuses on sports. There are action films and comedies, and few romances. I have created a unique space where my friends and I feel sublimely comfortable. A box of Havana cigars fits right in as does a rack of bottled water. You don’t have to get up and go upstairs to get anything at all. The room has its own heat and air controls and can be maintained at the optimum temperature.

It’s an Expensive Hobby

I have the greatest man cave, a super space at home that I can call my own. I can do whatever I like with or without the guys. If I want to smoke, no one will complain. When it comes to cigars, it is a different animal. People aren’t use to the smell and become instantly offended. In my own world, I am king and the box of cigars from Havana is right in front of me on the coffee table. Thank God they opened Cuba. I can be stretched out on the comfy leather couch and puff away. I had thought about an air purifier, but if I am the only person down there, why bother. My friends like them too. If not, they pull out their favorite cigarettes. We are apparently out of tune with trends. No matter. It is a matter of cost at this point. I don’t want to make cigars an expensive hobby such that I have to smoke them out of doors.

Unlike some cigarettes, cigar smoke is intense and it takes a really good quality unit to take care of the telltale signs. You can’t get just any air purifier, especially not the budget model at the drug store next to hair dryers and hot curlers. If I care at all about the air in my space, I had better get the best. They are amazing, which tempts me to go for it. They clean the air and produce a fresh environment. They are great for other issues like antigens and pollen in the air. Pet odor is gone in seconds. No need to spray with sickly sweet scent. Candles are a pain and may burn the place down. A new air purifier from Clean Breathing it is and the best brand possible.

My man cave is almost sacred among my friends and we all love to drink beer in this makeshift pub. Needless to say, I am an avid fan of brew. It can come from a small or large company as long as it tastes good. Many do and I have trouble deciding. I could fill the place with cases and cases of the stuff. You can see I have many pastimes. Basically, I also want a place where I can sit and record a story about my day or something that maybe made me laugh, or even what I’ve been drinking lately and what I am up to. Think of my blog as a kind of virtual pub where the male imagination can run wild and pleasure is at its maximum. Smoking and drinking are tops on the list of many guys for their leisure time. After all, we work hard and some take care of big families. We juggle responsibilities and make time for errands and household tasks. When it is time for rest and relaxation, we want to relax and not be bothered. TV, movies, video games and cards are okay in my home.

Taking Flight at my Local Pub

Went out to a pub last night with a few friends. We all sat down to order and the beer menu was impressive. Rather than get incredibly drunk, I chose a few beers that were the most interesting to ask the server about when he came back. After she and I chatted, we narrowed it down to a few and I ordered them as a beer flight.

Oh, beer flights. How awesome are those, right?

If you don’t know what a flight is, it is usually four different beers served together. Usually they’ll be put on something similar to a wooden paddle with the names of the beer written in chalk. They’re often arranged from lightest in color to the darkest in color. Some places will let you pick each beer in the flight and other times, the beers are specially selected by the establishment because they are featured drinks. Some places do other drinks as flights but I like beer flights best.

I got my drinks and they all looked so good. I started with the lightest beer, a pale lager. It was ok, not my favorite, and I ended up passing it off to a friend so that I could start on the next drink, an IPA (or India Pale Ale). This one was much more to my liking. It had a really nice citrus and hops flavor that was smooth down to the last drop.

From there, I went on to the Brown Ale, which looked almost like maple syrup in color. Luckily, that’s not what it tasted like! It was a little sweet but spicy, too. It was a nice combo. I couldn’t imagine drinking this on a hot day, though. It was little much. I only drank about half of this one as well.

The last beer that I had in my flight was a stout. Whoo, man, that beer was dark. It looked like black coffee and tasted almost like a meal. It was good, but heavy. It tasted creamy and delicious. I could totally see myself huddled in a bar on one of the many cold nights we have around here, drinking a stout and feeling it warm me from the inside out. I didn’t drink all of this one, either, as much as I wanted to. It was just too hearty, if that’s a thing.

The waiter came back and I ordered another glass of the IPA, since it had been my favorite of the four. He tried to get me to try another flight. I was tempted, yes, but I decided to stick with something I knew I liked just to make life easier. Besides, by then the conversation was in full swing and everyone was having a good time. I didn’t want to be paying attention to what I was drinking anymore. I just wanted something that tasted good, you know?

That was my night last night. What about you?

Must-Haves for a Home Bar

If you’ve got a home bar, that’s awesome! Good for you! Do you know what you should have, besides whatever it is you personally like to drink? Probably not, if you are reading this post. So read on and I’ll give you a few must-haves for your home bar.

