Featured Contributor: Don Manfredi @
SommBeer Blog Post #1 March 11, 2015
The Beer Mule or How I Spent $75.00 for $15.00 Worth of Beer.
I am not proud to admit that I used a 60+ year old, teetotaling, travelling salesperson to mule one of the world’s top DIPA’s across the United States. You heard me right, I used a beer mule to carry Pliny the Elder from the California to Plymouth, Michigan.
The relationship with my mule (let’s call him Loman to protect his identity) started innocently. In 2014 Loman was able to get me a couple of KBS (no hardship there, he lives in Grand Rapids after all, and they just give it away to residents as part of the beer city charter, right? All he had to do was drive to Plymouth with it…). But after the KBS score my mind kept processing the possibilities; where else did Loman go? How many cities? How far would he go? I had to ask.
One day, over really burnt coffee I found out that Loman had a son and daughter in San Francisco and sometimes he did business on the west coast. In fact, Loman was going out west in late February. Heck, he was already going to be in the land of Pliny so what was the harm of having him stop in at a couple of bottle shops while he is out there? At most, all he would need to do is pack an extra empty bag and some bubble wrap then stop by a couple of liquor stores during his normal course of business. I was not asking for much right? Besides, I had a near miss on Pliny on draft in November when I went to Philadelphia (thanks Delta – 2 hour delay out of DTW and a Pliny keg that spit 30 minutes before I arrived at Monks Café in Philly) so I felt that I had absolution from the cosmic beer gods to ask this kind man for a favor…
Loman was up for the assignment and off he went to San Francisco with a briefcase full of sales materials, his clothing, and another empty bag filled with bubble wrap and newspaper (Loman was an optimist so he took a pretty big bag). On the ground on the West Coast Loman went from bottle shop to bottle shop, getting the “no room at the inn” speech. “Comes out on Thursday’s, sold out in less than an hour” “Would you hold any for me?” “Nope, first come, first served.” Undeterred Loman kept grinding. Bottle shop number 8 on the trip, same story: “Would you hold some for me?” “Nope, first come, first served” but then Loman looked up and saw his opening, a NASCAR poster. 40 years on the road makes you creative so Loman asked, “You a NASCAR fan? What if I could get you a die cast replica of the Roush Fenway #6 car hand signed by Jack Roush himself, would you hold some for me then?” The deal was on.
Minutes later my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. It was Loman so I left a meeting to see what the status was. “Listen, I need you to send a Jack Roush autographed die cast to San Francisco as soon as you can, here is the address. I have a line on some of that beer you want.” I dropped everything and went to the Roush museum in Livonia to pick up an autographed die cast car ($45.00) then off to UPS to ship it to San Francisco ($15.00). Nothing would stop me now, I was on a quest. Made the shipment and now I had to wait until the following Thursday to see if the bottle shop owner was true to his word.
Late the following Thursday I get a text from the mule; “The pearl is in the river” (not really, the text was just “I got your beer” but I wanted it to sound more clandestine). He had scored and now all he had to do was get it to Michigan. After a little bit of re-assurance for Loman (“You sure it won’t explode in the cargo hold?” “No, they pressurize it” “Will it freeze” “No they heat the compartment”) he agreed to check the bag with Pliny and board the flight to Grand Rapids though Detroit. Using Delta’s flight tracker, I knew when Loman arrived at DTW so I sent him a text. “How is the package?” I asked. “Well, my flight to Grand Rapids is delayed and I am not sure where my luggage is but if it gets there, you are all set” My stomach dropped. Would Delta stop me from getting Pliny again? After all of this I could not imagine the beer gods being so cruel. I had a pretty restless night but on Saturday morning I get a text from Loman. Everything arrived safely in Grand Rapids. I was merely a car ride away from trying Pliny the Elder.
The following Monday the mule made the drop. I shook his hand and asked, “You going to Vermont any time soon, I hear that Heady Topper is amazing?”
Look for my Pliny review in a future blog post.
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