Just Call Us Tourists
We appreciate brewpubs or bars that renovate historic buildings, bringing them back from the dead and decorating them with antiques or antique reproductions. We’re suckers for nostalgia, although we agree with Randy Mosher’s assessment of what the beer was probably like in an era they are trying to recall. Mosher once explained how in designing labels he sometimes seeks to tap into the same sentimental feelings, even though neither the times nor the beers may have been all that great.
“You connect in people’s minds,” Mosher said. “What would Grandpa have drunk if he could?” He stopped to think about how that beer probably tasted, or maybe what Grandpa might have thought about today’s craft beers. “It’s a lie. It’s our nostalgic view of the past.”
There’s nothing made up about places like the Harbor Inn or Chiodo’s Tavern in Homestead, PA. You get the feeling that they have dust that might have survived Prohibition. While we’d like to think that specialty beer has helped a few such places make it into the 21st century, the fact is that ambience—sorry, kid—was probably more important than the beer.
These are establishments that belong to the regular customers. When those customers support craft beer (and we don’t mean to understate the importance of the owners’ role in that) it is a bonus.
Lew Bryson, author of the essential beer guides to Pennsylvania and New York, once asked us what we do (other than drink beer) while we are visiting numerous bars in a day. Unless we are eating, we favor sitting at the bar, talking to each other, the bartender, other people at the bar. We also spend a lot of time eavesdropping (and scribbling notes under the table).
It’s a curious quest, looking for places whose strength isn’t catering to tourists while being tourists ourselves. We’ve always felt an obligation to order different beers and different food (from appetizers to desserts) and to visit new spots in towns that already have joints we haven’t been to in a long time and really like.
That’s one of the reasons this is the last Beer Travelers column for AAB. It has been our goal over the last eight years to tell you about a variety of spots worth your time and dollars. We’re no longer visiting enough new establishments to do that right—that’s the other reason.
When we’re in Lubbock, TX, we don’t want to look for new spots or see how the old beer bars are standing up. We just want to go to Hub City Brewing, where we know we’ll get good food and beer.
We’ll continue to write about beer, including in this magazine, and we’ll continue to maintain various lists at www.beertravelers.com. We welcome your input, because we’ll still be bar tourists.