  1. Good tools. This includes a cocktail shaker, a strainer, bar spoon, muddler, and a jigger (handy little suckers like measuring cups, but for alcohol. If you are making a mixed drink, a jigger helps you get the ratio correct). A bottle opener and a corkscrew are non-negotiable tools you must have.
  2. Beverage staples. Having a bottle of a few standards will allow you to make many different drinks. A bottle of gin, vodka, whisky, vermouth, bourbon, tequila, and rum should cover most things.
  3. Some sour mix, club soda, tonic water, bitters, fruit juices, and garnishes like olives, cherries, salt, limes. You know what you and your guests like, so be sure to keep it in stock if it helps make the drink.
  4. Speed pour spouts. These aren’t quite necessary but they certainly are fun. You’ll look cool pouring drinks and they make life easier, too.
  5. The right kind of glasses. Now, you know what you’re serving, so you might not have to buy every single type of glass there is. But it’s good to have red and white wine glasses as well as champagne flutes. Also, beer mugs and pint glasses. Then there’s martini glasses, rocks glasses, margarita glasses… the list goes on and on. If you’re on a budget, get a mix of tall and short glasses and build your collection from there.
  6. A place to store all this stuff. It doesn’t work if you have to constantly hunt it all down.
  7. A fridge! If you want to be able to serve beer on tap, you’ll need some kind of kegerator. If you plan on serving white wines, get a wine fridge. A fridge can also keep your juices, water, and milk cold when you need them for mixing, as well as a place to hold sodas for your guests who don’t want alcohol.
  8. A good cocktail guide. You will get the odd request now and then, and you’ll need a reference as to how it is made. Doesn’t matter if it is a book, a bunch of recipe cards, or an app, you should have something. Because chances are, the more pretentious the drink sounds that your friend-of-a-friend ordered, the better the chances are that they have no idea what’s in it.

Those are my recommendations to get you well stocked from the get-go. You can obviously tweak this list and add things as needed (for example, I know at least one person who is going to yell that I didn’t put a blender on here, but not every bar needs one – it depends on what you like and what you want to make). Let me know what else you use in the comments to give others ideas!

Why do Some Beers Taste Better on Tap?

I feel like this is one of those philosophical questions that everyone has a different opinion on. Other than establishing that yes things that are on tap vs bottled or canned do taste different (and if you don’t think that’s true, you may want to find a different blog to read, because you’ve just embarrassed both of us), it comes down to the subjective matter of what you think tastes better.

But there must be science involved in this, right? Some kind of reason?

I dug around on the internet to see if there was a real answer. It turns out that there is, kind of. It depends on a variety of factors, but here is the lowdown:

  • Tap beer is likely fresher. Makes sense, because if you’re buying a drink at a bar, so are other people, and the keg is probably replaced often. If you’re buying it from a store, who knows how long it’s been sitting on the shelf?
  • Beer that isn’t all that good tastes much better the colder it is. Distributors know this, and that’s why some beer is super cold coming out of the tap to disguise the taste. It’s not going to taste the same coming out of your fridge, sorry.
  • Pouring it into a glass also can change the way it tastes when you drink it. A narrow bottle or can opening can reduce the aroma of the beer, which can also mute the taste. So if you’re drinking it at home, pour your beverage into a pint glass first.
  • Kegs are better at protecting beer from things like small variations in temperature and exposure to air, both of which impact the taste of beer.
  • Some companies don’t pasteurize keg beer but do in the bottling process. Doing so requires heat, which can change the taste for those of us who notice these things.
  • Carbonization from the keg may also make it taste better to some people.

Writing all of this up, I was surprised. I figured it was something simple like, “you can taste the can when you drink from one,” or “bottled beer lets in a different amount of light,” and that would be the absolute end of it. There are so many factors that go into draught beer that it almost depends on the bar: how clean the bar lines are, how well the fridge operates, what temperature they keep things at, how long have the kegs been sitting there?

You would think getting something from a bottle or can would be more consistent, flavor-wise, but it turns out that that isn’t the case, either.

I think the bottom line here is that if you like your beer on tap better, there’s a real reason and you should just accept it instead of drinking the inferior version at home. If you like bottled/can better, good for you! Enjoy your beer in the comforts of your own home!


Staying in For the Night

I do have a pretty nice bar setup here at home. I’ve got some nice shelving, an awesome kegerator, and some quality top-shelf alcohol and beer. It’s been a long process to finally collect everything – I started a couple of years ago with just some off brand liquors, a cheap cocktail shaker, and an empty kitchen cabinet. Through lots of trial and error with different brands of alcohol and a variety of tools, I was able to swap things out and upgrade as I got the money to do so.

As I said, it has taken a couple of years to get everything pretty much how I wanted it, which meant it was the perfect time for a party. So I made a few phone calls and invited a few friends over. In typical fashion, they invited their friends over, and so on.

It actually ended up being quite a crowd. I’ve never had that many people at my place before. I was worried the neighbors would get upset, so I went over there with a few other people and we invited them over, too. We figured if they were in on it, it would be harder for them to complain about the crowds and the noise. Or they’d be having too good of a time to notice the cars up and down the street and all the noise.

Normally I am not great with people I don’t know, but this was at my place so I had a bit of a home-field advantage. Another great thing was that I could just keep myself busy behind the bar whenever things got awkward and I needed something to do. Which was pretty often.

Being the bartender certainly did keep me busy, but it was fun. I made a lot of Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and a couple of Bloody Marys (although I did not have the celery garnish because somebody ate them all with the vegetable dip I had put out. Note to self: next time set a few aside). I even had to make a Sazerac, which I didn’t know how to do and needed to look up. People are weird.

It was a long night of shaken and stirred, and people seemed to have a good time. Just about everything you can hope for at a party. The friends of friends mingled nicely with the friends, and I got to know a few more people that turned out to be worth having conversations with.

At the end of the party, cabs were called and couches were crashed on. It was the responsible thing to do, after all. It was a good time and I was happy that all the effort I’ve put into my little bar paid off. I have to replace a lot of the bottles now, but that’s OK. It’s for a good reason!