Tag Archive for beer review

The View from My Guinness: A Stout Pours in Sedona

The View from My Guinness: A Stout Pours in Sedona
Mick Zano

I have been living in northern Arizona for almost a few years now and I have both loved and loathed nearby Sedona.  It’s such wonderful place, a place sacred to both the Hopi and hobo alike, and yet there’s always something missing.  One thing that comes to mind is the lack of a well poured Guinness—actually, any Guinness for that matter.

Oak Creek Brewing Company has two locations and I love them both, but otherwise Sedona is seriously lacking good beer.  I know, hard to believe.  Even Oak Creek Brewing rarely has a stout on tap.  God loves making beautiful canyons but I’ll bet he wants to admire his work over a good stout.  He is hopnipotent, after all. Sedona is angering the Brew Gods and has brought the wrath of the Great ‘Sudsy’ Spirit down on this unsuspecting red rock community.

My stout seeking ended last week at Mooney’s Irish Pub, a place open about six months now. How did I find this place, you ask? Well, the other day I was perusing the fine art and sculptors over at the Exposure Gallery and decided to check out the place next door. OK, I only ended up in the Exposure Gallery after turning into the wrong parking lot—I had already Googled Mooney’s the night before.  Oh, and with a name like the Exposure Gallery, I thought they’d have a better sense of humor about practical jokes.  Admittedly, my joke would have been more apropos at Mooney’s.

The Guinness is great!  A very nice pour.  It doesn’t beat out Celtic Crossing over in Prescott but it’s a close second.  The place is small and otherwise doesn’t have much going for it, atmosphere wise.  There is a little area set in the rocks for outdoor seating.  Those tables have a nice view, looking northwest over Sedona.  I saw an awning off the side of the building and thought there was another outside area but, as it turned out it was just an area for the air conditioners.

Just an area for the air conditioners

What are the owners thinking? Here’s your party place, peeps.  Do I have to do everything?  You could even have stairs from the above area to the tables below.  Heavy drinking and steep stairs go together like peanut butter and jelly…for those allergic to peanuts.  Get to work on that project now.  I don’t care if you have to push the business upstairs out.  Don’t bother me with the details, just make it so.

When the fish and chips arrived that’s when this place lost serious points.  The fish was uninspired, of course it was dead, which might account for that.  The chips were not chips, they were fries and soggy ones at that.  The whole “entrée” was served in a plastic Chinese food take out container.  It came with a $12.50 price tag.  That’s actually not bad for Sedona; some places charge you more than that for the pickle.  The “meal” came with two lemons, no ketchup, no tartar sauce, and I got the feeling if I asked for malt vinegar I would get a blank stare.  So, of course, I asked, “Do you have any malt vinegar?”  See above for response.

Actually, they had some, but only for the purpose of wrecking that last joke.  Bastards! You don’t need malt vinegar for soggy fries, but now I must go through the ritual of making these sad little potato strips even soggier—while smiling blankly at the waitress who brought me the malt vinegar.  Yum.  Maybe I’ve invented something, Slush Puppies.

I still rate this place highly for the sole fact they have a good Guinness on tap, making them an Irish oasis in an otherwise stoutless desert.

A hiking trail I found in Sedona

At right is a hiking trail I found in Sedona.  It leads from the Irish pub all the way to the Elote Café next door.  I have made the journey myself down the flat, nearly 20 yard arduous schlep through an arid and unforgiving land.  That’s my kind of hiking trail!  Oh, and to the left of Mooney’s there’s the Javelina Cantina, a place with decent—and by Sedona standards, affordable—Mexican food.  It has an outdoor area and a cool bar inside.

The view from inside the cantina

At left is the view from inside the cantina.  Unfortunately, there’s only Oak Creek Amber and Dos Equis worth drinking on tap. They could clearly use a tap line upgrade, but overall a nice joint.  Wait, no WI-FI!  Forget everything I said; the place sucks.

Mooney’s makes this little pocket of shops worth the stop.   I have driven past this complex on a number of occasions and if not for the new Guinness umbrella, I’d have kept right on driving.   Well, my Guinness is kicked and it’s time to check out the nearby Elote Café.  I have a long journey ahead.  Almost 20 yards of dusty desert terrain lies between me and my next pint.  If necessary, I will set up a base camp at the edge of the Elote parking lot.  Looks like I might have time to drop my pants in front of the Exposure Gallery one last time.  Wish me luck.

Flagstaff’s Big Red Poor

Bald Tony

I figured, Zano’s been up to see me in Vegas 5 times now, it was fine time to go see him.  Never do this.  He arbitrarily picks a weekend, and leave it to Zano to be completely oblivious about it being one of Flagstaff’s biggest event weekends.  Driving into town was worse than going from Caesar’s to Mandalay Bay on a Saturday night. Geesh! And I wasn’t even getting paid!  I think a 10 to 1 Vegas-to-Flagstaff visiting ratio from now on, Mikko.

