One Year Anniversary!

photo 2 (2)Think I’ll just stay here and drink – as Merle Haggard put it. Nothing like a good country song from back home to get you in the mood to keep your distance.

Listen close and you can hear, the singsongy voices that twisted and puzzle-pieced our sacred thoughts into one 3 minute tune, as if they wrote the thing especially for you. For us.

This song was the perfect companion for a soft reflection of this past year. Yes, it’s been a year since we put on our fancy armor and ventured to these foreign lands to fight for ourselves, to share our stories, and to tap into the fountain of free flowing libations.

One year of peeking into the lives of those who welcomed us into their homes, set an extra place for us at the table, and filled our hearts with a familiar and uncomfortable kind of love.

One year of prancing around the latitudes and longitudes of South America, with just enough pesos to get out of town if the sirens went a ringin’, always enough to chase a pint down with a treat of fernet.

These past twelve months have put an extra notch on our belts, it has tested our morals and spit us out all pasty pale and disoriented. And through it all, we have survived. At first we were afraid, but if anyone dare asked, we were flying down south to petrify, stupify, and fly back to those ring-a-bell back alleys of that amazing bar. Back home.

Still far from home though. And the serendipitous playlist has fattened up like a happy, juicy, free range turkey preparing itself for the November feast, unbeknownst. With each foreign friend and enemy we’ve encountered this year, they’ve given us a piece of themselves, of their souls through their music. As such, the songs play on and we listen on. They all either call us home, or keep us flying onward.

Knowing When to Say When

Never knowing when to say when, ten months and a decade of days in have left us on our asses. Full of wonder, buena onda (good vibes), and good beer. Content as ever, as the colors of autumn nudge us into a peaceful bliss,When 1

and rock us even further into wanderlusting. Where shall we go next? Our eyes have glazed over and a silly smirk has been painted on our ugly mugs. Mayness and Junetime creep in and throw off our senses. E.E. Cummings’s lonely leaf crashes head first into a bed of recycled bottle tops and ink stained paper, waking us up a little from our beastly slumber. We find ourselves waiting on the next nudge to make a move and leave our mark. As the tale goes, someone, somehow, somewhere lurking behind the door’s shadow, double-dog-dared us into throwing a dart at the Malbec blood red stained map on the wall, and commit to it. Just as our luck would have it, the damn thing landed in the middle of Argentina. Right on Córdoba; so we packed the essentials – a 21st century camera, a handmade wooden pipe gifted to us by a nice young man in Junín de los Andes, and an ice-cold book for the road – and headed inland. We journeyed there by car, arriving 12 hours later with a burning desire to knock a few colds ones back, get rid of the sting, take a siesta, and play that on repeat.

Córdoba, province of Buenos Aires and the perfect place to turn women into women and men into men, or so they say. Located at the very center of the country and weighing in at a stout 63,831 square miles, yet and still a light swig of Angostura Bitters compared to that of Texas´ double whiskey pour with a fattened up cut of ice 268,581; yet and still offering the same amount, and possibly a half ton more, of magic. It was an excursion which would prove to be worthwhile. A quick trip to the much talked about heart of Argentina, a strategic venture to conquer ourselves – and subsequently those who recklessly lie in the way. To find our passions, our flaws, or to liberate a dream deferred, and pull the fire alarm such that the quenching might begin.

The views were full of sophisticated mountains, hearty lagoons and snake shaped routes. It hosted a fiery sun which trailed our descent into a closeted part of town. Clusters of little cottages and beer huts gathered round in song, eagerly waiting for our arrival. Good thing because exploring a fertile land like this one left a curious thirst in the belly of ours mouths, and so somewhere along the infamous 100 Curvas (100 curves) through the mountains, down into the valleys, over the clear blue bodies of water, and ‘round the river bend, a beer stop was a toll worth paying.

When 2Never mind us losing our way around curve number 32. We arrived after the 100th curve, and came upon a misplaced village called Villa General Belgrano to pay the tariff. An appropriate charge at that, since it’s this very village that hosts Argentina`s annual beer festival – Oktoberfest. Wait a moment, Oktoberfest in Argentina? Picture it…through one eye you’ve got the mechanically rich cut-and-dry stick-to-itiveness from Munich and through the other, the beautiful terror of time not existing in South America, both making Oktoberfest in Córdoba a real treat. At least that’s what they say, for we half-wittedly ventured there in May. Fortunately? Or a failed shot in the dark? Never the matter, the closer we got to this quaint little village, the more some of the most potent fragrances of barley, wheat, and liquor-kissed souls came flushing out of the mountain tops. Good thing we yet have a few months to train hard and strong for the festival in October.

