Tombstone Brewing Company – Tombstone, AZ

Located at 107 E Toughnut St, Tombstone, AZ 85638
Open Sun-Sat 11a-7p
https://tombstone.beer

Part 3 of a 3-part series called “A Better Life.” Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Classy Alcoholic had reached the end of the line. I traveled through half the state of Arizona looking for a way to improve my lifestyle while still maintaining my dedication to craft beer. But like a pet hamster trying to escape a closed fanny pack I came up against nothing but barriers. I met a fitness enthusiast and a cycling enthusiast who were both happy to take me under their respective wings but I knew that their paths weren’t for me. So I went south toward Tombstone, a place commonly referred to as “The Town Too Tough To Die.” I was looking for somewhere to bury my ambitions deeper than the pet hamster that accidentally got trapped in my fanny pack. I figured this might as well be the place.

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Tombstone Brewing Company opened in February of 2017 and in the short time they’ve been around they’ve developed a stellar reputation for making great beer. Their brewer is well studied with lots of experience in the industry and even a few awards under his belt. I almost felt like this place was too good for the likes of me. It was like walking in to a Macy’s when their stuff wasn’t on clearance.

I sat at the bar and scoped out the beer menu with the eight brews on tap. A very large man, easily 300 pounds, sat a few stools down from me. I could tell he was staring me down but I avoided eye contact. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to another person who wasn’t a bartender.

“Hey, kid!” the guy called out to me. Shit. I really didn’t want to acknowledge him. “You’re The Classy Alcoholic, ain’t you? I’ve read your stuff. You’re hilarious!”

“Why yes I am, my new friend!” I said as I quickly took the barstool next to him. Maybe he wasn’t that bad. “Very nice to meet you, Mister…”

“I ain’t no mister to you. You can just call me Ike. Here, lemme get you a beer. All your drinks are on me today.”

It was possible I may have misjudged this large gentleman. He asked the bartender to pour me Tombstone’s Dank Fruit Double IPA. It was an excellent beer with a strong hoppy taste and a lot of citrusy, tropical notes. It was smooth but strong and absolutely delicious.

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“What are you doing out in my neck of the woods?” Ike asked me.

“I don’t even know, honestly. I’ve been roaming the state looking for A Better Life. But I can’t seem to find anywhere I fit in. My Arizona craft beer family is open to helping me. But their lives are so much different than mine. Do you know how many people who love craft beer also love hiking and biking and working out? A shitload of them! Back in my day people drank because they didn’t want to do anything physically active and just sat on the couch watching TV and yelling at my mom because dinner was cold. But it was a frozen Hungry Man dinner in a box and we couldn’t afford a microwave.”

“I get it, Mr. Classy. I’m just like you. Booze and exercise don’t mix, far as I’m concerned. And what’s with this ‘foodie’ bullshit all over the internet the kids are doing? You’re supposed to eat the food, not take pictures of it! Speaking of which, I’m getting hungry.” Ike pulled a fried chicken leg out of his pocket and started chowing down. “Sorry, how rude of me. Do you want some of this?”

He pulled out a second leg out of his other pocket and offered it to me. I swiped it and was about to bite into the delicious, crispy dark meat but stopped myself at the last second.

“Wait, do I have to do a pushup or run a fucking lap before I can eat this?”

“What? No, why would I give a shit? Just eat it!”

I got a sample of an Imperial Stout brewed with piloncillo, a Mexican brown sugar. It was a heavy, strong beer at 10.7%ABV and it had an excellent sweet finish to it. The roasty notes from the porter accentuated the spice from the pants chicken and it was surprising how well the sweetness melded with it.

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“I think you’re looking for answers in the wrong places, Classy. Why do you need to lift weights or get on a bike? I’ve read your blog. Your life is drinking and dick jokes. You should embrace that.”

“I thought so too but my lifestyle doesn’t exactly lean toward longevity. I used to be super skinny and in good shape in my early twenties. Now I’m doughy and after I drink heavily I don’t know which is worse, the hangover or the heartburn.”

“I can help you there, kiddo. There’s a reason I live in The Town Too Tough To Die. Because I am as well. What would you say if I told you that I’ve been alive for 170 years?”

“I’d ask if you were a Highlander.”

“No, I’m not. It’s totally different. Plus, that’d be copyright infringement. No, I found the key to eternal life over a century ago. I used to be young and skinny too. I met a bunch of other Immortals just like me. They were jacked and had six pack abs. But they all ended up dead. Strength invites a challenge. And these sexy guys with big ol’ pecks all got their heads cut off by their enemies over the years. That’s the only way we Immortals can die, apparently.”

“That’s just being a Highlander, dude.”

“I’M NOT A FUCKING HIGHLANDER!” Ike clutched his chest and started sweating and breathing heavily. His face turned beet red and then turned red onion purple.

“Holy shit, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, I just have a whole bunch of heart attacks when I get riled up. But they can’t kill me. Nothing can! I have every disease in the book. Heart disease, lung disease, brain cancer, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, yellow fever, valley fever, dengue fever, Beaver Cleaver fever, breast cancer, herpes, cataracts and seasonal goddamn allergies. I’ve been shot, stabbed and buried alive more times than I can count. But nothing has brought me down yet! And you can live the amazing life I live if you want.”

I sipped a sample of Tombstone’s Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Rye barrels as I thought about Ike’s offer. The brewery’s stout was delicious in and of itself but it definitely benefitted from the boozy flavor of the rye whiskey. And at 11%ABV it had the strength I was looking for. I spent so much time worrying about my heavy drinking and eating of garbage food, stressing about what it was doing to my body…but if I lived like Ike then I knew I wouldn’t give a fuck. Maybe his carefree life was as luxurious and fulfilling as it sounded.