The Arizona Cardinals big scrimmage was this weekend, we both hate football, but the Big Red Pour was a beer and music festival right in downtown Flag in honor of the happy pigskin event.  And we do like beer.  Besides, Vegas was about 35 degrees hotter and for that kind of relief I’d even put up with Zano’s company.  Mick’s brother-in-law, MJ, was in town for the festivities, so when he arrived, we took to the streets of Flag. The town blew me away.  It was the monthly First Friday Art Walk, the AZ Cardinals were in town, and there was a music brew fest, all within a couple of blocks. Guitar and bongo players on every corner and an umpa band outside the German restaurant.  Wow!  Two hotel bars, three brewpubs, two Irish pubs, and one very intoxicated Partridge in a fermented Pear Tree. We hit em’ all.  And the Weatherford Hotel has the most amazing old hotel bar I have ever seen, and I’m from Vegas, baby!  It features the Zane Grey saloon, an old ornate western bar shipped in from Tombstone, complete with a wraparound third floor balcony. And if that weren’t enough, free popcorn!  Apparently, this is where Zano, Fenski, and Alex Bone meet each week both to the delight and horror of Discord fans everywhere.

MJ and Mick told me a story about getting kicked out of there one night, by throwing legions of coasters up into the chandeliers and harassing the help.  Back in the lobby, they met the perfect foil.

Mick walked up to the manager and asked, “If we’re thrown out of the Zane Grey, does that mean we’re thrown out of Charley’s?  (The Weathford’s downstairs bar).

He of course, said, “Yes!”

So, arm in arm, they walked back up the stairs to the Zane Grey.

“Where are you going?”

“You said we were kicked out of Charley’s?”

This went on for several minutes.  The manager/foil managed to keep saying the perfect line, sending MJ and Mick, not out onto the street but, rather, walking past him between the two bars to the backdrop of the manager’s increasingly bulging neck veins.

At the brew fest, the Big Red Snore, we paid 10 bucks each at the door and twelve more for 10 four oz pours.  They had everything ranging from crappy light beers to crappy pale ales.  Honorable mention to Shiner Bock dark lager.  Yes, it was that bad.

A drunk woman accosted me for beer coupons, and then said, “Sorry, I’m obnoxious.”

I said, “Hi obnoxious.  Nice to meet you.  I’m apathetic.”

Dustin, a brewer at Four Peaks, one of the better breweries in AZ, was there.  Mick and MJ proceeded to wow him with their Beer Geek Speak (BGS) for what seemed an eternity, while I chatted up Enya, a cute Australian exchange student.  MJ and Mick then butted in and ruined my moment:

MJ: So where are you going after the fest?

Enya: Back to my place to sleep.

Zano: OK, if you insist.

The music was pretty good, but with three pints in us, 4 oz times ten, we headed out for adventure.  Overall, Flag really rocked that night. It has a kind of a hippy, animal friendly feel to the place (which is why Zano is tolerated). And one coffee shop is better than the next.  Funny thing, but Mick seemed to know all the bartenders and police officers…imagine that.

We skipped the second day of the brew fest due to our ailing livers.  We are not 21 anymore, even though we act like it sometimes.  Day two, we drank chamomile tea, coffee, and ate stomach friendly foods.  But we’re heading to a party now and tomorrow it’s hiking in Sedona, so I guess there’s little left in the tank.

Beer and Frothing in Las Vegas

Mick Zano

For my last trip to Vegas, I decided to look beyond the flashing and blinking lights of Sin City and really rate this town.  Sorry, the blinking lights of Vegas are about as close to Christmas as you’re going to get here at the Discord.  The biggest hurdle to my destination came in the form of a brewpub, the Boiler Room, in Laughlin, Nevada.  This pub, constructed like the bowels of a giant ship, had a sign out front that read: Thirsty Thursdays: All Drafts 1 Dollar.  It happened to be Thursday and I was, in fact, thirsty.  Hmmmm.  I opened my wallet and implemented an old college equation.  A dollar a beer, so if I have eighty-dollars in my wallet…then that means I have…er, carry the one…a shit load of beer!

Wow.  This place is so much more inviting than the other sign that says:  Crab Cakes and Karaoke.  The stout at the Boiler Room was very good, and did I mention it was only a dollar?  Shortly into my trip, my plan to stop at three (and only three) places and partake in three (and only three) pints had already been completely blown out of the water (but only off by 77).  In fact, the beer was so good and so cheap, I considered staying there until Happy Thursday slipped painfully back into F-ing $3.75 a Pint Friday.  The dark time period known to the locals as Crappy Hour.

The back of this ship-shaped pub offered a nice view of the wrinkled mountains to the east.  The rocks around Laughlin are more interesting than the landscape around Vegas (as far as rocks go). It was hard to leave.  What helped my decision was the bartender’s suggestion, “Get the hell out, asshole.”

