Friday, December 19, 2008
Meat By The Bottle
I grew up in a small town by the name of Lambertville, NJ. It quietly sits along the Deleware River exactly where George Washington made his historic crossing on Christmas day. Every year on Christmas morning they reinact the event for locals and tourists that make the trip to Washington’s Crossing Park.
I try to get home as much as I can because I enjoy spending time with my family, but there’s a charm about the place that I appreciate more and more as I get older. Others that travel there for the first time will remark how quaint and cozy it is, and even though it is unbelievably quaint, almost cartoonish, I just like getting lost on the backroads and spending time in an environment that moves slower than my home in Chicago.
One thing that I try to do while home is go to a small butchershop named Meresca’s Country Style Provisions that’s located in Sergeantsville, NJ just north of Lambertville. When home for Thanksgiving we paid a visit to the two owners Joe and Emil, a duo that’s owned the place for longer than I’ve been breathing. In a world of automation and efficiency, these guys dig their heels in and run their business in a historic, wonderfully outdated fashion. All their meat is locally raised by men they trust before coming to them whole. If you want a certain cut at a certain size, then they’ll hobble back and open the wooden cooler door to grab the appropriate side and cut it for you then and there. If you’re in a rush, then you’re shopping at the wrong place. Emil has been standing over a butcher's block for so long breaking down meat that he stands at almost a right angle. My friend remarked that soon he’ll have to mount mirrors to the tops of his shoes so that you can look him in the eye when speaking to him. After you’ve made all your choices, you’ve chatted a bit and collectively added up the total sale(they might have been math wizards in their day, but these days it’s a group process), you pay for your goods and are on your way. It’s expensive, out of the way, time consuming and perfect.
The point is, the hand carved experience speaks to the craft beer world and why it feels the way it does. Sure, large macro brewers make beer that’s technically sound and as stable and predictable as any beer you’ll purchase, but a brewer that’s walking his beer from grain to glass takes part in a terrifically rough process filled with a personality that we all can appreciate. The beer might come out differently than it had last time, and maybe there was a hop substitution because all the Columbus were gone for the year, but I’ll take the chance every time. My family and I could go to one of the large grocers and buy meat for less, but we’d be cheating ourselves out of a rich experience. So, have a great Holiday and make sure to treat yourself to some hand-carved goods in any form you can find them.
I’m going to start by drinking quality hand-made beer and eating outstanding meat.
Right here in Chicago you can find hand-made beer sold here and an outstanding butcher right down the street here.
Half Acre Beer Co