Sifting through Joe’s mailbag

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Lately, my mailbox has been overflowing with perplexing questions about proper beer-drinking conduct.

Personally, Joe Sixpack has only two rules:

1. Never put your head on the bar.

2. Do not attempt to dance.

But these are complicated days, and many Daily News readers are hopelessly confused. As a public service, I offer these solutions to your completely fabricated beer etiquette questions.

Yo, Joe: When my buds and I go bar-hopping, we usually take turns buying rounds. The problem is, I’m drinking Yuengling Lager while these guys are sucking down Belgian ales that cost twice as much as Pottsville’s best. I feel like I’m subsidizing their expensive taste. Should I complain?

– Barley Whiner

Dear Whiner: The way I see it, you’ve got exactly two options here:

A. Get new friends, you cheapskate. The ones you’ve got will be glad to see you go. They’re probably embarrassed to be seen with you, the way you gripe about shelling out a couple extra bucks for a Chimay. Maybe you think you’d be better off just drinking alone, but then you’d be sitting miserably at the end of the bar, striking out every time you try to pick up that cute waitress. Then she’ll file a protection order against you, and you’ll get even more depressed and wind up sleeping in a Dumpster.

B. Drink better beer. See, isn’t that a whole lot easier?

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Yo, Joe: I just bought a case of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale with a bottle cap that was marked “2000. ” I thought that meant it was brewed last year, to be sold this winter. But when I got it home, I discovered it was actually brewed in 1999, and it had been sitting at the distributor for a whole year. I think I was duped. Do I deserve a refund?

– Unhoppy

Yo, Unhoppy: Beer dates are a confusing mess. Sometimes it means the date the contents were brewed; other times it’s an expiration date. For the record, the year on Bigfoot bottle caps refers to its release date, which is in January of each year. The current crop is marked “2001. ”

Like most barleywines, Bigfoot can easily last a year or more without going stale. (I’ve kept it up to three years with no serious problems, though it tends to go flat. ) Your beer is probably drinkable, as long as the distributor kept it out of the sun.

But your gripe is legit, especially if the distributor was selling the beer as this season’s vintage. You expected a fresher beer, maybe with more hop character than that of a year-old vintage.

If you’re unhappy, the distributor should buy back that case. Only a disreputable businessman will turn you away. If he does, tell the shyster you’re taking your business somewhere else.

(Sixpack note: “Unhoppy” now informs me that Sierra Nevada reps have responded to his plight. And his distributor, Kunda Bros. of King of Prussia, has offered an unconditional money-back guarantee.

(“If only tire companies, DSL service providers and car companies were so cordial and dedicated to customer service,” says Unhoppy.)

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Yo, Joe: I’m hosting a party. Should I hide the good stuff or share it with my friends?

– Abbie Double

Yo, Abbie: Your friends are obviously undeserving losers, and so are you for asking such a stupid question. So hide the beer. Better yet, send it to me at the address below.

Look, the time to pull out the good stuff is at parties. It’s your best chance to compare notes, and maybe upgrade your friends’ tastes.

That can be a tough one to swallow when some Busch-leaguer cracks open your last bottle of 5-year-old Thomas Hardy’s Ale. Let your friend have a taste; if he gags, hand him a bottle of Saranac and pour the good stuff into a fresh glass for yourself.

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Yo, Joe: How much should I tip the bartender?

– Bud Wiser

Yo, Bud: A minimum of a buck a round, even if it’s just a single pint of ale. Bartenders hate loose change.

It may not seem fair that you’re obliged to tip, but remember: Your bartender controls your destiny. You can either sit all night with an empty glass, or enjoy prompt service.

And don’t forget to tip when you get a complimentary round. Otherwise, why would your bartender bother to give you another freebie?

*

Yo, Joe: What if you bring a great sixpack to a party, and nobody touches it. Do you get to take it back home?

– Fatima Yechbergh

Yo, Fatima: I wonder why your sixpack went untouched. Is it possible you were mooching off your host’s stash of Thomas Hardy’s?

Whatever. Leave the suds.

They’re a gift.

Beer Radar

Temple University’s Liacouras Center and its concessionaire, Aramark, deserve a technical foul for unsportsmanlike beer vending. For the past couple weeks, the arena has been selling off old, old bottles of Poor Henry’s Awesome Ale.

How do I know they’re old?

Because Poor Henry’s filed for bankruptcy last summer and the brewery has been padlocked ever since. That means the suds Aramark has been pawning off on its unsuspecting customers for four bucks a pop is at least 8 to 10 months old. Unlike strong ales, this beer was intended to be consumed within two or three months of bottling. But if these bottles had a born-on date, they’d be old enough to file for Social Security benefits.

I called Aramark to complain, but I wasn’t expecting much. These are the same guys responsible for the suspect ballpark grub at the Vet.

Nonetheless, when I informed concession boss Ron Drake that beer is, in fact, a perishable product, he promised to pull the stale ale from the shelves. . .

Meanwhile, Owls fans thirsty for a decent brew on arid North Broad Street may be finally getting some relief. Temple officials say the long-awaited Draught Horse 300-seat saloon next door to the arena should be open by the end of the month. . .

Back to Henry Ortlieb, word on the street is that he might be hooking up with Independence Brewing honchos in a contract brewing deal. I couldn’t locate Ortlieb, but Independence president Bill Moore confirmed there have been talks.

Like Poor Henry’s, Independence’s Northeast Philadelphia brewery has been shut for almost a year. Most of the equipment was sold, to breweries in Jamaica, Colorado (Breckenridge) and California (Anderson Valley), and Moore said the company is still in debt.

Moore, who brews at Phoenixville’s Sly Fox and Pottstown’s Sunnybrook brewpubs, declined to offer any details. But he dropped hints it may involve a contract deal with Lion Brewing in Wilkes-Barre.

“We still have a ray of hope that we can revive Independence,” Moore said. . .

Do not be deceived: Killarney’s Red Lager, which just arrived in this area and claims to be brewed with “the finest Irish malts,” is yet another Anheuser-Busch product. . .

In other megabrewery developments, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports A-B will roll out a new “super-premium” beer. It’s supposed to be called Red Label Budweiser, which makes me wonder about this obsession with beers named “Red. ” By my count, that would make 60 different reds registered in Pennsylvania, from Red Stripe to New Amsterdam Tropical Xtremes Red. . .

Yes, it’s true, Nodding Head’s Old Willy’s Ghost – brewer Brandon Greenwood’s fantastically smooth, head-rocking 9 percent barleywine – is named after William Reed. He’s the onetime head brewer at Sam Adams’ Brewhouse that formerly occupied the brewpub’s location at 1516 Sansom St. Reed is now co-owner of Standard Tap (2nd and Poplar streets, Northern Liberties). . .

New on tap at Ludwig’s Garten (1315 Sansom St., Center City): Mad King’s Weiss. The strong wheat beer is made specially for the German tavern by Downingtown’s Victory Brewing. Co-owner Paul Olivier says he’ll introduce it next week at a bargain $2 a pint. Also coming: four more taps, to join the 17 already overflowing with hard-to-find Bavarians. . .

Ex-Phillies reliever Tug McGraw gets a chance to pitch the yeast on Tuesday at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (Church and State streets, Media). He’ll serve as guest brewer for a special batch of Bullpen Red Irish Ale. Then the Tugger will return on March 7 to pour the brew and throw out the first drunk. Proceeds from the ale sales go to Family and Community Service of Delaware County.

Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a glass of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

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