While some may not regard Syracuse in any way, shape or form, as has been proven by the media when it is solely referred to as “Upstate New York,” let me assure the reader that there is more to it than the NCAA. I’ll be the first to admit that winters suck. They suck hard. The four months or so we must endure of ice scraping, snowblowing and skin chafing may sound like a bum deal, but the other eight months are sheer bliss. Syracusans are a tough breed — they drive under treacherous conditions without flinching, work hard, and certainly play hard. The evidence can be seen in the serious business of fun and beer, in all of its glorious forms.
I recently had the fortune to enjoy some brew and entertainment, my favorite combination. First, the obligatory colleague send-off at hotel bar near work. Not my idea of a great beer story, but I have to start from the beginning. Maybe I have been living in big cities for too long, so much so that I was compelled to get a pitcher of Miller Lite for six bucks. A good starting point — cheap, light beer for the colleague happy hour. I usually don’t mix business with beer, but as is with most send-offs, it’s either a kick out the door, or a bon voyage brew. After a few chuckles and glasses, it was off to my next destination…the REAL happy hour in downtown. Syracuse’s Armory Square is one of my favorite places to hang out and appreciate beer in the U.S. and happens to be tops on others’ minds as well. I was set to meet another colleague and her posse who were waiting for me. Now was the time for the mouthwatering Boddy’s and good conversation, making new friends. There was talk about a burlesque show…it was featured in the local New Times (I hadn’t read about). At first the talk was exciting — a burlesque show? In Syracuse? What an oxymoron. Syracuse is a beer and party town, but I wouldn’t call it a sexy place.
On to the next pub for the obligatory and silky Beamish. I will never tire of it — NEVER! I observed a yawn, and some hesitation from one of our party members, who might have changed her mind on a dime. I wasn’t ready for the night to end or for the beer to stop flowing, so went we did. Not many atmospheres intimidate nor phase me, but I didn’t know what I was in for. The show was not in trendy Armory Square, but in a townie suburb by the name of Mattydale. The place was called Mac’s Bad Art Bar. Was there bad art in the bar? Who is Mac? Would there be quality beer like at the Limerick? I quickly found out, after a $5 cover charge, that there was bad art a la black velvet paintings; I don’t know who Mac is; and their best beer was probably a Bud. I didn’t bother to find out if they even had a beer menu. It was getting late, my belly was full from the Beamish, and I wanted to stay awake for the show, so I opted for Bud Light Lime. A good way to end the night and not get trashed. Although I was out of my element at Mac’s since I didn’t have a mullet, a frizzy perm, or a guy on my arm with a black Harley leather jacket, I was relatively comfortable. I was staying for the show dammit!
As I nursed my beer, we had to endure the painful sounds of a cover band from Utica. As if Syracuse wasn’t small enough, I had to hear a band from an even smaller place! This would have been a perfect time for a tequila shot, but I had to keep my vision in focus for the show. I have never in my life experienced a band who “sang” Billy Joel, Twisted Sister, and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” in the same set. After I wiped the blood from my ears, it was time to sip on some more intoxication and watch the show unfold before my eyes. A burlesque virgin but no stranger to the biker bar and mullet mix, I strangely felt in my element. Maybe it was the sixth beer.
As much as I like to drink the meaty and malty microbrews, I think that the tame and sometimes lame light ones justify the occasion, such as the colleague “get me out of here” happy hour or the burlesque “don’t weigh me down now beer” show. As the men were camera happy and the girlfriends and wives were thinking of new ways to use a chair, a top hat and a lolipop, there I was, sippin on my suds and just enjoying it all.