Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Episode 17: Knoxville Beers Part I: World's Fair Beer with Justin Smith

I. Introduction 

Did you know that Asheville is Chinese for 'Heaven's Gate?'"
Jerry Sherman put this picture on his blog in 2016. 
We hope he doesn't mind us using it.  Cause it is perfect.
In 1982 something happened in Knoxville, Tennessee that shocked the world – dare I say it, it probably shocked Knoxville itself.  Knoxville became home to the World’s Fair.

By all accounts the event was a great success – today artifactual vestiges are scattered throughout the leafy hills of old East Tennessee – beer steins, pennants, shot glasses, and t-shirts abound at antique stores, the roads are dotted with signs that show distance in kilometers as well as miles, and of course the gleaming emblem of the fair, the glorious, golden Sunsphere stands as a majestic colossus, visible from anywhere in downtown Knoxville, including the nosebleed seats of the University of Tennessee’s old Neyland Stadium.

What many people don’t know, but absolutely should, is that a the story of the World’s Fair is tied intimately to a beer, a beer that was available for less than a year, a beer that even in its short tenure was sold with nine different can designs, making it an instant collectible, a triumph of marketing.

Alas, from all reports, the original version of World’s Fair Beer was - - - not good.  We can’t attest for that, given that your hosts were barely in elementary school when it was produced, but when we heard it was being reformulated and rereleased, this time as a 35 IBU pale ale, well, we just had to try it.

Today, on Pickled Eggs & Cold Beer, we’re talking about World’s Fair Beer.

Today's theme is Cripple Clarence Lofton's 1939 "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie." 

II. Our Guest, the Elegant Mr. Smith

Justin dancing for people, probably for money. 
III. Rubric

BeerAdvocate: 3.57 of 5

RateBeer: 3.15 of 5

Untappd: 3.32 of 5

ABV: 5.4%

Ingredients: We couldn't find a definitive list.  Sorry kids.

Cost: $ to $$

IV. Our Reviews and Talking Points

Appearance: Golden, unfiltered, dark and lovely, a good amount head that fades only gradually. Really lovely.

Aroma: Mild, hoppy.

Flavor:  Hoppy, citrusy - from the glass the aftertaste is a little rough (starchy) but good.  A nice hazy pale ale.

Mouthfeel: Unfiltered, pleasant.

Authenticity, Marketing, and Other Factors:  Uniquely tied to the history of the beer.  Really neat, if abbreviated, and utterly about Knoxville.  The cans are great - we'd love to see the other variants come out.

Overall:  Justin gave World's Fair a 3.5 of 5; Clayman awarded it a 3.4; and Eric gave it 3.25.

V. Sponsors

This episode was sponsored by two wonderful local businesses:

Leben Farms of Abingdon, Virginia

Leben Farms is a community supported-agriculture (CSA) program that offers locally grown fresh vegetables in weekly boxes to its members in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.  Using organic and regenerative practices to grow nutrient dense food, community-supported agriculture is a food production and distribution system that directly connects farmers and consumers. In short: people buy "shares" of a farm's harvest in advance and then receive a portion of the crops as they're harvested.

Check them out on Facebook or Instagram.


Glade Pharmacy in Glade Spring, Virginia
33472 Lee Hwy, Glade Spring, VA 24340

Locally owned and managed, Glade Pharmacy provides the highest quality pharmaceutical service in the Emory/Glade Spring area.

VI. Plugs

Knoxville, Tennessee

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Key West, Florida

Knoxville, Tennessee

Sloppy Joe's
Key West, Florida

Abingdon, Virginia

Abingdon, Virginia

VII. Further Reading and Viewing 

Tonja Burk & Grant Robinson. April 28, 2017. "World's Fair Beer is Back, 35 Years Later." 10 News.

Shannon Carey. April 19, 2017. "World's Fair Beer Relaunches With a New Recipe." Knoxville Mercury. 

