Twenty minutes to power through seven beers and an order of hop-oiled French fries. Twenty minutes for a turbo tasting.
Though I seem to have somehow inherited Dean Martin's liver, no one else in my immediate family is much of a drinker. So when I took a ski trip with my Dad and brother to Utah, a drop-in at Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City wasn't an easy sell. Still, aware of my priorities while touring on the road, my travel companions were willing to make the concession in exchange for my committing to the hotel pullout that night.
I'm ashamed to admit that in four separate trips to Los Angeles this year, I failed to taste an ounce of local craft beer. The first three visits, I was hurried in and out of town for performances on the Tonight Show. The fourth visit was to meet with production companies about a script my comedy partner and I wrote. (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, meet your less handsome, hairier successors.) But on my fifth trip, for a show at Loyola Marymount University, I made sure to build in time for tasting at one of the best new beer bars the Los Angeles area has to offer.
When a show goes well, comedians celebrate with a beer. But when a show goes badly, a good beer is indispensable. But all Grand Forks could offer us to soothe our blues at 10 p.m. was Bud Lite, Coors, and a whole lotta Fleischkuekle (meat pie...not my thing).
Thankfully, the school we performing at that night offered us a meal stipend (don't get me started on college cafeteria "fish"). But when Dave and I arrived at Empire Brewing Company with an envelope full of beer—I mean, dinner—money, we were greeted by a thirsty crowd overflowing into the street. Was this Syracuse, I asked myself, or New Orleans during Mardi Gras? Judging by the lack of bare breasts, it was definitely Syracuse.
The true "work" of a touring comedian isn't what's done on stage—it's what it takes to get there. And I don't mean that in the "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!" sense, either. I'm talking about plain old crappy travel. Spending nearly all of your waking hours in a car with another man for multiple days in a row will force you to develop methods of breaking the monotony together. And inevitably, around the three hour mark, things start to get weird.
The hardest part about being a comedian on the road is that things don't always go according to plan: audiences betray, performance spaces fail, and shows get cancelled. The key to dealing with such setbacks, however, is to make lemonade whenever possible—and luckily I had just the right lemons in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After thirty minutes of trading jokes, the five of us were sneaking into Konrad's shop for an after-hours "late night snack." The place was a wonderland. Before me were beers upon beers stacked upon beers: strange local experiments; new and retired Chatoe Rogue ales; rare Belgian dubbels; and scores from my home state of New York, such as Southern Tier's imperial Pumking. They had it all.
Sometimes the ideal setting can elevate an excellent drink to perfection; relishing a place can make an enjoyable flavor even more delicious. I was lucky enough to experience this phenomenon in Burlington, Vermont, where I enjoyed one of the best beers of my life.
Fortunately, I did a much better job of planning my return trip to Colorado than I did my first visit to the state. But I couldn't resist over-booking, aiming to travel through Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Aurora for stops at six different breweries in a mere 48 hours. Allowing time for sleeping, eating, and a whole lotta peeing, I was left with a total of twelve business hours to cover some serious drinking ground.
My first ever trip to Colorado was a whirlwind: I still can't remember many of the details because of how overwhelmed I was by the plethora of renowned craft beer...Or maybe that was just because I was drinking so much. But I do know this: on my hectic maiden journey I fell in love with the Rockies. (The mountains, not the baseball team. Only a mother could love them after last season.)
The legend of Boulevard Brewing's Chocolate Ale haunts Kansas City like that of Nessie or Bigfoot: Nearly everyone I spoke to had either tasted the beer months ago or at least knew someone who tried it, yet every bar was out of it or never carried it in the first place. Bartenders and barflies alike seemed to speak of this "holy grail" in hushed, reverent tones—as if the beer's existence could be shattered by the mere utterance of its name.
For anyone under the assumption that New Hampshire, the geographically conjoined twin of Vermont—America's greenest state; the neo-hippie birthplace of Ben and Jerry's and Phish—would produce anything but some of the baddest-ass beer in the country, I must correct you. And you're lucky I'm the one doing it, because if New Hampshire were here, she'd probably be a whole lot less polite about it.
I don't know about you, but I've never been one to turn down a free drink. Fortunately (or if you ask my liver, unfortunately), my gig as a touring comedian means that I've managed to score one in almost every US state.