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“Bartender!” Ike shouted. “Give me a refill of this IPA with some lard on the rim. Like salt on a margarita except lard.”

“Um. We don’t have lard here, guy,” the bartender said.

“Goddammit. Well good thing I carry my own.” Ike reached into the front pocket of his bowling shirt and grabbed a palmful of lard that he then spread on the rim of his empty glass. The bartender worked really hard to not throw up as he poured the beer.

“So what’s the catch, Ike?”

“No catch,” he said as he sipped his lard beer. “I just think someone with your lifestyle you wouldn’t wanna fear death.”

“But doesn’t the fear of death push us to better ourselves? Knowing our time is limited makes us want to achieve more with the short lives we have. Otherwise we just…wander aimlessly. We have nothing to live for if we can’t help but live, right?”

“That’s a bullshit lie, Classy! Fear is slavery. I’m offering you absolute freedom. Death is a rule that everyone thinks they have to follow. But I break those rules ‘cause I’m a goddamn outlaw. That’s why I live in Tombstone. And you’re meant to be an outlaw like me. I can see it in you!”

Everything Ike was saying appealed to me. I drank another beer sample. It was their Strong Scotch Ale aged in Islay Scotch casks. It was a super smoky and caramely beer. The smoke was so intense, it wasn’t for the faint of heart (like Ike ‘cause it would probably give him a bunch of literal heart attacks again) but I loved every sip. I think I was ready for what Ike had to offer.

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“Alright, let’s close out your tab and talk about how I can become an Immortal like you, Ike.”

“That’s funny. You think I’m actually gonna pay this tab.”

“Wait…what? You have to pay. You can’t steal from a local brewery. Besides, you must’ve given them your credit card.”

“It’s a fake card, Classy! I’m an expert at sneaking out on my tabs undetected. Meet me outside and we’ll bail on this loser joint together!”

Ike ran to the back of the brewery toward their patio but he had trouble getting through the crowd and crashed into a bunch of tables on his way outside. He knocked a lady’s purse onto the floor and as she bent down to pick it up he grabbed her beer off the table and chugged it. He tried to walk out the back door but he couldn’t fit. He reached into his shirt pocket for more lard and rubbed it on the entire doorframe. He tried again to squeeze through but he still wouldn’t fit so he turned sideways and wiggled himself like a giant penguin through the frame using the lard as lubricant.

“Is that Fat Highlander trying to run out on his tab?” the bartender asked me.

“Yeah. I’ll catch him for you.”

I went to the back patio and saw Ike hunched over, clutching his chest, probably having a bunch more heart attacks because he had to walk a few feet.

“Ike, you can’t screw over this place. My whole career is built on supporting small businesses like this place.”

“This brewery ain’t shit! When you’ve lived as long as I have you don’t get attached to anything because bars come and go all the time. I used to drink at a joint here in town a hundred years ago that only served toilet whiskey and had a second floor full of just, like, the grossest hookers. But it closed down after a huge fire because toilet whiskey is super flammable, apparently. I mourned the bar for decades. But then I realized there would always be another place to drink. Always.”

“I know what it’s like to not get attached. I travel through the state drinking alone. I don’t have many friends or family anymore. Hell, I don’t want either. When I met you I thought you were the person who could truly help me build A Better Life. But I can’t deny that I am attached to something. And it’s my local Arizona breweries. They’re what keeps me going. And if being an outlaw means we’re gonna steal beer from them then I can’t join you.”

Ike reached under his lard-stained bowling shirt and pulled out a revolver that he cocked and pointed at me. I reflexively closed my eyes and put my hands up in front of my face.

“Do you feel that fear, Classy? The fear of death? You’re a slave to it just like everyone else.”

I panicked as I waited for the sound of the gunshot. Ike had trouble shooting the weapon because his index finger was covered in lard and it kept slipping off the trigger. I started thinking about everything that led me up to this point. My shitty, drunk, fat lifestyle…the difficulty of trying to make it all better…the failures I encountered every step of the way. I pictured the greasy bullet passing through me and imagined the calm that would come afterward. The moment of rest and inner peace as I let all of my burdens go. The lack of fear.

I put my hands down and opened my eyes. I looked at Ike and stood defiantly in front of him.

“I’m not afraid anymore, Ike. Do what you have to do.”

He managed to finally pull the trigger and I didn’t flinch…and then a stream of lard squirted out of the revolver and landed on the floor.

“Aw, fuck! I brought the wrong gun! This one shoots lard. I left the bullet one at home.” Ike squeezed the trigger a couple more times into his mouth as the Tombstone Brewing bartender came out to the patio with a police officer in tow. Ike got arrested for trying to skip out on his tab.

“Dammit, Classy. We could’ve had a beautiful partnership. The two of us could’ve been outlaws that were remembered throughout history. Like Bonnie and Clyde or OJ Simpson and Hertz Rental Cars. But now you’re destined to be alone. You know you don’t fit in anywhere. I’m the person who could’ve opened the door to A Better Life for you. And now you have nothing!”

Ike got put into the backseat of a police car. The Tombstone Brewing bartender thanked me for my help then went back inside to finish up last call. The sun was setting and the patio was empty except for me. I looked around and saw the residents of Tombstone going about the rest of their day with their friends and families.

Ike was right. I was completely alone.

“Well…shit.”

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The End

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