When 3 When 4









For the intellectually thirsty, Oktoberfest in Córdoba is regarded as the third-most important Oktoberfest site after Munich and Blumenau in Brazil. Founded in 1930 something, two German settlers marked their territory, either with an inconspicuous zip of the fly to break the seal, or by force. We won’t look into the details of the thing. What we know now, is that thanks to these two German chaps, the middle of Argentina hosts a land with luscious rivers full of libations, mountains with creamy head covered tops, and plunging caves that have the unspeakable waiting for good company in exchange for a piece of good dignity. In fact, settlers from Switzerland, Italy and Austria also settled here later on due to the Alpine quality of the land and blah, blah, blah. But let’s be honest, they wanted to find a place in the middle of what they thought was nowhere, surrounded by beautiful peaks and milk and honey lowlands to keep us outsiders out, and to brew their delicious varieties all the live long day.

When 7Well, they have been found out! 100 times over! We have come to sip on, to be reminded of, and to forget all that daunts us. All that raises our spirits and crushes them with one breath. Imagine being in a land that looked like Switzerland on the outside, houses and decor, pieces of that culture scattered about… but had the spice and punch of Argentina. The experience was sort of like being in WIlly Wonka’s factory, expect the chocolate was hidden in their tap`s – stouts, porters and the like. We came to offer our help as the Oompa Loompas did, dressed up as fancy Texans far from home, stammering about with our eyes wide closed, and our skin a greenish purplish hue.

We’d gone to exploit and replenish the hidden treasures held within the lands of this gem of a village in Córdoba.

We’d arrived in the form of Wonk’s highly qualified, rigorously trained, foreign looking peoples offering our ever flourishing tongue to taste the ever pouring taps.

And we left completely satiated.

And now for a poem about Córdoba and a young horse, by Federico García Lorca.

Song of the Horseman


Away and alone


Pitchblack pony, risen moon.

A sack of olives at my saddle.

Though I know the roads I travel

I shall never get to Córdoba.


Through the meadow, through the wind,

Pitchblack pony, crimson moon.

I am in the sights of Doom

That watches from the towers of Córdoba.


Oh the road lies long before me!

Oh for my courageous pony!

Oh for Doom out waiting for me

Long before I get to Córdoba.



Away and alone


The Original:

Canción del Jinete



Lejana y sola.


Jaca negra, luna grande,

y aceitunas en mi alforja.

Aunque sepa los caminos

yo nunca llegaré a Córdoba.


Por el llano, por el viento,

jaca negra, luna roja.

La muerte me está mirando

desde las torres de Córdoba.


¡Ay qué camino tan largo!

¡Ay mi jaca valerosa!

¡Ay, que la muerte me espera,

antes de llegar a Córdoba.



Lejana y sola.

When 6 When 5




As Fate Would Have It

san telmo street

As fate would have it, the stars collided and two pieces of heaven sort of fell in the lap of the beast. A book and a game. The book, “On Booze” by the Great F. Scott Fitzgerald, sent to me by an angel in California. The game, The 2014 World Cup.

History is being made, and while everyone has been distracted by the matches happening right next door in Brazil passionately glued to their televisions like phantoms, holding their breaths and chanting prayers like shamans, locked indoors until a long overdue “goooooooooooooooool” is shouted over the airwaves provoking the stampede of those same anxious phantoms to flood into the streets whilst banging pots and pans and flying down the alleyways in a rush to replenish their bottles of fernet and liters of coke until the next goal is made  I took it upon myself to seize the opportunity by reading. Yes reading, and consequently drinking, because the two pair together better than a push-up bra on a drag queen.  There is nothing more inspiring than a game-hungry ghost-town, combined with a luke-warm book by one of the classics and a few dozen chilled glasses with no one to stare at you as the bubbles make you hysterically hiccup like a lamb lost and found. We chose to educate ourselves a little more about life as we read, and drank, and drank,  and cheered Argentina on. The intense energy of The Cup and the twisted black words on the page called for a euphoric experience.