Actually, that was the first bar.  So, with a heavy heart and bloated liver, I drove the forty-five minutes northward to Boulder City.  The old town area had a nice wine bar and specialty beer shop with indoor and outdoor seating, a coffee shop/bar combo, a brewpub, and several other interesting joints.  At the brewpub, the Black Canyon Shitty Stout was somehow masterfully brewed back into something resembling dark H20. The outdoor seating and the service brought the place up a notch (thankfully). But I did not try any of the other beers out of a healthy fear.

The town itself did seem to have a chip on its shoulder, as the main reason for the town’s existence, Boulder Dam, was no longer called Boulder—thanks to one of our worst presidents ever.  The Bite Me Hoover Diner kind of spelled it out for me.

My last stop brought me to Barley’s Casino and Brewpub in Henderson—so close to Vegas you can smell it. In the same way ‘In Bed’ can be added to any fortune cookie fortune, Nevada has discovered anything can be paired with ‘And Casino.’  Apparently, even at rest stops, massage parlors, and laundromats.  Smog Busters and Casino should be coming soon.  Vegas is like a 50’s horror movie: It Came with Blinking Lights.  At Barley’s I ordered a double bock and, I have to say, it was the best double bock I’ve had in some time.  Somehow I managed to procure an outlet and a table, blissfully free of any blinking gaming thingies.  This is a scarcity in Vegas and, for my trouble, the security people immediately started profiling me.

Ah, he’s sitting at the table without any games…yeah, pretty seedy-looking. Doesn’t seem to be eyeing the scantily clad women or any of the flashing lights.  Should I apprehend?

Who works on their laptop in Vegas?  It’s a red flag the size of the Stratosphere.

Sorry folks, but I have a laptop and I’m not afraid to use it.  Of course, I couldn’t get online.  The state of Nevada, or as I have come to call it ‘connection problem’, has serious Wi-Fi issues.  Apparently, Nevada is an old Pauite Indian term meaning “connectivity issues.”  You see, way back when, Vegas had cheap everything just to lure you in to gamble—like a sequin-covered spider web.  Now, it’s top dollar for even Wi-Fi. Bastards!

Hey, a cigar shop!  Why not?

I pulled into the store that said SMOKES/CIGARS.  Walking across the parking lot, I realized this was not the best neighborhood. Hey, this joint is more about joints than cigars.  They had glass blown bongs of all shapes and sizes.  Their store facade should have said Reefer and Smokes.  For a necessary visual aid, the Ghetto Shaman should have been passed out in the doorway.  Then I would have gotten the message sooner.  Next to no cigars adorned their skull-bong filled cases. In this store, under the big red sign that read CIGARS, I had about four choices.  If I wanted a Swisher Sweet, dude, I’d have gone to the Circle K!

This misunderstanding tonight is the single most poignant argument for the legalization of marijuana.  With proper legislation, next time I won’t stop at the Garcia Palace when I am really looking for Humidor Heaven.

I looked around and immediately saw another cigar shop about a block away.  Cool. This town is gaining some points.  I decided to walk it.  As I approached the sign in question a sinking feeling crept upon me.  Bald Tony rarely has running water.  Then came a second, perhaps even more disturbing, thought, the sign over yonder was for the same cigar shop that I had just left.

SMOKES/CIGARS…you know, Reefer and Smokes.

As I walked back—the walk of shame—several groups of thuggy types were heading toward me when the startling realization crept upon me that: 1) I had more money in my wallet than usual (>5); 2) I should have drank more at the Boiler Room; and 3) if I were to die here on the way back to my car while walking toward the sign of the place that I had just left…well, it was then I realized:

I do not have nearly the insight one would expect for a person my age.

I survived.  The thugs were probably intimidated by my Batman T.  I was early, so I decided to hit one more place right by Bald Tony’s.  After making it back to my Impala, I pulled out my trusty Tom Tom and proceeded to make a nearly fatal mistake.  Never-ever search ‘Nightlife’ in Las Vegas on any GPS device.  Really.  Don’t.  The bitch actually started smoking.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to hit one more place before the Great Bald One gets off his shift.  So far Vegas rates an 8.  The scale, however, has yet to be determined…

Top Ten Fictitious Drinks and Places to Enjoy Them

  1. The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster – The Restaurant and the End of the Universe
  2. Fudd– The Beer & Brawl, Spittle County
  3. Moloko– Korovs Milk Bar (for all your ultra-violence needs)
  4. Electrick Floorbanger – The Mended Drum, Ankh Morpork, Discworld
  5. The Flaming Homer – Moe’s Tavern, Springfield, ??
  6. The Flaming Gargantua – Patrick’s Pub, Ringwood, NJ (NJ should be fictional)
  7. The Vulcan Mind Probe – Fred’s living room (definitely fictional)
  8. Slurm – anyplace in the future
  9. Romulan Ale – Ten Forward, Deck 10 (not quite legal this side of the Neutral Zone)
  10. The Get the Fuck Out of My Way – Valley Stream, LI, Wal-mart Snackbar (best enjoyed around the holidays).  OK, we made up this last one.