Some folks find romance in dinners for two or quiet evenings by the fireplace, but here in Steuben County we know how to celebrate a special winter’s day.
By 2:00 on Valentine’s Day afternoon, several dozen folks gathered at Chapman’s Brewery for a special event hosted by Dr. Tom Tierney, professor at Trine University. The afternoon was billed as “Annals of Belgian Beer Tours” with emphasis on architecture, public art, women enablers, food porn and St. Arnold. Dr. Tierney greeted each one personally as soon as the door to the brewery opened stating that the visual presentation was on the blink and we would all have to just settle on his words supplemented our own imaginations. Laughingly, we all knew it would still be the perfect day as Dr. Tierney is the master of words! Small tables began to fill up with conversation and pints of Belgian beer even before the program began. Some folks had actually brought their sweethearts for the event, but several of us came in multitudes of one as this type of event didn’t make any difference to coupling or non-coupling.
With some folks on their second rounds, Dr. Tierney found his place in the circle of patrons to begin his talk. He spoke of the spectacular Belgian architecture as he often pointed to the blank wall referring to his non-photos. This brought a chuckle to the audience each time he announced his photos. But through his wit and wondrous supply of words, we were able to see each photo. He spoke of St. Arnold (1040-1087) who became the patron saint of hop-pickers and Belgian brewers. It was said that he (and those who listened to his knowledge of beer) was able to ward off the plague!
As his talk was drawing to a close, his wife, Roberta, passed trays of Belgian chocolate. I daresay those trays were passed around more than once until the last one was snatched up. He then announced they had cooked up a batch of carbonnade (Flemish beef and beer stew.) Everyone glanced over at the side table as Roberta lifted the lid off a cooking pot and a wonderful blend of onions and beef and beer wafted through the brewery. There were bowls and spoons for all, and again, not a drop was left in the pot. Everyone raved and asked for the recipe whereas the Tierneys just glanced at one another. A family secret, I wondered. Perhaps. They both laughed at the fact that they peeled and carmelized over three pounds of onions for the stew.
No one wanted to leave the event. Maybe because there really was nowhere else to go on a Sunday Valentine’s Day or maybe because we all enjoyed each other’s company so much. Dr. Tierney did invite folks to peruse his books about beer which he set out on a small table.
With a twinkle in his eye he closed out the afternoon with an old Czech proverb, “You can taste great beer at the first sip, but you would be better off not to stop there.”
Lou Ann Homan is a writer, a teacher, a storyteller and a lover of small towns. Lou Ann’s enthusiasm for teaching has graced Indiana classrooms for over 30 years. She is currently a professor at Trine University in the Humanities and Communication Department. She has been twice awarded the prestigious Lilly Teacher Creativity Award. Lou Ann is an award winning columnist for KPC Media Group with a weekly column appearing every Saturday morning for nine years. Her work appears in newspapers in all four counties in northern Indiana.