Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beer and football VII — week two

The game: Dolphins at Patriots
The beer: Castle Island Keeper India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 31–24; Panthers win, 46–27
The commentary: My discovery of another hometown triumph may soon be chronicled on Google Street View. As the three of us crossed the old-timey bridge on our way to the newish culinary shop—now able to sell beer and wine!—an odd vehicle drove by with a protrusion out of its roof. Were Martian tripods to follow? If so they spared us and I'm left to check Google Maps every day until I see my girl, faced blurred out, pointing at the pretty red flowers.

The destination lived up to the hype as we spent about fifty bucks on cold-brew coffee packs, teddy-bear-shaped pasta, a themed Southern Tier bomber for later this season, a four-pack of Castle Island tallboys (recommended over several little-known IPAs) and a loose, luxury, fawned-over single to crack open tomorrow. I chatted up the owner and learned about plans for frequent beer and wine tastings, cooking events, etc., filling the void of the old provisions shop near the train station in our former town that went out of business because, I don't know, the woman was kind of a jerk. We might as well have hired a real estate agent after that. (Maybe we did. It took awhile to sell.) The packie that took over her space, which I can see from my passing train, has neon signs in the window promoting the lottery and Miller Lite. We're glad to have moved on, with a new place downtown to boot.

Careful viewing allows one to pinpoint the moment when Jimmy Garoppolo realized his big payday was in jeopardy. The pain is evident, the frustration, but for a split second you see the despondency. Garoppolo, without exaggeration, looked like Tom Brady before he was injured, resurrecting the "system quarterback" criticism of Brady that was halted by an apeshit 2007. It sucks, but it would suck more if Brady himself weren't coming back in three games.

Jacoby Brissett didn't make any mistakes and that's all you could hope for under the circumstances (Miami's comeback is entirely because of a defense that earned their degrees from the Devin McCourty School of Exposure). The timing is lousy with a short week of preparation and I suspect the offense will go vanilla, with lots of LeGarrette Blount (G. after seeing replays of Blount hurdling Byron Maxwell: "That was super awesome!") and James White and maybe a couple of long incompletions to Matthew Slater for some reason. I wonder if Belichick's "Garoppolo will play!" ruse will force Bill O'Brien to under-prepare for Brissett (as much as you can under-prepare for a third-string rookie) and forfeit a few points in a close one.

I may know nothing about football (especially as I consider trusting the Cowboys this weekend) but I do know there isn't a scenario that puts Julian Edelman under center. Maybe a trick play or two, in the infuriate-John-Harbaugh fashion, but does he really want to risk his perfect passer rating? And do Belichick and McDaniels want their best, you know, wide receiver to be pummeled over and over by JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and John Simon for three hours? I don't.

At least I know more than this one dude in our knockout pool who lost two in a row to start the season. Jesus Christ. He and four others lost in the first week and all bought back in, upping their totals from twenty to forty-five units each. On Sunday, he and eight others relied on such luminaries as the Lions, the Jaguars and the fucking Bears for the opportunity to cough up another twenty-five units (or thirty in Ryan's case). Most of them won't and that's fine. I'm feeling pretty good.

Up next: Project Runway is preempted in favor of O'Brien's return to Foxborough. Maybe he'll dress his players in carpeted letterman jackets like Dexter Simmons. Cheers!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Beer and football VII: With a renewed vigor and enthusiasm not seen by many

Week one
The game: Patriots at Cardinals
The beer: Harpoon Sticke Altbier
The result: Win, 23–21; Texans win, 23–14
The commentary: Whoops! Well that wasn't supposed to happen. Dry those tears, thirty-one other teams. Meet the new boss, etc.

Such hubris! It's a win and one that may not even matter much in the long run (away against a non-conference opponent) but did usher in some confidence in favor of uncertainty. Garoppolo can play. Parting with Chandler Jones was the right move as he once again failed to make a leap ("which he would have by now if it were going to happen") against notable blackmailer Marcus Cannon. No major injuries except for Hightower, who still managed to finish the game (though probably won't today). This is already an exciting season. Not that fifteen other teams can't say the same.

The Texans pulled one out after giving me fits during brunch. Brock Osweiler may or may not be the real deal but I won't give a shit after week three in Foxborough. This afternoon, I dream of the Panthers bouncing back on extra rest, hosting the cross-country-flight, short-turnaround 49ers. To once again quote Napoléon Bonaparte on his way to Moscow: "I'm feeling pretty good."

In other news, G. is a week into kindergarten and it's a welcome change for her to not come home covered in mud every day like with Summer camp. Her baths the past three months might have single-handedly triggered and maintained the drought. It's great not having to mow my lawn more than once a month (thanks, mandatory water ban!) but not at the expense of the river, seemingly at an all-time low. We walked along it yesterday afternoon to look at the turtles and ducks and the water level was higher than I've seen since the Spring. Unfortunately, a month or so ago I noticed a young turtle must have gotten stranded on a log sticking into the air and never made it back down. Its pitiable, roasted little corpse was still there yesterday and broke my heart some more. This season is dedicated to him or her, much as my May playlist was to the "doomed" Kathleen Hanna, weeks before she and her total recovery dropped a new the Julie Ruin album and commenced an enviable world tour. Happy to hear it, of course, but that's what I get for relying on yet-to-be-updated Wikipedia pages. Similar good fortune, little turtle.

