Back in February, I acquired a building on Main Street in a small town in Iowa. It had been an office space for the Rural Electrical Cooperative. The walls were white, much like those of so many little mom-and-pop restaurants in these parts. So many hang a 1974 print of a pheasant flying over a dirt road and call it decor, ready for hot beef and meat loaf action.
That wasn’t what we were after. Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time transforming this space into Electric Burrito. It’s a blend of rock and roll and cowboys, I guess, with a healthy smattering of Good Beer. I thought about how much of myself was in this space. The colors. The soundtrack. The recipes. The beer. The subtle references to the times and places and people in our lives:
There’s really so much more. The whole place is an autobiography, if you take a look around. But, the bar. That’s what we’re here to talk about, Mr. Digression-Pants. First, the place is really a little burrito joint, not a bar. Not a tap room. It’s just that we have Good Beer, thanks to my enthusiasm/ridiculousity.
(another quick digression: the other day, one of my high school aged servers gave me an order and said, “Hey, J., what would be a good beer recommendation if someone ordered beef enchiladas?”
“Oh,” said I. “I wouldn’t hesitate to point them toward something darker, since they’re doing beef. That GI Nut Brown oughta be a good choice.”
“Cool,” said she. “That’s what I told them.” Warmed my heart it did.)
Anyway. I’m a scrounger. I re-use stuff. I buy bargain brands for stuff that doesn’t matter so I can afford expensive beer. The building had a built in cabinet against one wall. I decided that I’d turn that into my bar. This became a brotherly project, since Joe’s a carpenter with both skills and tools that I don’t have. Joe helped reconfigure the construction of the bar, per my crappy sketch, and I did the fun part: telling my story through bottle caps.
Basically, I took a router, and made bottle cap sized circles and then polyurethaned the daylights out of it with the hardcore stuff they put on basketball courts until the caps were sealed flush with the bar. It ain’t perfect, because I’m not Norm Abram, but the imperfection is part of my autobiography.
The caps were carefully chosen. They’re at least a good beer, possibly a sentimental beer, and often reflect a trip, a friend or a period of my life. I’ve got Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout, which reminds me of that great beer, and the two trips we took there, one with Heather and Paul. Speaking of Heather and Paul, I’ve got a Chimay Blue cap as well. Speaking of friends, Monte gave me the 2008 Bigfoot, which is how I marked the year of The Beginning for us.
Of course, I had to represent Mongrel Brewing Company, my humble homebrewing operation. For that, I chose Molotov Cock’d Ale, my Russian Imperial Stout. Dude, I could go for one of those right about now.
There are many more: Duck-Rabbit, for whom I used to work; EKU 28, from the studying-for-the-BJCP-exam-days; Duvel, one of the first post-Pop the Cap beers I bought; Unibroue, because Bob and Doug aren’t the only thing great about Canada; Millstream, because it’s brewed and bottled in Iowa; Adnams; nodding to beerblogger cameraderie. Conspicuously absent would be Milwaukee’s Best Light.
My bar tells the story, but apparently not the whole story: