Tuesday, September 9, 2008

OK Really is Just OK

You excited? I've been letting the anticipation build for a few days now, and have decided it's time to recall the story of the DRIVE THROUGH ARKANSAS! Sure, it may seem boring, but I have driven through this state so many times I have accumulated many fond memories. From the $21.95 motel room in Brinkley with the vibrating bed and the TV that only showed porn to the freak ice storm that allowed me to travel 30 miles in 7 hours, Arkansas holds a special place in my heart.

If you are one of the millions who have done the drive on I-40 through Arkansas, you no doubt have seen all the billboards for wineries in the state. We never visited because they are a bit too far off the interstate to be convenient, but we did stop at a liquor store at the gateway to wine country. As expected, the beer selection was nothing. 7-11 has a better selection. They did have an amazing wine inventory, with an emphasis on local wines. The owners were so friendly and helped us pick out a nice white for my girlfriend's mom. I tried to re-create the experience at 7-11 when I asked the cashier for help in deciding on a malt liquor, but her expertise was in the Slurpee department.

Now this truly is one of those places that I look forward to when visiting Arkansas. Not for the beer variety, either. I think the most exotic thing they have is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The reason is this: once upon a time, a naive traveler (me..did you guess?) was making a cross country trek. It had been a long day, and getting late in the evening. I pulled off at an exit that had the prerequisite needs posted on the blue amenities sign (cheap lodging, gas station, pizza place) and went into the convenience store to buy beer before I got my room for the night. I looked up and down the aisle but could only find soda. Yuck. I asked the cashier where they were hiding the beer and she said, "This is a dry county". "Oh," naive me said, "What's that mean?" "That means you have to drive another 60 miles to buy alcohol". I was tired. My body was set to get a room and relax. The decision was easy. "SEE YA!", I screamed as I raced away from the sickness that had overcome that poor county.

This place was an oasis for me, and though the selection wasn't great, it was BEER. The staff must have thought I was a nut as I walked in with a huge smile on my face and a spring in my step as I grabbed a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best Ice. I try to stop in there for old times sake every time I pass through. There is a new competing store just down the street that carries Rogue and Diamond Bear(made in Little Rock)and I even convinced a local who was buying a case of Miller Lite there to try some Diamond Bear Honey Weiss since it is brewed locally. I bought some Presidential IPA and we got back on the road.

We actually had our destination for the night all planned out, with a hotel booked and everything, for Oklahoma City. The reason for this was we had passed an Old Chicago restaurant along I-40 when heading east on our trip and thought it would be better to stay near there on our way home and get good good beer rather than staying in a no man's land town near nothing. Old Chicago is a chain that mixes TGI Friday's decor and mediocre food with Flying Saucer or Yard House beer selections (but with fewer taps). We had been to the one in Denver when Falling Rock Tap House was closed and found it to have a great variety of beers.

As we got closer to Oklahoma City, following our hotel directions that took us off I-40 and put us on I-240, I came to the realization that we were quickly driving further and further away from where I remember Old Chicago being, which was right off I-40. But I had done a mileage search from the hotel to Old Chicago, and it said less than a mile...what was up? Well, luckily for us, it turns out that there is an Old Chicago right along I-240 as well, and our hotel was indeed just down the street, and right across the street from a liquor store. Just like I planned.

Our hotel had problems. First, they had us on the second floor when I had reserved a first-floor room. Not a big deal, it's just kind of a pain lugging all the stuff we lug when we stay at a motel. Then we realized they had put us in a smoking room, which again wouldn't be a problem, but it felt as if no air had circulated in the room for years. So we had to drive around to our new room in a whole separate building, but again on the second floor. This one was even better: the air conditioner was broken. I finally told the girl at the front desk I was with Abqbeergeek.com and that got us a room on the first floor, and quick. Room situation settled, we headed over to Old Chicago.

We should have stayed in the room with no air conditioning. It had a better atmosphere, and the tap selection was better. No, this place wasn't that bad, but it was far from the Old Chicago in Denver. I should have expected that, considering the competition from other beer bars is much greater in Denver. I ended up ordering a Spaten Optimator, which is a great beer, but not really a good match for the heat and humidity surrounding us. There was a tap we didn't recognize, and the bartender told us, "Oh, that's Stevens Point Belgian White. That's our local brew, from right up in Tulsa." Now, I know that Point Brewing is located in Wisconsin. The bartender may have known too, but I didn't call him on it. He seemed like a nice enough guy. My girlfriend had one of those "local" beers and while light on flavor, it was a better match for the weather than my choice.

Then Mr. Smarmy Pants waiter sauntered over to the bar and asked us, "So, are you enjoying your Blue Moon and Spaten Optimator this evening?" Apparently, he guesses the beers that bar customers are drinking, and in turn the customers are shocked and awed by his prowess. Us? Uh...not so much, especially considering the beer wasn't even Blue Moon. Nice try, though.

We just had the one beer there and got pizza to go. It, like the rest of this Old Chicago, was fine. Nothing great, but better than nothing!

Next:Wrapping it up

1 comment:

marcus said...

Did you really tell the girl at the desk you where from abqbeergeek.com and the whole thing was settled? haha!!!! Oh and to bad for your Eagles, but I heard the game was good.