I rise at 8 and switch on my flippy-flop. I notice the Windows Updater is running, so I switch it off. But a couple of minutes later I get the Update starting to be installed message. Bum. I go into Task Manager and kill the task. That seems to work. Stupid fucking windows.
I can't smell bacon when I get out of the lift. Not a good sign. It's just that stupid, rubberlike ham. And scrambled egg. It's OK, but nothing like as good as yesterday.
I'm in no rush. My flight is at 13:45. Time to watch some TV in my underwear. I am on holiday, after all. And have a shower and a shave. I try to keep myself clean.
I check out and bounce down the highway to the airport. I need to pick up my boarding pass. I checked in online, but wasn't able to print my boarding document. The stupid machine doesn't recognise my PNR number and tells me I have to go to a counter. I've a bag to check, so I'm not that worried. And I also have Sky Priority so I can go to the push in queue. It doesn't take long.
I remember one thing about St. Louis airport: there's an AB pub airside. I squeeze into the only empty seat at the bar.
"A double jack Daniels, no ice, please. And can I see a menu."
When my drink arrives, I order a barbecue flatbread.
A suited man to my left is looking rather agitated. He says to another man seated at the bar.
"Where the hell is my sandwich? That woman arrived after me and already has her food. All I ordered was a sandwich."
From the way he keeps looking at his watch, it's obvious it's getting close to his flight's boarding time. Maybe I shouldn't have ordered that food. On the other hand, I've 45 minutes.
A few minutes later the man's sandwich arrives and he wolfs it down. He doesn't look very happy. I don't think he'll be leaving much of a tip. My sandwich arrives before he's finished. It's not the easiest thing to eat. I go with the knife and fork option. So many mess options when eating from your hands.
I don't want to look scruffy, because . . .
I went crazy when I checked in yesterday and upgraded to first class. It only cost $79. Which gets me a checked in bag, and free drinks on the plane. And gets me on before all the plebs. A little luxury in a while doesn't hurt.
This is great. I've a bourbon in my hand before we even take off. A few more follow during the flight. Which is as eventful as a bus trip to the library. On a Tuesday morning. In November. Late November. When the sky is leaden low.
I'm meeting Matt Becker, my host in Michigan, at bag collection. He greets me as I walk through to landside.
"You must be Ron" he says. I used to make sure there were no photos of me on the web. Call it one of my Stalinist traits. But that cat crawled out of the bag and was sick on the carpet years ago. Too late to fight it now. Or to get that cat vomit out of the carpet. It is handy when being collected at an airport.
We chat away about history and beery stuff as we drive to my hotel. I'm staying in Brighton, which is also home to Brewery Becker, Matt's place. I drop my bags and we're on our way there in a jiffy.
"It's in a former hotel, built in 1871 and opened in 1873. It took me four years to renovate." Matt tells me.
The more he describes the work involved, the more my admiration for his determination grows. I'm pretty sure I would have given up in despair. Way before four years in. Doubt I'd have done two. Who am I kidding? I'd have been off after the first week. DIY really isn't my thing.
The brewery is a lovely red brick affair, with a new yellow brick extension that fits in really well. The interior is fitted out in period fashion. This is clearly a labour of love. Four year's worth.
His beers are mostly traditional or historically inspired. Soon I've one of them in my hand. A 1905 Amsdell IPA. I think I know where that recipe came from.
We have a quick twirl aroung the brewery. I spot something. Like a row of sad, ageing cybermen, who've really gone to seed since retirement: three Grundy tanks in a row.
Matt notices where my gaze has fallen. "There are loads of them over here. Due to Peter Austin." He tells me. Weird how vessels designed for crap UK tank beer ended up starting a good beer revolution on the other side of the Atlantc.
Luke, who works at the brewery, arrives and shares a beer with us. Mine is something described as an 1880's XXK. Vague about the date, because it isn't based on a single recipe.
"Do you have any preferences for food?" Matt asks, when our drinks are nearly drunk. "There's pizza, or Americana - steaks and stuff - or Japanese."
"Japanese sounds good."
Sushi Zen is just a few minutes away. On the way there, Matt explains that the car industry has brought many Japanese expats to the region.
I'm not enormously hungry and opt for a soft-shell crab starter and a couple of pieces of sushi. Plus some warm sake. It really hits the spot. Food and sake. But especially the sake.
Eating done, we're off to our next destination: Witch's Hat. It's a bit of a drive. Some light beer chatter fills the time admirably. Odd how easy it is to find conversation topics with fellow obsessives.
On my travels, I meet a lot of people. (That's why you should be understanding if I don't remember you. I struggle to pick my kids out in a crowd. No way I'll recall everyone. Though if you slip me a 50 euro note, my memory improves inexplicably.) Some, I spend considerable time with. Whole days. Longer than I spend in the company of my own family, most weeks. Unless you count hours spent sleeping in the same house.
Witch's Hat is rather different from Matt's brewery: modern and loud. The beers are very different, too. You could describe them as modern and loud, too.
"We're like bookends." Matt tells me. "My beers are very straightforward and traditional, while Witch's Hat's are more modern and experimental." He could have said: full of weird stuff. I look for a beer that doesn't have an "unusual" ingredient. There's a pale coffee beer and one with oysters and lobster. Think I'll pass on those.
After a few beers we head back to Matt's brewery, where the staff are just closing up. Me, Matt and Luke have a few more beers and chat away. It's 1 AM by the time we're done.
I'm feeling totally kancked when I fall into my bed. I need to get up early-ish. Matt is picking me up at 9:30.
Get over here, sleep. I've got plans for tomorrow. Behave, for once.
500 W Main St,
Brighton, MI 48116.
Tel: +1 810-844-0225
14 W Grand River Ave,
Brighton, MI 48116.
Tel: +1 810-225-3330
Witch's Hat Brewing Company
601 S Lafayette St,
South Lyon, MI 48178.
Tel: +1 248-486-2595
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