"Fiction is often the best fact." William Faulkner
I awoke on Saturday morning with an almighty hangover. My head hurt terribly and my mouth felt like bats had been shitting in it. Sweet Jesus, what the hell had been drinking, I wondered? Then I remembered: nothing. Well, three beers, which is pretty much nothing in my job. No, I was in the depths of a work-hangover: faux-drunkenness compounded by exhaustion and dehydration. And it was only going to get worse. What more would this foul week throw at me?
My phone rang.
‘You weren’t at Beervana yesterday. I checked.’
‘No, I was exhausted and hungover.’
‘Well are you going today?’
‘No, I’m exhausted and hungover.’
‘Listen, you key-tapping swine!’ the voice exploded. ‘You’ve gotten a sweet ride on this assignment! Free lunch, final wisdom, the lot. But that means you’ve got to cover it. Completely. Get your ass to Beervana God damn it!’
‘Urh, yeah, sure,’ I said.
‘Anyway, what else would you be doing? Drinking whisky out of eggcups again?’
‘Hey, I don’t do that. I don’t own any eggcups. I eat my boiled eggs out of shot glasses. They work really well.’
‘Whatever. Get to Beervana, you half-baked internet hack,’ the voice added for good measure.
Apologies to all those who are greatly confused. A while back in the lead up to Beervana, I wrote a fairly popular post in the style of Raymond Chandler (et al.). Afterwards I fielded a suggestion from a regular reader that I write my next Beervana post in the style of Gonzo. At first I was against it, because I have no pretension to being anywhere near as good a writer as the Hunter S. Thompson, and anyway it would probably ring pretty disingenuous to blindly copy his style.
But then I thought, what the fuck, why not? If there’s one thing I really don’t like, it’s blog posts along the lines of ‘I went here, I drank this, you should go where I go and drink what I drink.’ So anything that breaks that monotony has got to be good.
Now a disclaimer: Gonzo style requires a good dose of what we might call hyperbole. As such, just remember that this post is parody and intended for recreational and novelty use only. I’m also not going to write the whole piece in style either. That would again seem well, disingenuous. So here goes…
Beervana is Decadent and Depraved
Part 1: Uneasy Vibrations and Early DT’s
Beervana began for me on Monday afternoon in a blur of jetlag. I had just returned to New Zealand that weekend from a trip to Scandinavia. I was coming down slowly off what had essentially been an extended herring-binge, and adjusting to New Zealand’s timezone and cuisine was not happening smoothly.
I had awoken at 6am had spent the day shift variously staring at my emails trying to make sense of plain English, and making sandwiches for the first few beer tourists who were already trickling into Wellington. Suddenly, in walked the avuncular David Cryer, hefting a 30L keg as if it was a feather.
‘You’re having a beer launch here tonight. Don’t worry I cleared it with Golding.’
‘Ok… So what are we launching?’ I asked.
‘A collaboration between 8 Wired and Gigantic Brewing from Portland.’
‘Great, what’s it called?’
‘I don’t know.’
The keg label left us none the wiser. All it had was the unenlightening gibberish: ‘PDXNZESB’ which I took for some sort of batch code. I later found out that this was in fact the name of the beer. At the time we settled on calling it ‘New Zealand ESB’.
‘One more thing,’ said Cryer ‘We need twenty litres run off into riggers for another event.’
Holy Jesus, this will be the shortest beer launch I’ve ever worked, I thought. What would happen when waves upon waves of punters turn up, demanding a beer that’s already run out? Suddenly I was having flashbacks to the Garage Project 24/24, when two hundred people would attempt to ram themselves into Hashigo at five every Tuesday; desperate for beers of which only 20-40 litres existed at a time.
Cues ran out the door, people at the back deluding themselves that there would still be beer available when they reached the front. I remember the complaints, the bad noises, the gnashing of teeth, the almost tears when folks arrived twenty minutes after the beer hit taps, but five minutes too late to try any.
Was I going to have to relive that?
It didn’t quite pan out like that. The event wasn’t well publicised, and only a few people missed out. The remaining ~10L was drunk in roughly as many minutes, mainly by a pack of Americans that came into the bar. I’d later learn that that this was a selection of Brewers and Beer People from Portland Oregon, flown over for the week.
At the time however, reality was feeling a little thin on the ground for me, so I shook a bunch of American hands, then got the hell out of Golding’s early and made for the sanctuary of bed.
Tuesday was to be my first proper night shift. Events for the Road to Beervana week were starting to happen all over Wellington and more and more people were rolling into town.
Golding’s was hosting Fritz and Maria of Liquid Alchemy, for a beer and spirits matching session, which I felt more than a little trepidation for. Matching booze with food is great because people don’t get too drunk. But matching booze with booze seems like bad recipe.
Liquid Alchemy were showcasing their Moonshine, which was pretty rough stuff, even for someone who drinks their eggcups neat. and when drowned with enough cinnamon syrup and apple juice (a cocktail known as an Apple Pie), it was really quite delicious. I didn’t expect much to happen in the first couple of days. I assumed most folks would be either arriving later or saving their pennies for the big events. I was wrong and we were slammed.
It seemed like every Beer Geek in the Southern Hemisphere was rolling into Wellington, and more than half of them were attempting to cram themselves into Golding’s. And with only two of us behind the bar…
Tuesday was the first day of proper Beervana craziness. Steve and I coped as best we could, handling as much trade as we might usually expect on a mild Saturday night. It wasn’t long before my old friend jetlag was rearing its hideous face again. I had woken at 6am. It was around 11:30pm when we finally pushed the last customers out the door, and I was out of my mind with exhaustion. My body was attempting to punish me for being in the wrong timezone. As I sat drinking my staffie, the fairy lights began to literally swim and swirl before my eyes and and the music began to fade in and out, as if someone was playing with the tuning knob on an FM radio.
Hallucinating from exhaustion already? Fun times.
Golding’s would be a strange place to try and take hard drugs. With such an abundance of stimuli, a head full of hallucinogens could easily turn nasty. I’ve only seen one guy come into the bar who was clearly on hard drugs. He walked in on a busy Wednesday night when we had no security on. He’d stood, wide-eyed in the middle of the bar, mouth agape, drinking the place in. He seemed to be enjoying himself,and when I cautiously approached him and asked if I could help, he’d smiled and looked straight through me with the million mile stare of someone travelling on a plane of existence well removed from my own.
He left without issue, but what if whatever junk that was in his head had shifted gears on him? Would he have melted into a pile of gibbering goo into one of our casino chairs? What would I have done then? Scooped him into a wheelbarrow and dumped him in the alleyway behind Hope Bros? Maybe I should’ve rolled him too… Stolen his wallet and given him a kicking? Nothing like a broken rib or two to teach him a lesson… Jesus, that’s a bad thought.
He could have cut up rough too though. If a trip turned bad in a bar like this, when the actual god-damn weasels we have scattered around the bar start closing in, and the Bartender starts morphing into a demonic stoat monster, there’s no telling how the depraved mind will react.