A World Traveler With a Knack For Beer Pt. 1
When we travel, some of us explore the ancient ruins of Greece, some eat our way across Italy, or seek tranquility in the Himalayas. Some of us are beer travelers, viewing the world through beer colored goggles. For Henry Biernacki, traveling is all about the people. His new book, No More Heroes, is a novel based on his travels since 1989 including 40 countries in 1997 alone (on only $3,700). Today he’s a pilot for Virgin Airlines, helping him set foot in over 120 countries. Think of all the beers you could try if it was your job to be a globetrotter. So I asked Biernacki about his travels, and the beers along the way.
All About Beer: Because I’m sure it’s too difficult to pick one favorite experience, is there a theme to your favorites, such as certain people (age, gender, nationality), places: a country, cafes… bars?
Henry Biernacki: It is indeed difficult to identify just one memorable experience in my travels, but the following excerpts are taken from No More Heroes that speak to a couple that distinctly stick out in my mind:
Strange, when people travel for the first time, how little difference they see from their home since they compare everything: down to the taste of a beer to what they have back home. The more people travel the more they understand from where it is they come and I certainly have a few favorite places back home. In Erie, Pennsylvania every Friday and Saturday night I went to Mentley’s Tavern on 8th and Cascade where my mother tended bar. That tavern had the foulest stench but I enjoyed how the wet smell of smoke stuck to people. The smoke stuck to me like a wet shirt sticking to his chest. During those Friday and Saturday nights I smelled beer mixed with beer nuts, smoke, barroom pizza and chips.
I learned, while at Mentley’s Tavern, that the drink was all right and not a bad thing. In fact, that was where he started to like tonic water and of course Belgium Beer. The lemon taste with strong carbonation made him burp. Sometimes people needed to get their mouths wet.
A place, hidden in the Himalayas, can unleash every type of emotion; but each emotion can enslave you like a room with no doors. You feel trapped because of the wild feelings from new experiences. You can smell sugar mixing with milk and you could hear the hiss and pumping of the propane gas cooking chai in each house and the bottle opener hit the beer bottle to uncap another beer. Woks fried vegetables. Laughs came from all directions as the Nepalese sat, ate, and visited. Families go next door to share glasses of chai and beer while others go to the bar/hotel where above the reception desk a sticky wrap hung to catch flies and mosquitoes. It was full. The hotel restaurant had one blue curtain with pink flowers hanging in the entryway. You could look in and see old plates sitting in a stack waiting to be picked up. Flies sipped the spilt beer and sticky chai rings left on the table. Small grounds of unboiled chai scattered on the floor. Four people clapped as one man sang. Everyone shared a drink.
This is part 1 in a 3-part series. To be continued…