Kelsey Leyrer. April 13, 2017. "World's Fair Beer Making a Resurgence in East Tennessee." WVLT8.

Tyler Whetstone. June 28, 2017. "Demand High for Revived World's Fair Beer." USAToday Network, via KnoxNews

MUST WATCH* "World's Fair Beer." Knoxville's PM Magazine. On YouTube. 

VIII. An Original Short Story by Justin Smith, "The Shitty Day of Larry Henry"
            On the morning of June 26th, Larry Henry woke, but not as he usually did.  Normally, Larry would have been drug groggily from sleep by the incessant grating buzz of his cheap, drugstore bought alarm clock; waking to the click that initiated the buzz and slapping madly to silence the thing.  Today, however, he awoke to a different sound. 

            As if the ground were being rent in half, the sound tore through the small bedroom/living room/kitchen/bathroom of Larry’s tiny apartment. 

            Larry, at 64 years of age, hurtled himself as best he could out of bed and hobbled to his only window to see what had caused such an amazing ruckus.  His movement, although slow, was executed just in time to be out of the way a massive pine tree that came crashing down onto the bed.  

            To anyone else, this would have been a devastating development, but for Larry it was just one more occurrence in what had turned out to be a pretty shitty life.  Although it was Friday, to Larry, it was just another Monday, in a life full of Mondays. 

            Larry stood, glaring by the literal forest now in his slash-everything apartment, and wondered what the inevitable next kick in the junk was to be, when he heard the faint click that preceded the sound he hated most in this world - the buzzing, now muffled by the mass of pine limbs and pine needles covering his bed.

Larry dropped his head and readied for work.  

            Thirty minutes later, Larry emerged from his apartment building to find that his car had also fallen victim to the huge pine tree. 

            Larry walked around to the side of the building, mostly to assess the damage.  He peered into the car to see how salvageable the thing would be; not at all, really.  He stood back and eyed the car one more time, and as he did he heard a faint click above followed by the nails-on-a-chalkboard buzzing of the alarm clock he was unable to turn-off because of the tree that was now making him late for work. 

            Larry’s shoulders slumped and he turned to begin the three-mile walk work.

            Although in his mid-60s, Larry Henry was decades away from retirement.  At the age when most people were considering hanging it up and settle into the golden years, Larry was focused on whether his employer would see fit to allow him to continue working. 

            His answer came when he walked through the door of his employer an hour past when Larry was required to report and saw the note sticking out of the slot where his punch-card should've been.  The note instructed Larry to immediately see his new boss, an upstart third son of the company's founder.  

            Upon reporting, Larry discovered that the little shit had been tallying every minute he deemed Larry to have been unproductive, and through some fabricated formula had decided that his most recent tardiness was the final straw.  So, after 30 years of backbreaking service, Larry was dismissed sans pension or severance.  None of Larry’s protests were heeded and he was summarily escorted off the premises.

            As Larry stood on the sidewalk just outside the property boundary of his now former place of employment, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.  He pulled it out flipped it open – because a basic pay-per-usage flip phone was all he could afford.  On the other end was his landlord – really, just a step above slumlord – informing Larry that he would be terminating his lease because, as the landlord insisted, the damage was Larry’s fault.  The explanation went as such: Larry, who had been living in the tiny studio for just over a decade, had long since begun parking in the same spot every day.  The spot was nothing more than a cut out on the side of the complex that housed Larry’s and 4 other small studio apartments.  The continual treading of the ground in this spot slowly wore away the earth in which the roots of the pine tree – now sitting in Larry’s slash-everything apartment – were planted.  With nothing to bind it to the ground, the tree toppled, causing immeasurable damage to Larry’s landlord’s most prized piece of real estate.  And it was because of this that Larry’s land/slumlord was currently evicting his meager belongings into the street. 

            As Larry’s landlord was finishing his explanation, Larry heard a faint click during a pause in his landlord’s word, followed by the distant buzzing of Larry’s daily morning nemesis.  