Herds of soccer fanatics joined in a rhythmic pulse, a harmonious crescendo. Soft at first and then  AR…GEN…TINA……….AR…GEN…TINA!!

Fitzgerald chimed in with words of encouragement, just as strong. clear in the beginning and then blurry after a few hours


On edge, wandering about the anxious city, we ditch the mad crowd and give way to a deserted back street in the heart of San Telmo. The path least taken. We took it, and happened upon an empty bar where we, by fate once again, discovered a little piece of heaven on earth. The land of Oz. Oatmeal Stouts and Honey Beers pouring out of the ceiling, muting the wildfire call-and-response happening outside, just a few feet away. We walked in to find no one there except the barman, the cook, and a wall full of imaginative, unemployed, mouthy beers. Luck or fate?  Giving them an ear and a dry tongue seemed like the best thing to do, or at least thats what Fitzgerald began to whisper in our pockets. So we select a lonely table for two by the door, employ those talkative beers, and begin our ascent to the land of milk and honey.


“On Booze” served as the ultimate teaching doctrine in these moments of ascension. You must find a copy and glue it to the backs of your eyelids, if a man is what you aim to be. Fitzgerald painted the picture Messi was at that very instant giving life to as he scored goal after goal after gooooooooooool the best soccer player in the world indeed. Two of the greats teaching us how to master ourselves, how to outwit our opponents and bring those sneaky yellow-bellied dingbats to their knees.

We spent about half a day at “Rosa de los Vientos,” a full afternoon and good part of the evening, drinking at a slow and steady pace, chanting on with the chorus, reading on with the musky soul of Fitzgerald over us.

Finally, after a hearty win thanks to Messi, no voice thanks to Messi, and a new off-balanced walk thanks to the barman, we headed to the bus station to take a 7 hour journey to the next town.

We left that place good and liquored up like any respectable literary soccer fan would have.

Argentina made it to the semi finals, and we in turn make it to another day.


From “On Booze”

We don’t want visitors, we said:

        They come and sit for hours and hours,

They come when we have gone to bed;

        They are imprisoned here by showers;

They come when they are low and bored –

        Drink from the bottle of your heart.

…Long talker, lonely soul and quack –

Found us alone, swarmed to attack,

Thought silence was attention; rage

An echo of their own home`s war –

Glad we had ceased to “be upstage.”

– But the nice people came no more. 

Without Saying Much

Without saying much, we enter a Russian soiree. Well, it was more like a house party, and there were only two Russians to my knowledge. The first was the host, and the second the host´s body guard named V —-sk—r—d something or other; for our sake they´ll remain unnamed. So we´ll call it a soiree. We are the openers to no surprise. You and I, a couple of Canadians, another American, a friendly gal from Ecuador, an Englishman, and the two Russians. The night begins at a slow pace of about a liter and a half of beer per guest. We weren´t the only eager ones apparently, but our eagerness failed to fill the space enough to call it a gathering, much less a soiree. So we clump ourselves about the loft and make polite with everyone. Again, not saying much, I immediately make eye contact with the bigger Eastern European, who wears a nice enough smile and seems to hold a magical glasshalffull of vodka on ice in his hands. With my eyes, I inquire if he could lend his talents to us if things get messy, because I have a feeling that this night won´t be conquered without a push. And I´ve seen enough pictures to know how persuasive a Russian full of vodka and complicated words can be.

I´ve got my game face on, not knowing where the night will take us. And then that damn Canadian DJ makes his move. He seems to know how to encourage the unreasonably mixed Quilmes, red wine, and that which is not yet legal in Texas so we will make no mention of it, to move our feet. Those Canadians can be persuasive as well. And so we dominate the dance floor. Good news is, hardly anyone has arrived, so we are content with making an arse of ourselves alone, without judgment. Not the first time we´ve penetrated what was once a clean, useless wooden floor and turned it into hot lava from our liquored up movements we too often call dancing. That was our counter move, to show the Canadian our God given right to two-step however and whenever we damn well pleased, audience or no audience.

Just then, a flow of people enter the loft, and here begins the infectious foolery.

