A Tale of Tastes and Tops

So it seems I’ve been posting less and less lately. My job eagerly devours huge chunks of time, sure, but that’s an easy excuse — something else has been missing. Not beer, of course (me? drink less beer? ha!), but I haven’t had the urge to write about it, at least not in a review or list or other analytical way. What I have been craving, however, is the simple act of storytelling, of relaying my adventures without analysis cluttering things up, without the carousing mad chemist in my head making me ramble about things that sound like a snooze-fest even to me. Here goes.

Last weekend, I traveled to Phoenix to belatedly celebrate not only my mom’s birthday but also my friend Ryan’s. One involved much drinking of beer (guess which one).  Taste of Tops was first. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s still one of my favorite Arizona beer haunts, a warm, classy establishment with 24 rotating taps, a wide selection of bottles, and two flat screen monitors mounted on either side of the bar. The TVs were tuned to, of all channels, Animal Planet, and I’ll admit that few things are odder than sipping strong ale in a stylish tavern while watching a dog declare war on its tail and become a tiny tornado of fur and kibble.

That strong ale, by the way, was Anderson Valley’s Imperial Boont Amber, and it’s one fantastic beer. Smells just like Red Vines; tastes like Red Vines blended with fresh, oily hops. (Trust me. It’s great.) But the best brew of the night was Mirror Mirror, the Deschutes Reserve Series barleywine. I’d already had a pint or two when I tried it, but even then it lit up my tastebuds like strings of almost broken Christmas lights. That’s how flavorful it was. Sadly, its price tag was even more intense — which I realized only after we left, looking over the check. Apparently the bartender confused Mirror Mirror’s price at the bottom with the total, and didn’t charge us for the other four pints. (Don’t worry; I’ll send reimbursement when I get paid. But maybe this a sign I should buy cheaper beers.)

After leaving Tops, we drove downtown, to a side street off 7th and Roosevelt where a bunch of college students (or people trying to cash in on college students) invaded the houses in what appears to be a struggling neighborhood and transformed them into quirky little businesses. One is The Lost Leaf, a beer bar/concert venue/art gallery so exclusive we didn’t even see a sign out front. When we asked the girl checking IDs if this was the place, she looked at us as if we clearly weren’t cool enough to be there. We entered anyway.

The décor was simple but effective. Red brick covered in wooden struts and modern art. Some of the art was good, some of it was weird, but mostly it was difficult to see thanks to all the swarming, sweaty humans. Two kinds, as far as I could tell: twenty-somethings in angular haircuts and ripped clothing, probably students, and middle-aged men wearing blazers, bifocals, and bald spots, probably professors struggling to seem hip around said students. The band played too loudly for us to start up any conversations, but I kinda liked it loud. The music itself was pretty good.

The beer selection wasn’t bad, either. They had a nice selection of bottles, but if there were taps, I didn’t see them. Plus, the menu perplexed me … pilsners were listed separately from lagers, and wheat beers were grouped with blonde ales, a style that apparently includes “Chimay Abbey Ale *9%,” even though Chimay only makes one beer that strong, and it’s also their darkest. Stone’s Arrogant Bastard was listed under “Reds” next to beers such as Fat Tire, which would be unhelpful for newbies not looking to get a hoppy boot heel to the face. I’m fighting the urge to dive headlong into pedantry here, but really, if you’re going to start a beer bar, perhaps you should do some research first.

Ryan and I left The Lost Leaf and wandered down the street. Protesting the absence of solid foods, our stomachs guided us to a little house called Of the Earth.

We entered to a tinkling piano tune. The room was narrow but not too small, and its walls had been painted with elaborate figures. The young woman at the instrument stood up and walked to the counter, telling her male colleague to continue playing without her. She asked what she could get for us, we said curry potatoes and tea, and a conversation commenced. We talked food, music, and beer in that quaint place, drinking and eating and enjoying old songs as they drifted out the door. We recommended beers and she recommended music in return. It was an odd turn to the night. Then some guy wandered in with a hula hoop and made it even odder. As I look back on the place, it seems like something seen through the protective film of dreaming, somewhere far removed from the bloat and ego of the previous joint, still thumping a few doors down. But I’m sure it really happened. Pretty sure, anyway.

10 Responses to “A Tale of Tastes and Tops”
  1. Ryan says:

    I still think that night was a dream hahaha I remember burning my tongue on the tea and you spilling lmao!

  2. Deb says:

    Sounds like you had an adventure. An old guy with a hula hoop? lol

  3. Ben says:

    i need to find more places around here. i keep finding them, then milking them dry.

    i told you that boont imperial was ridiculous. had em on special at this pizza joint during the playoffs. mmmm mmmmmm.

  4. Ben says:

    boont is now available in cans. and it’s still swell.

  5. Ben says:

    hey, everyone, Ben here. i texted with Scott last night about beers and he has informed me he is working at least 14 hours a day, so he has no time for the site right now, but it is still alive and going. please keep coming back, but you can probably wait until may.

    don’t you (glistening guitar reverb) forget about me
    don’t don’t don’t don’t
    don’t you
    forget about me

    • Scott says:

      Ha! Thanks, my friend. I was considering dedicating a post to this, but that about sums it up. In all fairness, the 14 hour days aren’t an everyday thing, but I have had to work some long days and weekends lately, and since my job is editing, writing is one of the last things I’m in the mood for after getting home. Once things calm down at work I’ll be posting much more frequently again. Thanks again!

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