Six years of beer and football and nary a Harpoon in the bunch. For such an omnipresent brewer, local or otherwise, their stuff is generally poor. The IPA is literally everywhere in New England—I defy bearded hipsters to find a dive bar, exclusive seaside resort or Cheesecake Factory without it on tap. (Speaking of bearded hipsters, excellent local brewer Notch is hosting a release party for a new IPA called "Raw Power." They have found my weakness but I'll wait a few days and avoid the invitation for people to bring their own proto-punk vinyl to spin. Vinyl is stupid and you are all assholes. Enjoy dropping thirty bucks on the next sham Replacements reissue.) Sam Adams is also impossible to miss but at least it's a good beer and probably an excellent one.

The one Harpoon I used to like (and this was back when Bass Ale was one of my favorites, so tread lightly) was an "Alt" called just that. It was the only of theirs I could tolerate once the near-decent Winter Warmer was designated for extreme clove and nutmeg enthusiasts only. Good lord. The alt expanded my beer palate without informing me of what "alt" meant (history tells us to never dive too deeply into a German's way of doing things) and then disappeared sometime between early college and adulthood. I tried two more altbiers a few beer-and-football seasons ago, taking one step forward and one back: the Haverhill exploded all over my kitchen but was nonetheless excellent while the Cody was unfavorable all around. So at Stop & Shop last week, browsing the bombers for a truly-meaningful-first-regular-season-game, the Sticke and its generous shelf space presented a conundrum. Would this be similar to the alt of my youth? To the mixed bag of 2011? Did I even like the Harpoon in the first place or was it their least offensive product? Is it admitted failure to release limited-edition beers? Regardless, I did enjoy it. It won't be the best of the season but it didn't inspire regret either—that's the best you can hope for after grocery shopping on Route 1, a few miles from two strip clubs and a few more from Hooters. I'll bet you can find Harpoon IPA at all three.

Up next: Ndamukong Suh's capability to injure scares me more than Ryan Tannehill's to throw touchdowns. Cheers!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Beer and football VII — training camp/the all-important third preseason game

The beer: Jack's Abby Copper Legend Octoberfest Lager/Founders All-Day India Pale Ale
The commentary: Good lord, is it time already? To post every week? These are the problems I create for myself. Instead of keeping the old bloggo muscles in shape—writing about, I don't know, Captain Fucking Beefheart—I'm thrown into the white-hot cauldron of wordsmithing with no sign of a thesaurus-shaped bucket of ice. (See what I'm talking about?)

Instead I enjoyed my Summer, so swiftly it flew! Newport, Ogunquit, North Attleborough. A horrid factory of bouncy structures and germs called Monkey Joe's, where you must buy overpriced children's socks if you forget to bring your own. L7 at the Paradise, reliving my first club show experience in the same venue with the same band. An evening at the Crane Estate with pizza, mosquitos and a Beatles cover band that shunned much of the post-Help! material. A daddy–daughter date to Canobie Lake Park. A party celebrating five years of my beautiful girl. And training camp, of course. With a new dress!

We went later this year, forgoing late-July heat for mid-August heat and a joint practice with the Bears (more on them in a bit). Yes, it's the one where Gronk pulled his hamstring. And now he's out tomorrow. Drag. G. wasn't much into having her picture taken that afternoon so I'm left with several of the back of her head. But the curls! The curls.

Aside from Gronk's injury, this session was notable for a brawl between the teams, stemming from some extracurricular activity between local hero Malcolm Butler and talented-exception-that-proves-the-rule Alshon Jeffery. My dad couldn't get enough. G. just wanted more pretzels.

What is the team's outlook? Can Jimmy Garoppolo keep us afloat? Will Brady seek further hairstyling tips from Zachery Ty Bryan?

Should I tempt fate by picking the Texans for week one of my knockout pool, seeking again the glory of my championship season? And also by picking against the Bears, which ended my runs in week one of 2013 and week four last year? What is it with me and the Bears, anyway? The Fridge's touchdown didn't bother me too much. I was eleven.

Why did the shot of her scratching her butt turn out the best? Admittedly I did not watch much of the all-important third preseason game. Instead I coughed up twenty bucks to subscribe to Patriots Football Daily on my iPad, hoping to be informed enough (between it and Mike Reiss's coverage) going into the regular season. Those guys really liked Rufus Johnson. Huh. (I have an iPad. Huh.)

Two weeks ago I took a day off to bring G. to Canobie Lake Park in southern New Hampshire. It was the "big" amusement park of my youth (larger and farther away than the former Whalom Park, gone the way of the thirty-years-defunct Whalom Drive-In that should be the setting of the next horror franchise—eerie!) and will play a role in that Trout Mask Replica albatross one day. Shudder.

You bet we rode the carousel first! And second and third. G. was more interested in looking at the outside of the haunted "Mine of Lost Souls" ride than anything else, asking over and over if and how it was really scary. I spoke of animatronics, jump scares and strobe lights but needn't have said so much—I had her at animatronics after a dancing Santa Claus scared the bejesus out of her a few Christmases ago. Still she was fascinated, and after awhile I suggested we move on, noting we could come back for the 3:30 magic show next door if she wanted. We retreated to the carousel for a couple more rides (four and five) and then I suggested the Ferris wheel, which was a big hit. She'll be ready for those lost souls in no time.

Lunch was next, followed by a train ride around the park that took way too long. I begged her to hop off halfway through but she wasn't having it. Eventually (mercifully) it ended in time to grab popcorn before catching the magic show in which I participated (and will reveal no secrets) to G's delight. Though it might have been the popcorn. Another few loops on another purple Ferris wheel car and then three more rides on the carousel, on her own (!) on a stationary lion once because she really wanted to sit on that lion. Ups and downs are overrated sometimes.

Oh yeah, we got a blue Italian ice in there somewhere. Happy birthday, monkey!

Up next: God help the NFL if Garoppolo can win two games, even if this isn't one of them. Cheers!