            Even in Larry Henry’s monumentally shitty existence, this was a markedly shitty day.

            Larry closed his phone and moved to slide it back into his pocket.  However, his fingers, numb and clumsy from the draining of all his energy and will to live, misjudged where the opening of his pants pocket was, and his phone fell to the concrete, shattering upon impact. 

            Larry stared at the phone for a long time thinking about absolutely nothing.  His mind honestly didn’t know where to begin, and Larry didn’t blame his mind, because how could anything concentrate given all that had just happened.  

            Zombie-like, Larry turned and shuffled down the sidewalk, because subconsciously he needed to do something.  Unfortunately, for Larry, he should have just stayed put.

            He had moved just 10 steps when a shout from his right turned Larry into the glare of the only Police Officer without something better to do.  

            The officer informed Larry that due to his negligence in cleaning up his mess, he had no choice but to fine Larry for littering.  Larry turned to see the remains of his phone, somehow staring at him with an imagined, but knowing smirk.  

            The officer asked Larry to present his ID, and when Larry reached for his wallet he found that in his effort to leave his tree-filled apartment to get to his former job, he had left his wallet behind; a wallet which had probably been carelessly tossed to the curb and was most definitely now freed from all manner of currency. 

            Larry accepted the stack of tickets from the officer with as much reluctance as he could muster, folded them, and then placed them – along with the remnants of his phone – in his pocket.  

            Larry continued down the sidewalk, moving with no purpose or destination.  At this point, Larry was too cowed to attempt anything, lest he be subject to more misery.  

            So, he walked, avoiding the bench which would collapse upon him sitting, steering away from the puddles of water that a car would run through careening water over him, giving everyone he passed a wide berth to escape any wayward run-ins.  

            Larry sidestepped, dodged and evaded all along the sidewalk, eyes unfocused and not paying any attention to where he was.

            After a time Larry stopped, his mind no longer able to drive his body.  His surroundings were a blur of objects that he was afraid to look at. 

            The blissful blankness of Larry’s thoughts were interrupted by the slightest of sounds, a faint click that ruptured his bubble of emptiness and ushered in the searing audible pain of a cheap drugstore bought alarm clock's buzzing.

            Larry’s head snapped up, and as he threw his head about wildly, he noticed a pile of junk that looked oddly familiar.  Seated upon the pile was indeed the alarm clock, the beveled red numbers flashing with each emanating buzz.  Of course, thought Larry, the thing would have a battery backup. 

            Larry walked over and silenced the alarm.  He thought of smashing the thing, but the crumpled wad of paper tickets in his pocket forced him to rethink his actions. 

            He stood looking at the pile, the material representation of his shitty life, and decided.

            Larry sifted through the pile, digging into every nook and cranny, gathering every bit of loose change he could find.  It wasn’t much, but he didn’t need much for what he was after.

            Carefully, almost gingerly, Larry made his way down the road to the corner market.  He entered with heeded caution, absolutely convinced he was walking in to a robbery.  

No robbery was taking place, and that was no small relief to Larry.  The reprieve of walking into a normal circumstance came more like a rainstorm in a desert than simply something that should always be.  

Maybe, he dared to think, things were turning around.  After all, how much bad stuff could happen in a day? 

From the front of the store, Larry could already see that which he wanted, and by now desperately needed. 

Standing before the rows of beer in glass fronted refrigerators, Larry eyed the prices.  His gaze, although longing, leapt immediately over anything larger than an eight in the dollar spot; he hadn’t counted the money in his pocket but was more than certain he needed to move further down the aisle. 

As he strode down the line of coolers he could sense the flavor being leached out of the products he passed.  

The edge he had felt since being woken by the tree needed taking off, but it would not be indulged.  

