Samichlaus Bier is no longer the strongest beer in the world - that honor belongs to Dogfish Head‘s World Wide Stout - but it’s still the world’s strongest lager, tipping the glass at an astonishing 14% alcohol. Samichlaus is a fascinating and delicious beer, and it deserves its own thorough Pepper entry.
This is not that entry.
But Samichlaus is what happened after Sunday night’s performance of “The Good Faith,” a slightly-damp recounting after our crisp and trim matinee show that afternoon. Of course my brother Ethan and his Very Significant Other Jane (VSOJ) were at the floppy show, not the zippy one. After the festivities, we adjourned to the Peculier Pub on nearby Bleecker Street. Ethan deftly picked a Fraoch Heather Ale, and VSOJ honored her DownUndertude with a Cooper’s Ale. Sometimes life in the big city is full of links.
About 14% alcohol later one thing was leading to another, and I wound up at the Bluestone Bar & Grill, a new place which has no links at Columbia and Kane Streets in Brooklyn. It’s still spiffy and spotless in there, and it’s a friendly joint with an exceptional 1960 Lambretta scooter, gorgeously restored, in residence inside for the winter. (Ask Vanessa about this wonderful machine and she’ll give you a guided tour of the gleaming engine.) Sunday night is bluegrass night at Bluestone, although the music was winding down by the time we rolled in, and the lights of downtown Manhattan twinkled in the balmy dark over the still waterfront.
Somewhere in the subsequent merriment my friend Tony stepped up to do a song. The bulk of the crowd got quiet for this. One woman, though, the One, apparently, who Is In Every Crowd, set to talking loud. Really loud. She was - how to put it? - a bit tipsy. Not to stand on ceremony, she was blotto. She was cut off, she was staggering, she was loud, she was right down front, she was not cute enough to get away with this kind of thing, and as Tony started in on a sweet quiet tune about his sister and unconditional love, unamplified and unmiked, it became uncomfortably clear that she was also deaf. Her friends tried to shush her, but with that unerring instinct of the truly drunk she decided that they were playing a joke on her because she couldn’t hear. “No one is talking but you,” they confided to her. “Everyone is listening to the music. Shhhh.”
“NO,” she whispered back, “EVERYONE’SSSS TALKING, I KNOW IT!!! YOU CAN’T FOOL ME!!! YERRRRR JUST TRYIN’ A SHUT ME UP!!!”
There’s not much you can do at a time like this other than look studiously at some interesting spot on the floor, shake your head, and try to listen as best you can between the bellows and giggles. Everyone was pretty mortified. Tony made it through with good style considering, and that looked to be that.
But all along it had been That Kind of Night, and some of the bluegrass guys started talking with Loud Giggly Woman. I didn’t get all of the details of this part, and when I next tuned in the bass player had his standup unpacked and was thumping along with gusto, and the banjo player was picking fast and furious. Between them, eyes wide and misty, stood the deaf woman, her left hand on the echoing body of the bass, her right hand on the membrane of the banjo, still and silent as they played for her hands, music lapping up her limbs and leaving her thrilled and transported, late at night.