The day kicks off the way I prefer: with fried stuff.
I can’t be arsed to bugger around looking for a diner so breakfast in my hotel. I go for the classic breakfast (two eggs, hash browns and toast) with a side order of bacon. Breakfast isn’t really breakfast without bacon. With orange juice, it comes to $18.05. Not cheap, but nicely cooked. And just what I need to set me up for the day. It’s soothingly quiet, too.
Proximity to Richmond railway station is one of the reasons I chose this particular hotel. No point making life more difficult than it needs to be. My train is fairly early: 10:16. And I want to be there a while before it leaves. Gentle stroll rather than thrombie-inducing dash is my aim.
The station is a really attractive building, from around 1900. Sweet how they've partially obscured it with a motorway viaduct. The upstairs waiting room is pretty full. Mostly with students from one of Richmond’s universities, if their sweatshirts are anything to go by.
I grab a seat and get on with reading. Why to these benches have a padded back, but not a padded seat? That makes no sense. Other way around, surely?
10:16 comes and goes without much happening. A freight train about 3 miles long screeches interminably through the station. At 11 there’s still no sign of the train. At 11:15 an Amtrak train does appear, but it’s the wrong one, going in the opposite direction.
90 minutes late, my train finally rolls in. As is usual with long distance trains over here, you can only enter by a couple of specific doors. I head for the further one. Bound to be less of a crowd down there.
There is. I immediately find a seat and plug in my laptop. It’s a typical Amtrak carriage. They must have built thousands of these in the 1970s. Starting to show their age. But there’s loads of legroom, a socket by every seat and reasonable wifi.
The latter is important. Because I need to warn Jamie, who’ll be picking me up at Union Station in Washington, that the train is running late. Don’t want her hanging around for no reason. I fire off a quick email. She replies almost immediately. I caught her just before she was about to leave home.
Warning given, I settle back to watch some Taskmaster. Seems a good way of passing three hours or so. That long wait at the station has got me all out of arsedness for reading.
The train stops rather more often than I’d anticipated. In some pretty small looking towns. It trundles along in the not really very fast way that Amtrak trains do. But does appear to be making up some time. We’re only about an hour late when we pull into Union Station.
As always, I’m dazzled by the sun when I pop outside the front of the station. Not quite as bad as in the summer, but I’m still squinting like crazy. The combination of sun and white building really doesn’t work well with my eyes. When my vision returns, I realise Jamie isn’t there.
It’s a while before Jamie drives up. The traffic has been really bad, she explains. That’s OK. I’ve learned to be patient. Much less stressful than fretting.
The traffic is still bad and it takes quite a long time to get out of town. Everywhere I go now in the US the traffic seems bad. Fairly irrespective of the time of day.
It’s about 4 PM by the time we get to Jamie’s. The delay means we haven’t long before we need to head off for Maryland Homebrew, where I’m giving a talk this evening.
We quickly dine at the local kebab shop, flash bastards that we are. I don’t splash out on a kebab – or kebob as they call them here – limiting myself to a chicken Caesar wrap. And a Goose Island IPA, which I notice in the fridge. This craft beer stuff is everywhere. Eating done, we head for Columbia.
I’ve spoken at Maryland Homebrew before, back in the spring of 2014 when I was touring the US plugging my proper book. This time I’m giving my Brettanomyces in British Brewing talk. The one I would have given in Colonial Williamsburg, had the conference not been cancelled.
There’s a slight computer problem. My laptop won’t talk to the projector. It’s soon solved by using one of the shop’s laptops. I have the presentation on a memory stick so it’s no problem. I always come well-prepared, with various backup solutions. Call me paranoid. But better paranoid than fucked.
Paul and Jamie have brought beer: a Saison and a Porter, both of which have been finished with Brettanomyces. In the case of the Porter, because Paul mashed at too high a temperature and the gravity was too high at the end of primary. He threw in some Brettanomyces and let it slowly bubble away for months. Which finally got the FG to a reasonable level. I has some earlier. Very pleasant.
The talk goes OK. Though I realise that I need to update some of the slides. Especially about Harvey’s Imperial Stout. Since I wrote the talk, I’ve learnt that it’s Debaromyces, not Brettanomyces, that is responsible for the secondary conditioning. Some pretty decent questions from the audience round things off.
Yapping done, I can get on with the serious business of flogging books. And chat with people, of course. I’m the sociable type. Especially if beer is involved. Being a BURP meeting, there are quite a few people I’ve met before.
I don’t get chance to drink much of Paul and Jamie’s beer. Too busy with other stuff. We don’t stay too late. After loading the boot with the debris of the beer and books, we’re on the road back to Paul and Jamie’s.
We try a couple of beers when we get back. But we don’t leave it late. We all need to be up quite early. And I’ve a busy day, brewing collaboration beers at two different breweries.
I soon slip into sleep. Even without a whisky to speed me along.
BURP homebrew club
Kensington Pizza & Kabob House
3701 University Blvd W,
Kensington, MD 20895.
Tel: +1 301-933-2600
6770 Oak Hall Lane, Suite 108
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