Dan on Sunsets, Rest Stops, and How to Drink Beer

Daniel’s in Hawaii at the moment, but while spending the night in the car after being evacuated from his hotel due to the tsunami alert, he had a moment to spare to answer some questions for Jimmy’s No.43 in NYC.

1. Shelton Brothers were featured at the very first public tasting Jimmy’s No. 43 ever held. What do you remember about that day?

Was that the Christmas/Winter beer tasting we did? If that’s the one, the main thing I remember is that we never got paid for any of the beer. I later found out that it was all considered to be a generous “donation,” which marks the occasion as the start of my now long and illustrious career in philanthropy. The other thing I remember from that day is that Jimmy introduced me to the handful of folks who came out to drink with us (Thanks, Malted Barley Appreciation Society!) as the guy who introduced him to good beer. He also described the way in which I did that, which was to sit, drunk, and verbally beat on him for having only junk on tap. “I thought you were a real asshole,” Jimmy said later, in a voice that suggested that maybe the past tense wasn’t entirely apt. But then I diligently followed up on a second trip by forcing him to down some respectable stuff. The next thing you know, we were teaming up to do a charity beer tasting, and the rest is history. This is a great example, by the way, of my patented sales technique. I love Jimmy at least partly because he’s the one guy I can point to to demonstrate that the technique actually works.

2. One of the things we love to do at Jimmy’s is pair great food with great beer. What are some of your more memorable food/beer pairings?

I tend to pair beer with other beer, pretty much exclusively. I find anyway that beer appreciation is situational; you can never drink the same beer twice, and it makes a big difference where you are and whom you’re with. My most memorable pairing (most of them I just forgot), took place on the roof of my house in Massachusetts, trying to catch the sunset with my high school pal Mike. I went with a Mahr’s Ungespundet, paired with a second Mahr’s Ungespundet, as did Mike. The two were nearly a perfect match. We followed up with several more bottles of Mahr’s Ungespundet, which also harmonized beautifully. I don’t remember how we got up on the roof, or how we got down, but I recall that no one was seriously hurt. That, friends, is a great beer pairing.

And, by the way, here’s a tip: It’s bad news for the waistline when you stop drinking beer for a prolonged period and start relying on food for most of your essential nutrients. Also, matching big beers with dripping fatty foods is caloric suicide. If you really must eat food, go vegetarian. And think of beer not so much as something to be paired with food, but as another course in the meal. Finally, if you’re relying on the book He Said Beer, She Said Wine, don’t take the beer pairing advice too seriously. Avoid taking XX Bitter with a tuna fish salad sandwich, for example.

3. If you could only drink one beer for a night (we’re not sadists; we wouldn’t ask anyone to hold out longer than a day!), what would you choose and why?

Assuming that “night” starts at about 5 p.m. and ends at about 5 a.m., amounting to approximately 12 hours of drinking, I would make it a lower-alcohol beer that has loads of character and flavor, but won’t do any structural damage and won’t cause you do to anything that you’ll have to apologize or pay a fine for the next morning. I’d go with either Riner, from Spain, Taras Boulba from Belgium, or High & Mighty Beer of the Gods, from my brother Will — whichever I can find where I happen to be.

4. Shelton Brothers scour the world in search of the best among rare brews. What’s your scariest beer travel story with a happy ending?

The scariest stories date back to the time before there was a Shelton Brothers, with a capital “B.” For example, the time in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, when a friend and I stayed out so late drinking Cerveza Gallo (not so rare in Guatemala, admittedly) that we got locked out of our castle-like hotel, and I had to scale the walls up three floors to find someone inside to open the big iron front gate. That was in 1994.

Since we started Shelton Brothers in 1996, what sticks out in my mind is the time that a friend and I spent most of the night at Dolle Brouwers with Kris Herteleer, trying countless “vintages” of his entire range of beers. (Kris was very generous about it.) I have a hard time leaving any good beer unfinished. At the end, sometime after midnight, we rejected the suggestion that we get a hotel in town, and headed for Brussels. After a time, I realized that I was driving more off the road than on, and decided to spend the night at a rest stop, in the car. It was February. After a few hours, it started to get very cold in the car, and I decided to turn it on and get some heat going, but I couldn’t find the keys. My friend had a flashlight, so we spent an hour or two poking around in the woods, trying to find the place where I had crawled in earlier to, uh, empty the bowels, where I figured the car keys must have dropped out of my pocket. We eventually did locate the spot, but no keys. We went back to the car, and spent what seemed like another hour fretting about our situation. How were we going to get ourselves and the car away from this rest stop in the woods in the middle of nowhere and back to Brussels? At some point, someone suggested that we look more carefully in the car for those keys, and naturally they turned out to be wedged between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. My friend punched me in the face, and, about a decade later, we both had a great laugh about it.

5. Do you remember the first time you drank a great beer and knew that beer was a drink to relish, not chug? Would you please tell us about that moment of revelation?

No. I still chug beer, when I’m feeling healthy and happy. In my opinion, you can’t really taste a beer without getting a few good mouthfuls and taking it down precipitously. People who take a sip of beer, swish it around, and spit it out haven’t got a clue. And if you really have a good beer in your hand, you want to keep it rolling over your tongue for a good long while as you talk about it with your drinking companions. I don’t have a whole lot of time for the imperial stouts and barley wines, etc., that seem to attract the attention of the self-described beer aficionados. Real good beer, for me, as I said, is the kind you can chug and relish at the same time, without becoming a danger to yourself and others.

Jimmy’s No. 43 will feature 12 of our beers this weekend, focusing on emerging brewing scenes – countries that either have a new brewing scene (like New Zealand or Japan), revitalized scene (Scandinavia), or aren’t know for beer (France). www.jimmysno43.com

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