Thursday, August 21, 2008

Goin' Down in a Blaze of Glory, and Other Old West-Themed Rock Ballads.

Another thing Springfield is known for: a gunfight.

It happened in July 1865, one of the only known shootouts in which the gunmen faced each other and fired simultaneously, quick-draw style. The two men were Wild Bill Hickock and Davis Tutt. If you've never heard of Tutt, that's because he lost. Hickock wasn't really famous until Harper's wrote about the duel two years later.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "What a great piece of history. Someone ought to take that Old West/Wild Bill theme and start a brewpub with it. That's money!"

Too late. It's been done. Hickock's Steakhouse and Brewery opened in December 2005 amid much local buzz. Springfield is a town whose favorite restaurant is the latest one to open. Once the buzz wore off Hickock's quickly gained fame for shitty food and a really cool Old West mural. OK, I can't vouch for the food, I never tried it. Because everyone told me it was shitty. But that mural is awesome. Meanwhile hardly anyone mentions the beers.

Turns out they're pretty damn good, thanks to the direction of brewer Dave Lamb. We got to try them all one day in late June. The crowd was sparse and meanwhile the bartender hinted that the place was going down the tubes. We were happy enough with the Copperhead IPA and an oatmeal stout on creamy nitrogen pour. We all spoke optimistically about how the place might turn its grub and management around to save a solid little brewery being treated as an afterthought.

Hickock's shut its doors about two weeks ago, apparently a victim of poor management. So the place has gone the way of Dave Tutt. Somewhere in there is a lesson for the thousands of brewpubs across America. I'm not smart enough to figure it out. But I think old portraits of gunfighters are cool and every beer blog should have them.

Oh, maybe it was this: Running a restaurant is hard. Most people like food even more than they like beer. Neglect the food and you're dead in the street while other guys get famous.


  1. "Springfield is a town whose favorite restaurant is the latest one to open."

    I thought Springfield's favorite restaurant was a cashew chicken joint.

  2. Nice catch. That should read, "Springfield is a town whose second-favorite restaurant is the latest one to open. Its favorite is the Hong Kong Inn."