Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Crime, Punisherment and Beer

The Punisher bashes into McGillin's

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout


My favorite Philly pub—McGillin's Old Ale House—hosted the third of its Author Series last night, and judging by the crowd that packed the place, the idea is a homerun. It was The PubScout's first such session, so there is nothing to which last night's festivities can be compared. My guess, however, is that the featured author on this night—Duane Swierczynski—had a lot to do with the size of the crowd.

Let's face it. Duane Swierczynski's name is not (yet) synonymous (nor pronounceable) with Raymond Chandler, Steven King, or even Shakespeare. And I doubt seriously whether those who came to Philly's oldest pub last night were there because they had read Duane's (Swierczynski's too tough to type any more) first foray into the world of beer writing with his Big Book O' Beer. I penned a most favorable review of that classic more than half a decade ago, and that book, which resides in a place of honor in my house, was the reason I made the trek to McGillin's.

My assessment was that most in the house, however—like my two sons--were fans of Duane's connection to comic book characters like Frank Castle—a.k.a. The Punisher. Duane has also written other characters for Marvel—Cable, Wolverine and Deadpool. The author admits he is attracted to the "darker" characters, though, in his public persona at least, he's the complete opposite of "dark." Creative, quick-witted, amiable and funny, Duane broke into comics by writing crime novels. His rather cherubic appearance is misleading, but, conceding that The Punisher movies might not have been the pinnacle of greatness, he confesses that he thoroughly enjoyed them all. He also admitted that he became a writer so he wouldn't have to speak in front of audiences, though it was clear he connected with the one at McGillin's last night.

He is married to the former Meredith Paul from Wilkes-Barre, who allows that she knew how to spell her new last name long before she could pronounce it. She, 14, and Duane, 17 were pen pals in 1989 until they came face to face at a high school jazz band concert in 1995. They married in 1997 and have two children—7 and 6. Duane dedicated The Big Book O' Beer to his daughter Sarah.

So, besides the Author Series, why was Duane at McGillin's? Some of his stories use the iconic tavern, though it takes on the pub name of Interesting Times. The art work, however, leaves no doubt that McGillin's is the place. Duane sat signing books next to the mullioned window that The Punisher crashed through in one of his stories. Duane also had a special deal: if you bought one of his comics, you got a McGillin's special anniversary 1860 IPA on him. That beer is a good one, by the way. Made by Stoudt's, it's not overly hoppy, and owner Chris Mullins the Youger says it's an IPA for those who are just getting into the style. The beer will be available in bottles and for takeout soon.

Typical of his engaging and self-deprecating style, Duane publicly admitted, "Hey, the beer only costs me two bucks, but it's the thought…."

If you missed the event, fear not. You can still get Duane's work at Brave New Worlds, whose reps were on hand. Check out pics here.

Marvel and comic book fans in general who also happen to be fans of good beer should also check out The Big Book O' Beer. I took my copy to McGillin's and had Duane sign it. Now it goes back to its place of honor in my Loo Library.

Don't laugh. That place, like McGillin's, is my sacred sanctuary. But my sons won't let me put The Punisher in there.

They say one punisher per bathroom is enough.

©Kurt E. Epps 2009 All Rights reserved

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