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Previous Pint Pleasures - September 1998

Guinness Eileen

Ram Restaurant and Big Horn Brewery, 3001 Ruston Way, Tacoma

It was fate which directed my visit to the Ram one recent Wednesday. My friend Celia and I had taken the afternoon off to drive down to Tacoma and visit the Point Defiance Zoo. After a couple hours spent watching koalas sleep, listening to walruses grumble, and getting spit on by Beluga whales, we decided to stop in at the Ram on the waterfront for a beer.

As we were stopped on narrow two-way Ruston Way waiting to make a left turn into the parking lot, we heard an ear-shattering, horrendous crash of metal somewhere behind us. I whirled around to see how close the accident was and to make sure we weren't about to be involved. The large white pickup truck directly behind us, now only a couple of inches away from our car, had been rear-ended by a large blue pickup truck going at full speed. The offending truck's front end was completely smashed in, fluid gushing into the glass-pebbled street from the grotesquely disfigured conglomeration of metal. The driver of the blue truck didn't appear to be hurt but was obviously very shook up; the white pickup didn't look too badly damaged, but its driver kept rubbing the back of his neck as if he had a nasty whiplash -- or at least that's what he intended to tell his lawyer. We stuck around and watched the firefighters sweep up the fluid; and then we gave our account to the motorcycle cop for his report. Finally we headed into the Ram for our now-much-needed pints.

The Ram's decor, although suggestive of sports bars and frat parties, is interesting. The ceiling is composed of several wooden A-frames cantilevered against each other, and there's a sign which proclaims the Ram as "Washington's tallest bar". Hanging from the ceiling are several biplane models, a shark wearing Hawaiian shorts, and a full-length crew boat complete with oars. Dangling from the oars and tacked around the ceiling are the pendants of local high schools and colleges -- "encouraging kids to drink," as Celia concluded. The ceilings are supported by several impressively wavy brick columns which probably look wavier depending on how many pints one has imbibed -- although there is also a full bar with several kinds of tequila displayed prominently, so this would probably be a faster route to the waviness. The Ram also boasts the largest TV in Tacoma, a nine-screen cube wall supposedly visible from across the bay. (There is also a Ram Restaurant and Big Horn Brewery in Lakewood and one in Puyallup, as well as the University Village Ram currently being remodeled in Seattle.)

The Big Horn beers, brewed on the premises, include Washington Blonde, Buttface Amber, Big Red Ale, Big Horn Hefeweizen, Total Disorder Porter, Fruit Pale Ale, Big Horn Light, and Head Butt Pilsner. I was hoping to have a pint of Buttface Amber, brewed with five malts and four hops; but a small taster of the stuff brought to mind radiator fluid trickling through a streetful of honey. So I opted for a pint of the cask-conditioned IPA (similar to the Big Red Ale, according to the waitress) instead. The first sip grabbed the back of my throat in a sickening grip while screaming "YEAST!" Succeeding sips were awful, like...there was something on my shoes. Wait -- it's not dog urine, and it's not cat feces; it's more like bird shit! No, not's...skunk! Yikes, get the tomato juice out, quick! Yes, I think "skunk" fits the best. I can feel the skunk's white stripe trotting down my tongue, like the yellow line we were trying to cross on Ruston Way when the truck behind the truck behind us made that hideous sound: EEEEIIIIRRRRRRKKKKKKKHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRASHXXXXXXX!!! Yes, that's the sound of this skunky beer! Celia had the Big Horn Hefeweizen, which was also slightly yeasty, but it's somewhat tempered by the lemon. Perhaps weiss beers can tolerate more skunkiness because they're weiss, or white: this beer tasted like a pure white stripe with no black fur on the sides -- not like the bad road kill I was trying to force down.

Sad to say I didn't finish my pint: and Celia, who was driving, drank very little of hers. Unfortunately the Ram doesn't offer half pints, which is an unfortunate thing in this DUI-conscious day and age. Nevertheless it was Happy Hour, so our pints were a dollar cheaper. It's normally a sinful tragedy to waste half a pint of fine beer; but in this case I think it was justified.

I couldn't help wondering on the way home about that two inches -- the two inches between the white pickup and our car. In other words, the two inches that saved us from being crunched in a rush-hour accident and possibly being towed back to Seattle. If it weren't for those two inches we never would have made it inside the Ram. If it weren't for those two inches I never would have tasted that skunky IPA. Up to this point I never understood what the standard beer-tasting term "skunky" referred to. Was the purpose of this twist of fate merely to educate me? Or was there more to it -- a godsend, so to speak, so that Celia and I could return home on time and uninjured? Was this an example of the Butterfly Effect at work? If those two inches hadn't existed -- if the driver of the white pickup truck had just been fired from his job, for instance, and wasn't paying enough attention to braking properly -- would we have made it home safely? What if the driver of the blue pickup truck had decided to reunite with his estranged wife that day instead of taking his usual route down Ruston Way?

(For readers who aren't familiar with the Butterfly Effect, it's a chaos theory concept which states that a seemingly insignificant act -- like the single flap of a butterfly's wings in Thailand -- has the potential to create a cascading chain of events which could ultimately result in a tornado in Kansas. I've written an entire novel based on the Butterfly Effect which will soon be available for downloading from a new electronic publishing website. But more on that later...)