Before “Girls are beergeeks too” there was…

I recently committed to paper a tale that happened to me a long time ago. . .I was just talking to Gene, the owner of Barclay’s Pub in Oakland about this incident yesterday, so I decided to post it for all to view. If you have the time, read on for one of my more embarrassing beer moments.

Years ago, when we were first getting into beer, and I was a bit younger, it was not expected that women knew anything about craft beer. In fact, in my experience, it was assumed that females knew little or nothing about beer. Being young, female, and a budding craft beer drinker, I have to say that I was a little bit full of myself. I wanted to show that I was a real craft brew drinker and not a silly girl who didn’t know anything about beer. I admit that I felt I had something to prove. With that as a set up into my psyche at the time, I’ll tell you one of my most humbling experiences in those early days.

I was working at a pub in Oakland called Barclay’s. It was ground zero for our love of beer and for many years was the center of our world. I was really very new to waitressing and had a bit of the above mentioned attitude to go with it. I thought I could pretty much handle anything or at least bullshit my way through. Anyway, there was a patio, not really a beer garden per se, and it was a great place to drink beer in the warm sunny days of Fall in the East Bay. It was early in my shift and a table of 5 German men sat themselves outside. Being good German patriots, they ordered 5 hefeweizens. I came bounding up to the bar to place my order with Gene, the owner. I had no care in the world, as this was my first table of the day, and I had no idea of the life altering disaster to come.

Gene carefully placed the tall, top heavy hefeweizen glasses of beer on my tray. “You might want to take these out in two trips”, cautioned Gene. “Nah, I can do it”, replied an overly confident, clueless me. For a nanosecond I did consider Gene’s warning and decided that I should open the door to the patio. I realized that I probably could not open the door holding the tray of 5 frothing 23 oz beers. I returned to the bar and carefully slid the tray away from the bar, being ever so vigilant of my hand placement in order to balance the tray. I walked slowly, carefully toward the door, one deliberate step at a time. “So far so good” I thought to myself. “See, what does Gene know?” I continued forward, watching the beers with great intensity for any sign of danger. I monitored the beers so closely that I knew every peak and valley in the heads of each beer. With each step I was closer to showing Gene that he underestimated my waitressing capabilities. With each step, I also took a quiet sigh of relief, never letting on about the nervousness and adrenaline rushing through my veins. “Phew, I made it out the door. And gee, here I am at the table.” I slowly bent my knees to place the tray on the table. “Careful. . . .careful . . . Atta girl, the tray is in contact with the table. Breathe now.”

However, it took mere seconds before my relief turned to horror. The tall beers began to teeter. Being the skilled waitress and beer drinker I was, I took immediate action to prevent major beer spillage. I went for the one beer that I thought would topple all the others. But then another one started to go down and in one quick second all the glasses were horizontal and beer was gushing out. It was like a dam breaking with swirling golden liquid doing it’s best to get out of the glass and onto the lap of my customer. At the same time, the gentleman to my left jumped up and with a swoosh, he had a waterfall of beer running down his legs. I think he muttered something in German, but I don’t quite remember. The initial torrent eventually slowed to a trickle and finally to the rhythmic drip of a leaky faucet.

I was both horrified and mesmerized by what I had just seen. But with a quick shake of the head, I brought myself to my senses. I grabbed the emptied beer glasses and up righted them on the table. Then with the swiftness and clear-mindedness of an emergency response worker, I quickly ran into the bar to get towels. As I got closer to the bar, I looked up and there was Gene with a bit of a smirk and a hint of an “I told you so”. “Just give me the damn towels. I’ll deal with you later”, I thought as I dashed back outside.

I don’t remember too much more about the customers except for the cold stares of intense anger and the muttered German profanity. I think I apologized profusely, tried to help them dry off, and got them new beers that were, of course, on the house. With the flow of beer halted and the anger of a wet customer subsiding (never underestimate the calming effect of a free beer), I went slinking back into the bar with tail between my legs. As it turns out, from the safety of the bar, Gene watched the whole thing go down. Gene was never one to argue too stubbornly when a person thought they were right. So when I said that I could take all the beers out with no help and no trouble, he just sat back and said “Oh kaaaay”. You know the type of “Okay”, the one with the silent “You’ll be sorry” at the end.

One thing about Gene is that he loves to tell stories from behind the bar. And who was he to prevent such a good story from unfolding? He loved every minute of what ended up being the most devastating tragedy of my waitressing career! From that point on, my story became part of Gene’s repertoire. He told it to anyone and everyone for weeks, until just about all the regulars had heard it. It took months, but eventually the story was relegated to urban legend status and was only sporadically dusted off for new comers. Ya know, to this day, I am still a bit weary of hefeweizens. Not because of the huge head that you stick your whole nose into before you actually get to the beer, not because of the strong clove and spice flavors, but because of the bulbous top heavy shape of the glass. I shudder every time one is placed in front of me, traumatized by that horrible scene flashing before my eyes. The world begins to spin and I sway on my bar stool until I grasp the beer tightly and don’t let go. Only after the beer has been safely drained from the glass and into my butterfly-filled belly do I relax. “Ah, another step toward recovering from the little mishap I simply call “the incident”.