This going to be a strange day. I’m travelling to Atlanta, but my train doesn’t leave until 2:30 PM. Leaving me quite a few hours to kill in downtown Birmingham.
At first I consider strangling it at Paramount. Then I realise that they’re closed on Mondays. Damn. Until I recall somewhere else I stumbled on while researching the trip: Rogue Tavern. It’s not too far away and seems to have a decent choice of beer. I leave my luggage at the hotel and head off.
On the way over it becomes clear that the regeneration of downtown Birmingham is far from over. Away from the shiny new office blocks there are plenty of dead buildings and empty lots. Not the cheeriest of sights. Not raining.
Though I’m starting to wish it was. In the sun it feels effing hot. And just as humid as when it was raining.
At last I’ve found a bar downtown that’s open. Away from the gleaming skyscrapers, it’s a bit rundown. I leave my change with a polite gentleman down on his luck.
This is where I used to waste my breath employing those wordy things to describe stuff. Barn, lunching office workers, look at the photos:
It’s not yet noon, but the waitress asks: “Are you eating.”
“Later. I need to work up an appetite.”
A good place to start seems:
Good People Snake Handler
A very popular beer, according to Stuart. And highly sessionable at just 10% ABV. (I’ve made that joke before, haven’t I?) It’s a pretty amber colour, with only the slightest haze. [Beer description warning] The aroma is citrus, with maybe a hint of peach. In the mouth there’s a load more fruit, malt hiding somewhere behind the settee, afraid to come out. Not stupidly bitter, as seems to be the trend.
Not so sure a double – or is it triple? – IPA is the most sensible beer to kick off with. But I’ve only a couple of hours before getting on the train. For 5 hours, I’ll be booze-free. Best get tanked up now.
Trying to stick with Alabama beers, I’ve ordered:
Back Forty Truck Stop
Billed as an English Brown Ale, it’s 6% ABV. Guess it’s a Northern Brown, then. The colour is deep amber, just about nudging up to fully fledged brown. Something a bit weird tasting about it. That funny straw flavour Bass XXXX Mild from Taddy used to have.
Don’t want to pig out so soon after breakfast. Southern Brisket Sandwich it is. Just what I needed. Not stupidly huge. Tasty and served with a few chips.
I get another snake handler. Liked me that stuff. It is surprisingly drinkable – much more so than the Brown Ale.
None of the lunching office people are drinking beer. Only me. But I’m on holiday. And Americans don’t drink during during work hours. Mostly.
Just as well this is a short session. Snake Handler is going down way too easy.
Not raining when I leave – whahay!
After picking up my bags, I get a cab to the train station. It’s not far, but my luggage weighs a ton. It’s all those books. The station is a shockingly small affair, a good bit smaller than Newark North Gate, which only caters for 35,000 inhabitants. It brings home how marginal train travel is in much of the US.
The train is a bog-standard Amtrak affair. The type with the very narrow windows. Thousands of these coaches must have been built. They’re getting a bit long in the tooth, but are comfortable enough and quite spacious.
On the way out of town we run alongside a dead steel works. It’s just like being back in the north of England.
I while away the journey finally looking at the TV progs Dolores has put on my netbook. Though it’s a bastard keeping the plug in the socket. Again. Had the same thing on the Vancouver – Seattle train.
We pass this, which I think will impress Andrew:
The Amtrak station in Atlanta is small and bizarrely far from downtown. I manage to miss Crawford Moran, who’s hosting me tonight. He waits in the baggage hall. But I had no checked in bags.
I take a cab to my downtown hotel. The location is great. Something I hadn’t been able to work out from looking at maps. The centre of a US city can be strangely elusive on maps.
I check in. Brilliant. I’ve a suite. With a wonderful view. Shame I have to jump in a taxi almost straight away. No time to enjoy the luxury. I’m almost already late for the 9 PM event at 5 Seasons Westside.
My taxi driver has the radio tuned to a crazy right-wing shock jock. Though he doesn’t seem impressed. “This guy is crazy.” Why are you listening to him, then?
I’m pleased to find a few people assembled to greet and bullshit with inside. It’s quite late and a school night. Everyone is very nice.
Crawford has brewed 1853 Younger XP. I love this beer. A style nazi confusing hoppy Scottish beer. Brilliantly, he’s serving haggis to accompany it. Dead cool.
Before taking me home, Crawford gives me a tour of the brewery in the basement. I’m surprised at its size. And the quality of the brickwork on the back wall. Geeking out about bonds – that’s even rarer than than geeking out about beer.
I sleep the just sleep of the moderately intoxicated with a bottle of water within reach.
2312 2nd Ave N,
Birmingham, AL 35203
5 Seasons Westside
1000 Marietta St NW #204,
Atlanta, GA 30318
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