There is an oily mixture of people from all corners of the world, hiding in different corners of this huge space. A clan of Swedes wearing mostly black take over the balcony; a few more Northern Americans come and congregate about the makeshift bar like zombies at a high school reunion; loads of stone-faced Latin Americans integrate themselves into the clusters.

I immediately realize that with this carousel of small talk, and mixed idioms with broken English, that body language is key. As the flood of people continues to ascend from the narrow marble staircase into the Russian’s loft, a thickness fills the air, and all at once we all wear a face of intrigue and bewilderment. Why has the Russian invited us? And why on earth would he need a body guard? Eyes are roaming about and glasses are either full of cheap vodka, decent whiskey, or loads of cold beer. Someone whispers into their glass, “why wouldn´t he just bring Vodka from Russia?” Maybe they are saving it for a select few. I wonder. Another person asks the smaller Russian what he does for a living to be able to come to Argentina on a whim and throw a soiree full of strangers in this magnificent loft. “I´m in Internet Advertising,” he responds and gives no detail as to what the heck that means. Too many questions are being made. I keep my mouth shut, perhaps to avoid hearing a response that the concoction I recently swallowed wouldn´t be able to push down. Small talk buzzes around and around the room, making my head spin. Some offended, others annoyed, most too drunk to care. A fine rendition of the Russian roulette. And so as to not offend anyone, we pull the trigger. We dance. Too much talking and not enough dancing is how wars are made. And we didn´t come this far to start a war, at least not without a cold bottle of Wild Turkey 101, which has yet to be discovered down south. What a loss.

And so more time passes, vision blurs, messes are made and men are turned to mice. Not to give away too much – for the ending turned out to be a bit embarrassing –we sneak out the back door and make a zig-zagged path home before the sun rises so that our footprints and recent atrocities could fade away with the sunrise.

There were no casualties on this night. Talks of a second round are stirring. We can chance our luck and have at it again, or we can discover the next adventure to be conquered.

What do you say faithful squire?image (14)

On the hunt for better beer.

image (2) I´ve become rather comfortable here in Argentina. The locals have welcomed me into their homes and have shown me the many faces of this beautiful land. I can say with confidence that this has become my second home; nevertheless there are a few things that make me homesick. For example, the sadsad fact that my beastly romantic relationship with Tex Mex is now nonexistent; that there is no such thing as Kentucky Bourbon in bars, clubs, nor in the markets; the desperation I feel when I can´t find a place to have breakfast for dinner; the emptiness I experience when I realize micheladas and bloody mary bars have become a distant dream; the lack of karaoke joints and therefor no opportunity to scream 90s tunes to an encouraging tipsy audience;  and… well the list goes on. image (7)

It seems to me that beer is our only hope to wash away this sickness, this desperation, and to feel more at home. So begins the hunt for better beer. Not to say Quilmes and Brahma don´t do the trick. I can find these brands, and I´ve grown completely tired of them to be frank. They hydrate but they fail to quench. Even Stella Artois and Heineken have unfortunately become house hold and restaurant staples. I feel incomplete.  WHERE IS THE GOOD BEER? How can I make one beer turn into 7 or 10, and all of different delicious varieties?  Is there better beer in Argentina?

I found myself at the end of my rope, until I met a stranger who led me to the light.

image (8)

Along came a Stranger.

American:  Excuse me, do you know where I might find beer?

Stranger: aoimsdf

American: No, not that beer. Better beer. I say, do you know where I might find better beer?

Stranger:  jdfnksjdnfionv

American: Ok so turn right at this light and then keep straight?

Stranger: sdnfaifio

American: Fantastic. Thanks for the help.

Stranger: sjifoaijfsnkjas?

American: Sure, you can join us. That would be nice. We never turn down a drinking buddy. Do we? Especially one who knows how to get to the pot of gold.

They walk.

Stranger: gfmnsdm kvs

American: Oh, nothing really. By better beer I simply mean, beer. It’s just that we´ve been here for a few months now, and have run out of holes in the ground to burry your Quilmes and Brahma.

Stranger: sdknadciodifijasdoasicasio

American: Oh sure, sure! They are definitely good beers, for sure, without a doubt. I didn´t mean to offend your taste. However, we are looking for something that doesn´t taste like….water going down.

