The call went out: “The Guys” were getting together again.
The Guys are my college buddies, friends I have known in excess of 20 years. Our dynamic is somewhat between the smooth, well-groomed confidence of the Ketel One commercials and the desperate, mid-life crisis pathos of Grown Ups. We are all gainfully employed (some more gainfully than others), married (with or without kids) and are relatively stable dudes. We also all still kinda long for the days of Beer Breakfast, Self Abuse (don’t ask) and marathon Spades and Hearts tournaments. Suffice it to say, this type of bond, this type of relationship, is not one to take for granted.
And yet, somehow, I have.
I missed the trip to Kilimanjaro (damn you, new house!) and a Vegas trip to boot (probably all for the better). So when I heard that folks were convening to climb Mount Washington, I had to go.
Due to my damnable work schedule and the draconian measures involved in requesting time off, I could not make it in time to join the hike. But I could, however, make it for dinner, drinks and revelry; the fact that they had booked rooms at the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company (a local inn that happened to also be a micro brewpub), sealed the deal.
I had been jonesin’ for a road trip, something just for me, something where I could clear my head and temporarily get away from the pervasively negative vibe of the hen house I work in. I had put a trip like this off as I previously had no clear goal and driving aimlessly for hours or days didn’t make much sense but now the opportunity was perfect. I loaded up my iPhone with a NH Road Trip Mix, kissed my wife and hugged my dog goodbye, and headed north. Beer and the Bros were calling.
After wending my way along some scenic interstates, I eventually got to the Smokehouse. The rest of the guys were still at the summit making their way down, but one of them (more… rotund than the rest) remained behind. He had sequestered a table near the entrance and had been steadily drinking since about noon. Literally and figuratively, I had some catching up to do.
Not seeing any IPA on their menu, I ordered the Iron Mike Pale Ale and laughed when the chipper waitress asked if I wanted a 16oz or 20oz. Once she brought it, I gulped it down greedily. Road tripping creates a powerful thirst!
The beer itself looked fine. Poured a nice, amber color and had a decent, citrus bite to it but it somehow felt a little… lacking. Maybe it’s the water. There was a dryness that I’ve come to associate with beers from the New England area. Shipyard Brewing’s offerings have a similar flavor. It seemed to detract from the overall taste of the beer but maybe it’s just something I needed to get used to and would, in fact, maybe come to love much as I love the distinct “Burtonized” qualities in a Bass Pale Ale.
But the somewhat mediocre nature of this beer was unimportant to the overall purpose of the weekend anyway. After a few more hours (and several more Iron Mike big pours), the rest of the crew made it back from the mountain and the drinking could begin in earnest.
Being seasoned drinkers, we made sure to order food and here, the Moat Mountain Smokehouse did not disappoint in the least. I earlier had the barbequed smoked pork which was sticky, smoky, sweet and satisfying. Still somewhat full from that, I opted for the Texas style brisket and Andouille sausage chili while the others chowed down on various slider platters. The chili was terrific and the Andouille provided a nice little kick. Needless to say, many more Iron Mikes were consumed.
Though the beer was unremarkable, it provided a great backdrop of the weekend and brought to bear the idea that, once again, it’s the perfect social lubricant. In this scenario, no one bothered focusing on the beer, the hops, the malt bill or any of that. It was enough that it was there, curing parched throats and allowing us to relive tales past and recount new stories. This provided another fine example of how, sometimes, what you’re drinking isn’t as important as who you are drinking it with, or why.
Though Moat Mountain did not boast the exotic adventure of Kilimanjaro or the bacchanalia of Vegas, I was happy I made the trip. And though their pale ale falls short of many other beers out there, I think it will remain one of my favorites.
And yes, Moat Mountain, everybody does like big cans.