There were no specialty crafter delights in his future; nothing micro.  Larry would not bow to the king, or scale the Rocky Mountains.  Nor would he be living the high life.  Larry would not be palatably traveling overseas; his taste buds would not be crossing any international borders.  And he could not concern himself with carb amounts or blue ribbons. 

Larry drifted along the displays until settling on a product that the small amount of jingle in his pocket assured him he could obtain. 

In seizing the plastic ringed pack of cans, Larry was finally taking some control of his life, at least for the time being.

Larry's choice was simple, cheap, American.  Brewed from the purest water and choicest malt, barley and hops.  Born in the land of sky blue waters.  Yes, for Larry this day had only one solution, Hamm's beer 
No, Hamm’s didn’t have all the flurry and frills the many other beers cooling behind the glass had, but it had fermented sugars.  Sugars, which produced a chemical effect in the brain equivalent to dehydration, the effect of eliminating any sense of give-a-damn Larry had left. 

Triumphant for the first time in he didn’t know how long, Larry bounded to the counter, placed the sixer in front of the kid working the register and waited as he was rung up.  The cost presented, Larry dumped his financial gatherings on the counter, counted it out...and was a dollar short.  What should have been a fitting end to arguably the worst day ever, was not.  The kid, recognizing a person in need – why else would a person be counting change to buy beer – motioned for Larry to take off…with the Hamm’s.

No amount of kindness should ever be overlooked.

Larry wasn’t two steps outside before he tabbed open the first Hamm’s.  He stopped and chugged for all he was worth.  Like Steve Austin psyching up a crowd, Larry downed the beer.  

He deposited four of the remaining Hamm’s in various pockets, in case some wayward cop decided to take interest in Larry’s personal life, opened the fifth and headed off.  

At first, Larry’s swigs were discrete, but as day turned into night, he became more brazen with his public intoxication-ing. 

At three Hamm’s in, Larry finally began to reflect on what his life had begun.  At four Hamm’s in, he resolved to turn it all around.  At five Hamm’s in, Larry was convinced the world was out to get him.  

People were the worst, Larry mused as he sipped, they had caused this.  Larry was just Larry, a dude trying to make in a world dead set on seeing him fail.  Larry was done with people.  What was so great about them anyway?

Larry's mind trilled:

You know who never did Larry wrong?  Animals, that’s who. 

Larry liked animals.  Hell, he loved them. 

Animals really are the greatest.

You know what else is the greatest?  Hamm’s, that what.

Hamm’s, like ham.  See, they get it.

Larry liked ham, and Hamm’s.

Yep, Larry liked ham and ham came from pigs.

Therefore, Larry liked pigs. 

            Larry decided he was going to live with the only things that he liked, pigs.
            You know who had pigs?  Dave, that’s who.
            Yeah, Dave’s got pigs all over that barn of his.
            So, Larry went to Dave’s.

            It was late, hot.  The sun was just now going down.  No one saw as Larry drunkenly shimmied over the fence to Dave’s barn.  No one watched as he crept along the side of the barn looking for a way in.  And no one was there to watch Larry retrieve his last beer from a cargo pocket, toast the only friends he had in this cold dead world, and drink the now warm can of Hamm’s beer. 

            The rooting and squealing coming from his barn alerted Dave that something was wrong. 
            Dave groaned as he sat up and pulled on his boots. 
            I swear, thought Dave, if Larry’s gotten into that barn again, I’m calling the cops.
            Ten minutes later Dave was on the phone with the police.
            Upon arrival, Dave gave the police the story.
            One of the officers could’ve sworn he gave a bunch of tickets to a guy named Larry earlier that day.
            The officers entered the barn where Larry stood, naked, amid a heard of aggravated swine. 

            Fifteen minutes of coaxing could not convince Larry to leave the barn, and the cops were not going to try and tackle a naked drunk man in the middle of a bunch of pissed off pigs.  

            Finally, the cops were forced to ask the man what he was doing.

            Larry replied with the first and only thing that came to mind. "I just like pigs.”

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