Stranger: asdhifaiochaiosdfioahioahsinkdhasiodhasdnaiosdnaoisdaklwehniahsdfoaisnaklsndaish…

American: Water was a bit exaggerated. You´re right. I´m sorry, I apologize. What I meant was, spiked water?

Stranger: ….

American: Better?

Stranger: ksjd

American: I tell you what, if you show me where this place is, you´re first one is on me.

Stranger: ngfid asj

They arrive.

American: Heaven above. It´s an artisanal beer bar! And they have their own brewery by the coast! We´ve struck GOLD.

2 hours later

image (12)American:  oooooooohhh nsdoij nasdfiasdfnio dsndnnfd ooooooooooooo sdkjnfosoooooo  sdfnnooinsdfnionklpe sdfouuuueuufuuud sdjknnueeee ufffff asdlkijo uffeee asdfljj uuuufff

Stranger: That, my strange friend, is how you drink a beer.

American: diodenfie

Stranger: Shall we go for another? Or do you prefer the spiked water?

They close the bar, and decide to become friends.

The night progressed as such… with several Barley Wines, to get rid of the water residue. photo 2

Well Hello There, Charles!

Well hello there, Charles!

Dispatching some new info and a couple quick thoughts on things relevant and thing decidedly not so relevant…

We here at the Mongoose Den are glad you made it out of Thanksgiving alive and well, and we’re anxiously awaiting your imminent return to us. We want to hear all about your Thanksgiving as well as your plans for Christmas and Kwanzaa. We’ve a few new things to show you when you stop by at the Den. First off, our Draught Wall continues to beef up, and we are scouring the scene seeking out all those frothy brews we expect will please you most. Look out for a few special and rare seasonal beers both on Draught and on Cask coming very soon. Secondly, as the weather around here cools down and our tremendous city of Houston settles its bones into an almost slumbering pace, we have concocted a few new blood-warming cocktails to get you through the winter – think about the best Irish Coffee you’ve ever tasted and a scalding and toothsome Hot Bourbon Toddy.  Also, we’ve been aging batched cocktails over the last six months or so (in point of fact, since before we even opened our doors to you and all the other Charleses.)  Now the dust has settled over the rafters a bit, and we think these oddly delicious studies in what patience and time can accomplish are finally ready to be unleashed upon the masses.  A few new food items have appeared on our menu that we find rather more appropriate to the season, as well.  A particularly great one is spinach sautéed in olive salad, lemon and garlic on a toasted sourdough baguette with melted provolone. You must try this.

Lastly, keep your eyeholes peeled for the emergence of the “Charles Club”, a drinking and literature club that will surely prove legendary.

And last, lastly: We recently came across a relatively new book (2011) entitled Hello Goodbye Hello by one Craig Brown. It is a remarkable read in many ways; however, of particular interest is a section in which Mr. Brown describes a journey taken by one of the world’s most creative and elegant talents, Rudyard Kipling. Kipling had traveled much of the world by the time he was just 23 years old. He had witnessed a gunfight in Chinatown, met real Cowboys in Montana and landed a 12-pound Salmon in Oregon. He had also fallen in love with she who would be his first wife.  But none of this impressed Kipling so much as an encounter with a man who at the time was Kipling’s idol, Mark Twain, a man who was (is) the purest embodiment of all that is America. The two men met at Twain’s stately home near Elmira, N.Y. and talked for only about two hours. They discussed many things, including the possibility of Twain writing a final ending to his infamous rascal, Tom Sawyer. The curious thing here, what impressed us so, is that Kipling considered this moment the most intensely satisfying and amazing moment of his entire life. Seventeen years after this encounter, Kipling would go on to become world famous and, amazingly, Twain would become so enraptured with Kipling’s work and his creative oeuvre that he made it a point to read Kipling’s Kim at least once every year. Twain said of Kipling, “He is a stranger to me but is a most remarkable man-and I am the other one. Between us, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest.”

Here’s to Rudy, and here’s to Mark, but mostly here’s to you, Charles – let’s pick up where Twain and Kipling left off, for surely there is much more knowledge to be known.

