Tuesday, December 23, 2003

More Signs of the Times

I saw these driving up I-65 from Indianapolis this weekend, meaning millions of people have already seen 'em, but here it is anyway:

  • The "Flying J" truck stop chain's usual series of billboards now proudly proclaim themselves to have "WiFi Hotspots."
  • There have already been Starbucks at the oases on the Indiana Tollway, and I believe they're coming to the Tri-State in Illinois. This was the first time I saw a Starbucks advertised on one of those "Food" signs placed ahead of each Interstate exit. Some may see this as a bad sign of encroaching Starbucks domination (like McDonald's doesn't already dominate the highways). Many travelers who've endured bad gas station coffee will see this as a good sign: finally, a place to be assured of a decent cuppa Joe. Just as long as they're open 24 hours and will fill Thermoses.
Even though the exit with the Starbucks was still in the Indianapolis suburbs, it suggested to me another part of a trend noted by people who marks such things: the resettlement of populations along the interstates. As rural areas continue to empty out, only the interstate corridors show any potential for growth. Industry locates there for easy access to trucking, and small town reinvent themselves as retail centers, extended rest stops or tourist attractions (like my father's hometown of Walnut, Iowa turned all of its empty stores into an "Antique City."). Not suburbs, or even exurbs. Call them "exit-burbs."
Just a few days after I first posted this entry, the Chicago Tribune had an article about hotspots at truck stops becoming a big draw. That's me: two days ahead of the curve.

Friday, December 12, 2003

People Are Wonderful/No Damn Good

I�m back from a long stretch of business and distraction with a couple stories about my adventures in beer geekdom. Although you can probably substitute �Wine,� �Cheese,� even �Cigars� for �Beer,� and there�s a similar story out there.
Back in November, my homebrew club, BOSS, held its usual meeting with samplings of various beers. We popped open one bottle from a brewer with a good reputation for strong, over-the-top beers that age very well. We lifted our sampling glasses and were immediately hit by the smell of� a dirty diaper. Somehow, we had gotten hold of a contaminated bottle, or one that had simply gone stale.

These kinds of things with microbrewed beers. Despite scrupulous attention to sanitation, many of these beers are not pasteurized so they can be �bottle-conditioned:� some active yeast is left in or added to the bottle to continue working on the beer over time, which means a beer like this should improve with age. But the odds are that at some point a bottle will be contaminated or staled.

I said as such when I posted my opinion of the beer at RateBeer.com. That's the link to it on the right, and no, the beer in question is not on that list underneath, those are the latest ten I�ve rated. I give it a low rating, yet explaining that this was likely a single bottle that had gone bad.

Probably not more than five minutes after posting the rating, I had a message in my account from the beer�s brewer. He wrote asking for more information on the bottle, what the date stamp was, so he could find out why there was a bad beer out there. After finding the bottle (which I took home because it could be reused for homebrew), I wrote back that it was dated for last December; and whether it had sat on a store shelf under flourescent lights all that time, or in someone's fridge, could not be determined for certain.

He wrote back asking for my address so he could send some new bottles as soon as they came off the line. Five weeks later, a UPS package arrived with the two new bottles, plus two more of another beer they only have on draft at their tap house.

So first off, I haven�t mentioned the name of the beer involved, so moochers don�t start posting bad reviews in hopes of scoring free brew. But it just goes to show ya that when you�re really interested in someone else�s work, be it beer, or what have you, and you demonstrate your interest with complementary comments (or helpful comments if something goes wrong); then if the people on the other side of the counter also care about what they do, they will sometimes reciprocate that appreciation.

Gotta go now, but I'm also adding some thoughts about the second half of this title. For now, here's a preview at