Thursday, May 12, 2011

Laru Ni Hoppy

As a city, Albuquerque continually earns its "quirky" status, and not just for its Isotopes baseball team or its famous submarine house, but also for the unusual way it mixes the urban landscape with rural ranches or splices old vaquero attitudes with cutting-edge nuclear research facilities.

And you can pretty much pinpoint the epicenter of quirk by traveling to the Nob Hill area. The roughly three-mile stretch of Central Avenue (formerly Route 66) just east of the University has grown into a convivial, primarily local, shopping area where the strip-mall store fronts mingle with 1950s era car dealerships converted to pubs, theaters converted to churches, and motels made of doll-heads. Nob Hill is a Candyland of mural art, neon lights, and and bric-a-brac.

Laru Ni Hati is one such decoupage store front with its retro-style neon tower sign which crowns the building to advertise "Hair," "Nails," "Skin," "Cards," and "Cigars." This hair salon has it all, with patio seating for its in-house Cubano grill, wine and cigar display cases, twirling postcard stands, and a billiards table. Stepping into Laru is a sensory adventure. The flooring is a mix of hardwood and smooth concrete that always fluctuates between some state of flat, ramp, or stairs. There are fabric panels suspended mysteriously, neon lights, metal-bead curtains, and lots of flat screen monitors--some showing classic film noir and others showing modern, bisexual phantasmagoria.

-Bisexual phantasmagoria?? Wait, how did I miss this?! I must have been too busy looking at the postcard towers! That's it, we're going back!

On a recent visit to Laru for their discount-price "late night" hair cut (honestly, this discount price is only one of two reasons I'll pay more than ten dollars for a haircut), Zach and I were delighted to find that included in the cost of our hair cut was a chance to taste a brew from the local Marble Brewery. (Can you guess the other reason?)

Fully clipped, trimmed, and thirsty, we paid our bills and took our Marble Reds onto the patio to enjoy. The New Mexico sky was thickening from periwinkle gossamer to navy blue velvet as we took our first sips.

The Marble Red possessed the perfect, creamy, lacy head of bubbles and that sultry, seductive red hue that just tempts you to drink it...drink it and like it. So drink I did, always forgetting that American reds are different from the reds drunk 'round the rest of the world. Most reds are characteristically sweet, or toffee-like, almost bordering on the side of caramel. In other words, I order a red and I'm thinking, "Mmmm, this is gonna' be sweet."

But then drinking the American red when one is expecting a red beer is a lot like meeting Mr. Hyde when you're expecting Dr. Jekyll.

Bitter. Bitter. Bitter. Admittedly, this is exactly what an American red should be (distinctly bitter with a distinctly hoppy edge)...but I am not a bitter beer person. When I taste the bitter of hops, I feel as if I am drinking the rain water collected off an airport tarmac. But that could just be me. Lots of people love and enjoy American reds. I am sure I might even know a few of them. So, maybe the female tongue was not made for that level of bitter. So for a fully appreciative discussion of the tarmac-sauce that is a fine American red beer, please refer to Zach.

I don't think Jenny gives enough credit to the female tongue (or its preferences for taste). Yes, the Marble Red is bitter, but more than that it's hoppy. It's hoppy like an IPA should be hoppy, only without the underlying sweetness I notice in a lot of pale ales. Granted, my experience with American reds is not as broad as I would like it to be. (You mean I have to try more beers to get there? Oh darn...) But even if it's not "tarmac-sauce" -- don't be discouraged by THAT description, folks! -- I don't feel like this particular brew is representative of the color.

The flavors are all there. But yeah... it's just too bitter for my preferences. Right off the top of my head, I can think of four or five Marble beers I would choose first. And yet, I fall right into the same trap Jenny does every time. "Red... that sounds good... I think I'll go for that!"

Admittedly, I feel I have to improve my knowledge of the beer type before I can give a good comparative analysis of the Marble Red. (Are reds -- like ambers -- so named more for the color and no other real definition, or are they christened more for their hops, their brewing process, their malts?) But I can say that the first sip of this beer, whether consumed fresh after a darn good hair cut (I recommend Liz's styling talents for men's hair and her knowledge of food in Buffalo, if you should be headed that way) or tasted any other time, kicks the back of my throat.

But that sensation mellows. And I finish the beer. Every time. So at least that's something.

1 comment:

  1. Hair cuts and beer? Sounds like a high-end salon to me (if you swap the beer for champagne). Fun!