New York Press' Gut Instinct: California Drinking

Google "drunk Californians," and this is what you'll receive.

One Coors-driven night many moons ago, I cornered my friend John Rauschenberg in my candle-lit kitchen and questioned his future. At the time, John toiled in publishing and was a poet to boot. But publishing’s career path leads to the poorhouse, as does poetry. John had an escape plan from the land of letters.

“I’m going to open a bar,” he said, pulling on a Miller Lite.

“Why are you doing that?” I said, as if he were considering piercing his nipples or supporting the Tea Party. Though I’m a blue-ribbon boozer, bar ownership seems like a special breed of hell, one filled with vomit, broken glass and demands to down Jägermeister. “It’ll be a West Coast craftbeer bar,” he said, ignoring my jerkwad protestations. Along with fellow Californian Jon Stam, he yearned to create a kicked-back venue serving Left Coast suds from Green Flash, Lagunitas and Hair of the Dog. Hmm, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, I thought.

“And then we’ll have a drinking robot,” John said, as matter-of-factly as one can when discussing alcoholic artificial intelligence. I coolly drank from my 24-ounce Coors tower, channeling Williamsburg residents’ nonplussed and disaffected demeanor. Not another boozing robot. Yawn. “As the robot drinks more and more, its speech slurs, it falls down, passes out, then wakes up and starts boozing again—just like us,” John said.

“What will your bar be called?” I wondered. “Pacific Standard,” he said (82 4th Ave. at St. Marks Ave., Brooklyn, 718- 858-1951). “Just make sure you have dirtcheap beer,” I advised. “You need a crappy two-dollar beer to survive.”

Turns out, I was wrong. Since Pacific Standard opened in September 2007 (16 craft drafts, cask ales and It’s-It ice cream sandwiches imported from San Francisco), the homey, wood-hewn bar has become an anchor on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue— even though that intoxicated robot never materialized. Not that Pacific needed the gimmick: Over time, the bar cultivated a dedicated crowd thanks to literary events, pub quizzes and great beer. That was the draw one recent Tuesday night, when Pacific Standard celebrated its third anniversary in grand intoxicating fashion.

I biked over and, upon entering the packed Pacific, realized I would soon exit with far fewer brain cells. On tap were 14 beers from Red Hook’s Sixpoint Craft Ales, including the debut of the Missionary Style IPA. It’s a mouth-puckerer of the West Coast kind, brewed especially for the bar—30 kegs in all. “That’ll last us about a month,” John said. Not if my stomach has any say. Missionary was fresh and floral, bright and aromatic and as smooth as gelato. It’s one of Sixpoint’s finer ales, which makes its fruit fly lifespan a bummer. I savored several pints, and soon my head felt as light as soufflé, my cheeks warm and red.

“You should also try Sixpoint’s pilsner,” John suggested. Pilsner? To date, Sixpoint has been known for its flavorful, creative brews, such as the Gorilla Warfare Porter (made with locally roasted Gorilla beans) and the bitter, full-bodied Bengali Tiger IPA. They’re tasty beers, just not terribly drinkable. To rectify that, Sixpoint created a beer series under the Sixpoint Crisp Lagers banner. The first year-round release is Sehr Crisp Pilsner, a bubbly golden beauty as snappy and honeyed as a fall apple.

Though I’m a blue-ribbon boozer, bar ownership seems like a special breed of hell, one filled with vomit, broken glass and demands to down Jägermeister.

I loved it more than other Craft Ales offerings: Pumpkin Brewster was too spiced for my taste buds (no liquid pumpkin pie, please), and Old Krusher barley wine was sweet, boozy burn. Five years ago, I would’ve lapped up this bang for my alcohol buck. Now, I have more money than patience for a hangover. I like low-alcohol beer with lots of flavor, such as Sixpoint’s experimental Minor Threat.

The mild American bitter packs plenty of fragrant hops, but precious little booze (somewhere south of 4 percent ABV). You can slurp three pints and, theoretically, still bike home. Which was my plan. I disappeared pints until I felt a familiar buzzing in my pants. I pulled it out—my phone, I mean—and answered. “Hey, hon.” “When are you coming home?” my girlfriend wondered, sweet as maple syrup. “It’s a celebration,” I said, trying not to make my consonants sound like mushy oatmeal. “You sound like you’re… having fun,” she said. “Just be careful when you bike home.”

I wanted one more beer. I always want one more beer. Yet the line between a good thing and too much of a good thing is as narrow as a gnat’s eyelash. Plus, I needed to navigate a bike up Park Slope’s namesake incline. I put down my glass and strapped on my helmet. Though I was drinking Minor Threat, one more would’ve made me a major disaster.

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