Redwood City. That’s where I’m headed. I dive into a taxi, destination the Caltrain terminus on 4th Street.
My driver looks to be on the unfashionable side of 70. Though people keep telling me 70 is the new black. (I think that’s what they say. I’m rarely paying much attention unless it’s me doing the talking.) Seems he has a place in Nicaragua and lives there with his Nicaraguan girlfriend part of the year. Hope I’m still up to that at his age.
The station, as many in the US, looks ridiculously small for the size of the city. There are 10 platforms. But it is the main station for commuter trains heading south. Victoria Station it ain’t.
A sarnie would be nice. But there’s only a Subway.
It’s a bit chaotic. Doesn’t look like everything is quite running to plan. How quaint. There’s a man hanging up a boards to indicate which train leaves from which platform. Or track, depending on your linguistic orientation.
A bizarre white collar scrum forms, the middle classes battling politely for space. They know the train is going to be packed. I don’t bother with any of that shit, but walk right to the far end of the train. In the commuting league, this Bradford Northern, not up your Arsenal. I get a seat. But soon it’s jammed.
An accident has buggered up the schedule. My supposed express has turned into a Bummelzug. I’m already late for my lift.
I’m being met at Palo Alto station. I hope. By one of the blokes from the brewery where I’ll be vainly trying to flog the rucksack full of books on my back. Late and I’ve no idea what my car date looks like. I wonder about a well-rounded bloke with a beard. Until someone confidently walks up and says “Hello, Ron. I’m Malcom.”
He has a rather cool old BMW. In which he drives me to Freewheel Brewing. Site of whatever the hell it is I’m doing tonight. It’s rarely 100% clear. I’ve learned to be ready for surprises. Like being told with five minutes’ warning you’re expected to talk on a subject, without hesitation, deviation or repetition. The hell version of Just a Minute.
A proud row of soldier pumps greet me at the bar.
“Pint of Bitter, please. Thanks very much.”
London Calling it’s called. And full of casky goodness.
I don’t want to get into any arguments. But when done right cask fucking knocks the spots off any other form of dispense. Doesn’t mean other methods can’t deliver good beer. You just can’t beat cask. But what do I know? I’ve only travelled the world searching out good beer for a few decades.
The lowkeyness of the event is probably for the best. And chatting about beer – now, you may be surprised to hear this - but I am quite keen on it. I’m getting a second wind. Is it the beer? The stimulating conversation? More likely that it’s 6:30 AM in Amsterdam. When I get up.
Cask’s caress against keg’s spiked fist. Low carbonation is another reason to love cask. For me, at least. And, when we’re really, really honest, we only give a fuck about ourselves. Mum, too, obviously. Maybe Dad, if he isn’t a shit. And siblings. All close family, I guess.
I try several varieties of casky goodness, while my body asks: is it Wednesday or July? 10 PM is the answer.
A lift back to the city saves me more than the $7.50 train fare. A whole load of hassle. And the fear of falling asleep in an inappropriate place. I’m feeling that knacked.
Dwayne had a rare talent for falling asleep inappropriately. (Like on the train home. He always overshot.) And for being unwakeable. Not someone to take to a restaurant after a session. How often did we run off not without paying the bill, but without taking away our friend?
I sleep unsurprisingly well.
Tomorrow it’s the infamous orange juice breakfast. One of the most traumatic experiences of my life.
Freewheel Brewing Company
Marsh Manor Shopping Center,
3736 Florence Street,
Redwood City, CA 94063.
Artyfacts from the Nyneties #5: Sainsbury’s Bière de Garde, 1991 - The image above comes from the Sainsbury’s supermarket in-house magazine for November 1991 and is a great reminder that interesting beer didn’t arrive in...
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