"What beer ya drinkin'?" announces a dark haired man in a distinct east coast accent as he shoehorns next to me at the very crowded Concourse A bar. I couldn't help but notice empty booths so it seemed a bit off-putting, but me and the rest of the bar oblige. Jimmy, (that's what we'll call him) is clearly more comfortable in this confined bar seating arrangement than I am and before I can even answer he has already asked me if I thought it might go well with a Jameson.
It's a Kilt Lifter, local, I say, nice caramel notes, clean with low bitterness. It would go great with a Jameson. I'm not even sure of how much of this information left my mouth or what Jimmy picked up as he was already asking about my Mac and Cheese and documenting that he loved Stella with Jameson. A glass of lager from Leuven appears. Jimmy is asking more menu questions and talking about his time in Tempe.
I coupled his pulled pork inquiry with the server with his revelation that he lived in Brooklyn for a final open ended line of questioning. Had he ever heard of the Brooklyn Brewing Bacon Beer? "I've never had that, but I did have their Summer Ale. It's like this," he says pointing to his Stella, "only lighter." I'm not sure what Jimmy meant by lighter. I can only guess that maybe he meant refreshing or spicy. Perhaps he was looking for a adjective for different or maybe just any adjective that would be polite in case I might have liked it.
An earlier more militant version of myself probably would have waxed on about Four Peaks and the local beers here. After all, Jimmy was asking for my advice. I would have pushed him toward the Polestar Pilsner should I have detected a shred of resistance toward Kilt Lifter. Twenty minutes to boarding be damned, I had a Santan Hefe and a bready Fat Tire to work with too! This earlier incarnation of myself would have fired off several strongly worded sentences about travel and local beer, beer pairing, prohibition, mergers, corporate industrialized factory beer. Jimmy would return to Brooklyn and regale stories to Garrett Oliver about the friendly pork pie hatted stranger from Arizona.
This current version of myself formulated another theory about Jimmy. Jimmy is traveling and does so a great deal more than me, specifically business travel. He's asking about travel related interests but he's looking for the familiar. Our conversation wasn't an interactive exploration of experiences, but rather more like a TV show, Jimmy in his comfortable confined bar stool with his Stella and Jameson. I was on the TV taming lions or eating bugs with my dark colored local beer, I don't know. I do understand his travel ritual of consistency, of knowable, of safety. He was pairing his beer with the familiar and in the end he also ordered the Mac and Cheese, too. It had ham in it after all. As I left, Jimmy looked me square in the eye and wished me a safe flight. I told him it was my pleasure and that I hoped he enjoyed his time in Arizona.
I've often said that the best beer is the right beer at the right time. If you believe that too, you have to respect the Jimmy at the airports of the world. You also have to challenge yourself as much as you would ask others.
I'm abandoning my normal in-the-plane cocktail today, I opted for the more personally challenging and far rarer experience of Budweiser.