Those Damn National Geographic Expeditions

by Bob Sparrow

NGEIt’s that damn National Geographic Expeditions issue! It arrives at the end of the year with pages of colorful photos that only National Geographic can take, and details of exotic expeditions to places only National Geographic would go and only the very wealthy can afford. I read through it with recognition of some places that I’ve been, but mostly with frustration for the many places I haven’t been and will never get to. So many destinations, so little time. Note to kids: start traveling early!

Expeditions is arranged geographically: North America, South America, Europe, Eurasia, Asia, Africa, Middle East, Oceania, Australia and Polar Regions. Polar Regions? Only National Geographic would plan a trek to Santa’s workshop. I start to peruse the North America section, and an idea comes to me; rather than sit at home and get frustrated while reading about all the places I’m not going, I decide to take this issue to the local Yard House, a pub known for it’s multiple foreign beers, belly up to the bar and travel to these exotic destinations . . . in beer. Not wanting to ‘drink, dream and drive’, I call Uber, which drops me off at my local Yard House – so many beers, so little time. Note to kids: Don’t live close to a Yard House.

As I survey the plethora of beers proffered by the Yard House, it occurs to me that were I to follow the Nationalyard house Geographic Expeditions page-by-page and beer-by-beer, I’d need a liver transplant by the time I got to the end of my driveway, so I take a measured approach and commit to drink only sample-sized beers that I’ve never had before, hoping to both quench my thirst and my travel lust simultaneously.

Expeditions’ first destination in the North America section is Costa Rica; now I haven’t had any beer yet, but I’m already confused.  All this time I thought Costa Rica was in Central America, but who am I to argue with National Geographic? I break the rule about only tasting beers that I’ve never tasted before as I see an Imperial, Costa Rica’s most popular beer. The flavor takes me back a few years to when I was in Costa Rica golfing and zip lining through the rainforest; not at the same time, although my golf score might indicate otherwise. It’s a good start as I turn the page and find myself in Cuba. I ask for a Bucanero, Cuba’s most popular beer, but while the US-Cuba trade agreements are starting to relax, there is still no importing of Cuban products to the US. I say, “What about an Hatuey” (“Gesundheit!”). Hatuey was once the pride of Havana, but is now brewed in Baltimore, which is at least still on the North American continent, I think. They don’t have that either. They have a Puerto Rico beer, Old Harbor; I try it – close but no cigar.

Cabo catchI turn the page and find myself in Cabo San Lucas – the site of my ill-fated fishing trip in 2012. Click on this link to revisit if you’d like – I can’t! http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=712. My favorite Mexican beer is Modelo, I decide that the rule about only drinking sample-sized beers is a bad rule and down a Modelo to help erase the memory of the fishing trip. I quickly turn the page and find myself in Alaska asking about a beer called the Double Bastard Ale. It’s quite good and remember that the rule about only drinking sample-sized beers is no longer in force so I order a pint of the Bouble Dastard. I’m starting to feel a little jet-lagged or something, and ask Ron, the tar bender, to tell me what other erotic beers he’s got.   He says “Einstock, a beer from Iceland”. I ask if that’s on the North American condiment; he tells me that I left North America several hours ago. Wow, that was quick, this traveling by beer could really catch on.

I decide that I’m having only one more beer today (OK, maybe Ron decided), but I’m not making it a rule, as I don’t do too well with those,Weihenstephan and ask Ron to make the incision about what beer that should be. He says, “Let’s end at the beginning,” which at this point sounds completely logical to me, so he pours me a Weihenstephan, and says, “This beer is from a little town in Bavaria, considered to be the oldest existing brewery in the world.” He continues, “ 1040 is when they started brewing beer there.” I look at my watch and see that it is now 2:40 and am confused, but I guess travel will do that to you. It seems I’ve had enough ‘beer travel’ for one day and call Uber.

Note to kids: Do NOT book your travel through Yard House.