Using (or Perhaps Misusing) a Hall Pass at Meadhall

It’s Friday night, and I’m at Meadhall with my old friend Uncle Buzzard. At this time of night, I’m usually on the TV room couch flicking channels while the Mrs. is snoozing on my shoulder. But with my old carrion-eating running partner in town, I’ve been granted a hall pass.

Usually, the arrival of a hall pass comes with the longing that someone might take it away. Any disruption to a routine family routine — even one as pleasant as the arrival of Uncle Buzzard — eventually leads to a thought like the plea of that poor kid in 16 Candles whose parents have forcibly dropped him off at the dance by his parents: “But I want to stay home with YOU GUYS.”

But there’s a lot of water — and malt, and hops, and barley, and Night Train — under the bridge with Uncle Buzzard, and it seems a shame to waste the opportunity to sample what’s going on at Meadhall. After all, here, at the growing nexus of tech and food that comprises surging Kendall Square, Meadhall has been hailed as an ice-breaking battleship of brew, firing its many taps out to a thirsty crowd of cybergourmets.

So, here we are, at the au courant beer bar of the moment — and it’s in my neighborhood. Not that I’ve been here before tonight, even though it opened six months ago.

Maybe we’re a little skewed in our perception, but here goes: the place is awful.

It’s like one of those disappointing peaches you bring home that goes from gorgeous to overripe and mealy overnight. Meadhall is all gleaming wood and shiny brass taps and a de rigueur chalkboard full of about eighty different beers that you’d love to try, if.you.could.only.get.the.damn.staff.to.point.you.in.the.right.direction.

Hello, maximal beer environment. It would help if you could supply us some kind of road map – because without one, my mood is going to turn downright crusty. I mean, Uncle Buzzard and I know our way around a beer list, okay?

We aren’t pros, but we’ve certainly popped the seal on quite a few of the micros floating around the local scene. We’ve both discovered one of the beauties of this great Craft Beer Revolution we’re now engulfed in — that if you don’t have time or stomach capacity to sit and drink all night (or bladder capacity, for that matter), a couple of those new eight or nine percenters pack enough wallop to medicate you through your kids’ bedtime.

But tonight, we’ve come for the long haul. We’re talking 11:15, 11:30, baby! To keep us upright, we ask for something soothing, something that might let us breathe after the sinus-clogging hop punch of the Ithaca Brewing Flower Power we downed while adapting to the Meadhall rogues’ gallery: nerds drinking in groups up front, nerds on dates in the back, gamely making their way through plates of Mussels and fries, and nerds showing off huge muscles and huger wallets at the bar.

Unfortunately, when we ask for something good, the bartender asks us another question right back. There isn’t much help forthcoming. Instead of helping us figure out what we want, we’re expected to know the whole damn board. In other words, the question “what do you want?” really kills our buzz.

Because we like a lot of beer, but we’re not here to order what we like, we’re here to try some stuff that you’d suggest. We expect you to have clued into what we’ve ordered already and come up with something that’s going to make us happy, but not feel like abandoning to the Subaru in an hour to go play lawn darts on the Common.

So guide us, we ask you, o Meadhall beer Valkyrie. Pour us something thirst quenching and session-able, something that will let a couple of old buddies recall the old times but also keep us from slurring our way through the tales of today. Because if you treat us right, we’re your dream customers — at your mercy, ready to over-tip for a kind word and a couple of sample styles to guide us through the two extra rounds we want to get through before we shuffle off into the night.

Instead, you mumble something about having enjoyed something that sounds like a “mackenkolsch” or “spackledonker” when you tried it and you hand us an overfoamed two-ouncer of thin black stuff — to share — and move on down the line to that pair of plaid-clad Google types who seem to have cicerone apps on their 4G Androids.

Me and Uncle Buzzard, well, we’ll have a Jack d’Or, because we know what that is — even though when we drink it, it’s even drier than that Flower Power, and we’re puckering like an Irish Spring commercial. Maybe it’s us — we’re admittedly out of practice — but I don’t think so. We aren’t asking for a sommelier. We don’t want complete descriptions. We just want someone who’s going to supplement what’s on the blackboard with a little bit of context, and maybe a few tasters poured by an experienced hand.

See, at a place like Meadhall, with its one-thousand-and-ten taps, it’s incumbent on the entire team to have tasted most of what’s on offer — or to at least be willing to admit the contrary and help us work through it together. And if that’s not possible, then hire a writer to churn out some kind of menu.

Because on this night of the Meadhall pass, what I’m saying is, that despite all of our good intentions, we didn’t have time to study up for the blackboard test. Can’t you please, somehow, make the exam open-book?

Tennessee is a contributor/new member of the Beer Drinking Report posse. He’s not that crusty, it’s just he gets a little cantankerous when he is five people deep in the beer line.