Mongoose Villanelle

Here inside the Auditorium Grocery
The windows shine and nothing’s concealed
This place is the only bar for me

The stools are new, but you can see
That B.A. Rifsner built the steel
Here inside the Auditorium Grocery

A saw in the rafters will set pine free
That old time feeling is for real
This place is the only bar for me

Your Friday night might only be
A touch of bourbon and an orange peel
Here inside the Auditorium Grocery,

But that might just be all we need
As an older Houston is revealed
In the only bar for you and me

Through the windows a century breatheS
Sit and feel how history feels
Here inside the Auditorium Grocery,
This place is the only bar for me.

-shafer hall 10/2/12

To the Squabs Displaced from These Bricks and from This World

Dear squab, thanks
for letting us into your home,
and though you now flit
from power line to telephone pole
out in the great humidity,
your gray shadow still sneaks
past the corner of my eye
late this Friday night
in our former grocery.

As the oven sputters,
young hearts flutter,
and our regulars coo
to one another,
there is still much of you
between these walls.

Thanks again, squab;
I’ll help add a twig or two
to your next nest
in Houston or in the sky.


-Shafer Hall

The Weekend Has Landed

The Weekend has Landed, it’s finally here
With guests lining up for a reason to cheer
A drink with which to propose a toast
Food to nibble, pumpkin seeds, roast

From offices high and far and wide,
The people descend with one purpose in mind,
The fabulous, rich, the poor and the plain
Shoving and pushing and ‘Beer me again!’

With tastes diverse and palettes to please
It’s my job to serve them and charge them their fees
Our Selection diverse and our beer list is long,
‘Ere, scuse me matey, get rid of that bong’

Sorry to break from this tale I must tell
But drugs in a bar is my vision of hell
Clean spirits is what we want you to take
So that hangover free you will hopefully wake

Or beer, that most noble and ancient of ales
The hops, the malt, the incredible smells
Of little yellow flowers in an English field
Bobbing around to the wind that they yield

There’s a ruckus in the corner it seems to me
And someone may have said something funny
That wasn’t taken as well as it might
And suddenly now we’ve got our first fight.

Good Adam descends and pulls them apart
‘Fore damage is done to a bodily part
Hands are shaken and pats on the back
‘Sorry old boy, I’ll cut you some slack’

These are the problems we often will face
When drink makes feelings get out of place
But a kind word can soothe and smooth and disarm
For none come here with intent to do harm

I’ll break way now and leave you to drink
Afore all the customers cause a stink
Waiting and thirsting for spirits or beer
Longing and needing some Friday night cheer

The weekend has landed, it’s finally here,
And it’s time to make my guests feel so very queer
The spirits are flowing and the beer shoots out
Lager and bitter, Pilsner and stout.

-Andy Charlton

Mongoose is Rock; Cobra is Scissors

Dear Charles,

We wanted to send you a note from here inside your safe quarters; this is your well-fortified former grocery.  It is the home of the big door, and it is the home of the even bigger fridge.   It is the home of over two hundred liquors, approximately one hundred draught, bottled, and cask-conditioned beers, and it is the home of one baboon named Charles.  That’s right.  We named him after you.

For those of you keeping score: the contents of your bottles, cocktail glasses, and imperial pints represent approximately twenty states in the Union over two dozen countries on four continents around the world.   In the coming months, we will strive to increase those numbers in a few different ways.  Corey has been diligently sipping new beers, and Mike and Theo have been carefully curating our liquor lists.

Andy, our beloved British Skipper who comes to his nickname by way of direct heritage from Lord Admiral Nelson, has initiated a Tuesday-night program of cocktails from around the world.  This month features French cocktails, including three different versions of the French 75, with creative new names that will surprise you when you see them.

A new initiative to combine our two favorite things, i.e. liquor and beer, will be introduced on Monday night, when Moonshine Mike and Half-Asleep Hall will be experimenting with beer-based cocktail recipes, some created by mixologists from around the world and some created in-house according to our demanding specifications and your own.

Live music is now available to you on Sunday and Monday nights.  Literary events and classic films are to follow in the next few months.  But in the meantime, Charles, just keep doing what you do best.  Keep keeping us busy.  Keep Shafer awake.  Keep your head up and diligently watch for the fangs of certain gaudily-decorated poisonous snakes.  Keep our quarters safe, that we may all continue to be that which we are.


Yours in the bond,



PS: Who was dreaming when the Roy Orbison came to us in our dream?  There is only one answer.  It was you Charles, and it was me.  Charles.