Cards on the Table

“The Brewer’s Backstory”-Episode 25

January 2012

TBJ final cover

Coming January 2016!

Brad’s eyes swept around the table and the three men who had been his partners on the Business Stats presentation. He blew out a breath and tossed his cards on Carlos Echeverría’s table. He should have folded a lot sooner, like before he’d pulled the last bill out of his wallet—or the first one.

Heath sat up and pushed aside the phone he’d been thumbing. “Whoa, Peters!”

“Aw, damn, you were so close,” Rich said before turning to Carlos, who was raking the bills and coins piled in the center of the table toward himself. “Considering the source of that money, the proper thing for you to do now would be to order a couple of jumbo pizzas for your friends.”

“Name your toppings,” Carlos said, waving his arm like a medieval king ready to grant his peasants’ wishes. He flashed that smile that made Brad and everybody else like the guy.

Heath pushed his chair back and headed for the growlers on the kitchen counter. “Anchovies for me.”

“I’ll take a little more of the lager,” Carlos said, lifting his glass.

“All gone,” Heath answered, turning the growler upside down. “So’s the stout.”

“Crap,” Carlos said, “I was hoping Brad would leave me the extra beer. You guys want to walk over to the pizza place a couple blocks away?”

“If you’re buying, I’m walking,” Rich said, pulling on a knit cap that left a fringe of dark curls sticking out.

Heath grabbed his jacket from the wall hook. “There’s no more beer because you drank it all, Carlos.”

“And won all the money,” Rich added.

“Brad’s beer rocks,” Carlos said, putting an arm into his own coat. “I’m going to miss it when I go back to Monterrey.”

“Take Brad with you,” Heath said. “You guys could open a Mexican craft brewery.”

“We’d go visit,” Rich said.

“Not unless you guys have an extra half million dollars to get us started,” Brad said.

“A half million?”

“Depends on the size and location, but that’s not an unreasonable number.”

“If I said I could get that, would you consider it?” Carlos asked as he opened the door.

“Consider what?” Carlos had a nice apartment, and he’d talked about family vacations in the U.S. and Europe, but five hundred thousand in the bank? No way.

“Opening a craft brewery in Monterrey.”

How the hell would anybody in their twenties legally have that kind of money? Brad side-stepped a patch of ice and caught up to walk beside Carlos. “You’re saying you have a half million dollars in the bank?”

“Not that much, but between what I do have and my family and a bank loan, I could probably make it happen.”

“Holy shit!” Rich whispered behind them.

Questions were popping into Brad’s mind hard and fast. “Are you serious?”

“If you’re really willing to consider it, I’m interested in us talking more about the idea.”

Brad stopped so fast that Heath ran into him. “Dang, Peters!”

“I don’t know if I’m willing to consider giving up a good job and leaving my family and friends to go to a foreign country, but I’m more than willing to listen to your proposal.”

****

Jim Peters’ mouth hung open, his hand and forkful of mashed potatoes interrupted on their way from the plate in front of him. “Are you crazy?”

“I didn’t say I’m going to do it,” Brad replied, squirming in what had been his seat at the Peters’ kitchen table since forever. “All I’m doing is asking your opinion.”

“And I just gave it to you.”

“Jim,” Julia Peters said softly.

Brad looked to his mother for support. Instead, he saw confusion and worry on her face. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know.” She pushed some peas around her plate. “I mean, you have a good job. It pays well. You’ve got the house.”

“That’s going on the market as soon as I finish grad school. You know I can’t afford it alone.”

“I know,” his mother said in a pleading tone. “But Mexico? There’s so much corruption down there.”

“And drug cartels,” Jim Peters said.

“Carlos says the brewpub would actually be in San Pedro, a suburb with lots of money and college-educated people who speak English. It’s practically like living in the U.S. It’s only a hundred fifty miles from the border. It’s safe there.”

“How the hell do these people have that kind of money in Mexico? Are you sure they’re not drug dealers?”

“Carlos’ father and his older brothers are all lawyers. From what Carlos says, their law firm rakes in the money.”

“Wouldn’t you need a work visa?”

“Carlos’ father is going to arrange it.”

“You’re just going to walk away from Coors?”

“Darn it, Dad, you know how frustrated I’ve been ever since I didn’t get the day-shift job last year. I’d planned to start looking for a job in a craft brewery anyway.”

“He’s got a point,” Julia Peters said.

Brad saw the muscles in his father’s face relax the tiniest bit. He was coming around. “Between the job, the divorce and Grandpa’s death, I’m ready to make a clean break. I don’t know that I can do that if I stay in Denver.”

“Why not go work for New Belgium up in Fort Collins? Or Oskar Blues in Lyons? Hell, go to St. Louis and work for Budweiser. And craft breweries are popping all over the United States. Why do you need to go to Mexico to work in one?”

“Carlos says I’ll be completely in charge of brewing—the recipes, the ordering, the actual brewing. We think there will be enough money for me to have a part-time assistant. Come on, Dad, you know this is what I’ve dreamed of.”

“Will this be a permanent move?” his mother asked.

“I promised Carlos two to three years.”

His father’s lips tightened again before he spoke. “So when are you leaving?”

This wasn’t how Brad wanted it to be. His father should be happy for him, not angry. “After graduation. June, hopefully.”

“I thought you were putting the house up for sale then.”

“I’ll do it sooner. That’ll make Maddy happy.”

“You can barely juggle all the balls now between work and school.”

“I’ll figure it out, Dad, really.”

“Your mother and Natalie are going to miss you like hell.”

“I know,” Brad said as his throat tightened. He paused and took a deep breath. “I’ll miss them, too. And you, Dad.”

His father blinked rapidly and looked away. “I don’t think Mexicans drink hoppy American-style beers. Don’t start out with a bunch of over-the-top IPAs.”

“I’ll make them so tame they’ll be G-rated. I promise.”

Two hours later, Brad pulled into his usual parking space at Coors. Closer parking, one of the few perks to working the graveyard shift. The lot, so massive that stop signs were needed during the day, was mostly empty at night. He got out and headed toward the brewery. He’d taken this walk most nights for nearly five years, in heat, in freezing cold, rain, wind, everything Mother Nature could dream up. He’d gotten so accustomed to it that he no longer paid attention to the things that used to impress him.

He inhaled the winter air through his nose, feeling the prickle of the cold, and looked up at the enormous name painted across what had once been the largest brewery in the world. Day and night, for all to read, even from miles away, “Coors” unwound in graceful white cursive against a red background. He thought back to his very first night. Twenty-two years old. College diploma barely off the press. Brad Peters, Coors Brewing Operator. That first walk into the building as an employee had been one of the proudest moments of his life. It still was, he realized. But his nights at Coors were numbered. Just as he’d outgrown homebrewing with his father and assisting the craft brews at Funky Flatirons, now he’d outgrown what Coors had to offer him. In June, he’d start a new chapter. That thought buoyed his spirit and his steps.

He walked, eyes focused on the colossal sign, until he was staring almost straight up in the air. He opened the door, ready to brew. No matter where life took him, that was one thing he’d always do: brew quality beer. Soon enough, he’d be brewing it his way. He could hardly wait.

THE END

Brad Peters’ story will continue in The Brewer’s Justice, out in January, 2016. The full-length novel begins with a phone call, shortly after Brad’s arrival in Monterrey, Mexico. That call is the first of many from El Míster, assigned by El Cartel, to collect protection money from Monterrey Brewing Company even before the business opens. Like a growing monster, El Cartel has a voracious appetite and an ever increasing desire to consume more. The American and Monterrey Brewing Company are just what El Cartel—and El Míster—need.

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