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Beerology

The History of Hops Leads to Zippy's

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The tale of heroes, gods and monsters tells us that Enkidu — a shaggy, unkempt wild man — wished to challenge the hero Gilgamesh to a test of strength. The wily hero, hedging his bets, sent a woman to take the measure of this challenger. The woman "opened her mouth and spoke to Enkidu: 'Eat the bread now, O Enkidu, as it belongs to life. Drink also beer, as it is the custom of the land.' Enkidu drank seven cups of beer and his heart soared. In this condition he washed himself and became a human being."

The beer not only brought Enkidu pleasure, but the act of consuming it elevated him to a higher state. In light of this, maybe we should modify author Paul Theroux's claim and say that beer, not ice, is civilization, even though not all who drink it behave in a civilized manner.

Where, then, is a civilized place to drink beer in Richmond, and what should we drink in the hopes that, as with Enkidu, our hearts will soar? The answer is simple: Zippy's (3336 N. Boulevard, just past the highway on-ramp). The proprietor, Thomas Sotos, first argues that "good beer attracts good people!" and then, after some thought, confesses, "I don't want to serve something that sucks."

The tap selection is small but well-chosen, stocked with excellent brews suggested by Sotos' regular customers (who include David Garrett of Carytown Wine & Beer). Recently he featured the yin and yang of beers on tap there: Burgerbrau, a delicious lager (smooth and golden with a distinctive flavor of hops) from the Czech Republic; and Delirium Noel, a dark, fantastically rich and spicy holiday ale from the Belgian Huyghe Brewery. Drink more than one of the latter and you will see dancing pink elephants, as the label promises. And if you see a shaggy wild man while you're there, buy him a glass and welcome him to civilization.

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