Ripped at Thirsty Pagan Brewing in 2007

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. In recognition of Thirsty Pagan Brewing’s recent move from its longtime location on Broadway Street to a newly renovated home at Winter Street Depot, we dust of this drunken report from 2007, when the business was in its first year of operation after taking over Twin Ports Brewing Company. This story originally appeared in the Feb. 12, 2007 issue of the Transistor.]

Like the word “Christian,” the word “pagan” makes me vaguely uncomfortable. It’s not that I don’t want to think about the gods when I’m drinking; it’s that I don’t want to think about bearded guys in wool stocking caps who smell like a sheepdog. Unfortunately, as I walk into Thirsty Pagan Brewing, it’s difficult to think of anything else.

The TPB, located on the corner of Broadway Street and Ogden Avenue in Superior, is the brewpub formerly known as Twin Ports Brewing Co. Walking inside is a lot like walking into some stoner’s basement grow-room. The main reason for this is the hoard of thickety furbags slumping over tables and drum kits. Tonight, however, the grow-room mood is enhanced because one side of a Hamm’s beer sign on the ceiling seems to be out for repairs, leaving its exposed fluorescent rods to blaze with retina-searing intensity. While one side of the room enjoys the classic sign, naked bulbs shine down on all the shadowless, drunken truth on the other side.

I pull my baseball cap down extra tight for shade and order a Burntwood Black Ale. This is one thing that the TPB does offer: really good beer. And really good music, for that matter. Barry Pirkola is ripping it up on guitar as the Fractals perform their weekly Thursday set. When the beer hits my taste buds and the booze hits my bloodstream, I mellow out a bit and realize that I’m going to be OK here. Fluorescent bulbs and thirsty pagans be damned: I’ve got booze and rock and that is all that I need.

It’s at about this time when I notice the pubic hair sticking to the rim of my pint glass. Holding it up toward the light, which now turns out to be useful, I examine it. It’s blonde, I think at first, and this abates much of my disgust due to the fact that the blonde bartender is kind of hot, but then I realize that I am very, very wrong. The pube is gray, and the only word I can think of is “typical.”

The thing about finding a gray pubic hair on the rim of my glass is that it’s hard to figure out what to do with it. Should I pick it off and flick it on the floor? Well, that requires touching it, now, doesn’t it? Besides, those things tend to drift, possibly back at me and into my face or worse yet into my very beer. Do I just put the beer back on the bar and tell the bartender I want a new one? Obviously she will take the beer and dump it down the drain, which I cannot condone. Watching someone dump out a beer is like watching someone zap a kitten with a taser, and I’m not going to be the instigator of an action such as that.

Eventually, I realize that if I turn the pint around so the hair is on the opposite side, and if I remain vigilant of exactly where it is, I can quickly finish my beer before ditching the glass and the errant pube on someone else’s table. After a quick turn and a steady swig, the problem is solved.

This experience, combined with the image of some guy who looks like Grizzly Adams blissfully swirling to the Fractals’ rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe in the Air” makes me realize that I need to upgrade from beer to a glass of Ponder This Barleywine. If I’m going to stick things out here, I require at least a 9 percent alcohol content and three varieties of hops.

As the Fractals morph into “Hot Rod Lincoln,” I gulp down frothy booze and try to focus on the positive, such as the Miller High Life mural taking up the entire wall behind the stage. Here are some things I can stand for. Here are the tenets of my religion. Geeks playing rockabilly. The strongest beer in Superior. A cowgirl riding the moon.

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