Editor's Note: Ethan Fixell tours the country as a comedian—and as a beer drinker. Can he sip a local beer in every state? Watch him try.
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When people hear that I'm a comedian, it usually elicits one of two reactions. "Tell me a joke," is perhaps the most common, and certainly the most annoying. One woman requested this a record five times throughout a six hour flight to L.A., until I finally acquiesced by reciting an awful street joke about sudden infant death syndrome. (She didn't ask again.) Others express how wonderful they think my job must be. And it is wonderful: getting paid to make people laugh is pretty kickass.
Of course, traveling four to six hours every day with your comedy partner / childhood friend is not without its downsides: our relationship has become a marriage of sorts, with all of the fighting and none of the sex. But touring also offers two endlessly fulfilling privileges: meeting new people and exploring new places. And sometimes, with a little bit of schmoozing, you get to experience both at the same time, as I did in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Following our show at a century-old movie theater for Shepherd's University, our host, Brian, and his friend Sagar, took us to the nearby Mecklenburg Inn. Having yet to track down any West Virginian beer throughout my trip thus far, I asked Brian where I could find some before leaving the next day. His eyes lit up as he thought of his friend Konrad, who worked for local spirits store, Grapes & Grains Gourmet.
"Get him over here," I demanded. "I'll buy him a beer!"
I know a fellow hophead when I see one. Like a fruit fly to melon, Konrad appeared at the bar almost immediately, lured by a Goose Island IPA with which I had hoped to bribe him. After thirty minutes of trading jokes about booze and travel, 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 imported Belgian dubbels; and scores from my home state of New York, such as Southern Tier's imperial Pumking. They had it all.
"Try this," said Konrad, handing me an appetizer. The Laughing Dog Sneaky Pete I poured was a dark, burnt orange, and tasted like no other imperial IPA I've ever had, laced with citrus and chocolate.
Soon it was time for the main course: Bridge Brew Works Trubell, a real deal West Virginian beer. Plastic cups were doled out to the crew, and I was distinguished with the honor of the sole tulip glass on hand. The Trubell pours a rich, golden yellow, with aromas of banana and ripe tropical fruit hitting hard. Tasty Belgian yeast flavors make a brief appearance before giving way to heat (this one packs over 11% ABV).
The beer wasn't perfect, but sipping that West Virginian beverage in a West Virginian specialty store long after closing with a bunch of indigenous beer-lovers certainly was. "For the most part, West Virginia is a craft beer wasteland," Konrad had told me. If that's the truth, I'm just thankful to have gained admission to the oasis.
See, I love my day job, and I love performing. But drinking a local brew in every continental U.S. state has now become of equal importance to me. (And it has nothing to do with how committed nearly all comedians are to drinking in general—that's usually about childhood trauma.) Maybe it's because of how much I appreciate being surprised by something different in a new and exciting place. Maybe I'm searching for the "perfect" beer. Or maybe I've created this challenge just so I can eventually say that I've completed it. But I think the ultimate motivation lies in the very core of what it means to be human: little is more fulfilling than sharing once-in-a-lifetime experiences with equally passionate friends.
About the Author: Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City best known as one half of comic "dating coach" duo Dave and Ethan. He is also the creator and editor of ActualConversation.com. For more on Ethan, visit EthanFixell.com.