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Lowell, Massachusetts

by West Ryder

Things are looking up. Solved my first big case. Took me a while but I finally figured out who put the bop in the bop she bop. Sure, my client was a couple sandwiches short of having all of her dogs on the same leash, but her check didn't bounce. And now I got me another gig. This one close to my heart. Beer critic.

West Ryder's my name. I'm a private dick. I find things lost, lose things found, solve the unsolveable. Real Maltese Falcon stuff. Even got the cool fedora. And since that sometimes doesn't pay all the bills, I also do the occasional food and beverage critique for local magazines. And that's what led me 40 miles north of Boston to sunny Lowell.

I was in Lowell looking for a case of Mill City Beer. For those of you who don't know Lowell, Lowell is the birthplace of American industry. Like a thousand years ago (hey, cut me some slack, I failed history. There was just no future in it), Lowell started making textiles. And they were making textiles till the Japanese and the southern states started making them cheaper. That left enormous mills out of business and empty. Some genius decided to turn one into a three story bar/dance club/microbrewery. Mill City Brewhouse. I know what you are thinking. Another bunch of expensive microbrews being drunk by yuppies reminiscing about how they used to spend $4 on a whole case of Milwaukee's Best and drink it all, even the nasty end of the can slime.

On the contrary, this place was pretty hip. There was enough room and floors to spread out. If you wanted loud and obnoxious -- third floor. Restaurant served pretty good pub grub; I highly recommend the wings. The second floor had darts and a big bar space. They even had a four-man air hockey game. If they toll house cookies, I could have stayed here forever.

But I digress. The beer. Of the many that were offered, I tried the pale ale and chocolate rasberry. Most microbrews are heavy and do a pretty good imitation of Guinness. The pale ale was different. Sure it was good and hearty, but it wasn't overbearing. I could definitely drink a bunch of these and not feel bloated and loagy (I don't know what loagy means, but I do know I never like feeling it.) This was really good beer. Aftertaste lasted just long enough and didn't change radically from the initial taste. I approached the chocolate rasberry with some trepidation. Chocolate rasberry sounded a little girlie. Like ordering light beer. Not something you do in a crowded bar surrounded by eligible looking honeys. You want to order something like Guntar Beer. Viking Beer. Not chocolate rasberry. But hey, I'm getting paid for this.

And I wasn't disappointed in being disappointed. This was definitely a ploy to get women, those chocolate eating fiends, to buy the beer. It was mediocre at best. Much too heavy and had a very strange, berry aftertaste. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I knew I wouldn't order another. It also didn't taste at all like chocolate. Maybe they named it for the color of the beer. If they did that, the rest of the beers would have to named things like Pee Pale Ale. So that couldn't be it.

So I went back to the Pale Ale and sauntered over to the air hockey table to try my luck. If you are interested in going, I recommend you lock your car doors, the neighborhood leaves a little to be desired. Mill City Brewhouse. The phone number is 508/937-1200.

Signing off and drinking myself into oblivion.

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