Speakeasy (True North #5)

Speakeasy (True North #5)

Sarina Bowen

Chapter One


“Which beer do you think I should try first?” the attractive woman leaning on my bar asks. “The Goldenpour or the Barclay Stout?” She’s pretty. Early twenties, probably. Tight sweater and tighter jeans. I’ve never seen her before, but she gives me a big smile.

Then she shifts her body slightly and bats her eyelashes at my bartender, Smitty.

Beside me, Smitty grins with amusement. Because this girl isn’t just choosing between two beers. She’s what Smitty and I call a waverer—she’s mulling over her choice of bartenders, too.

“Well,” Smitty says, propping an arm on the bar. “Goldenpour is crisp and yeasty with aromas of pear and citrus.” He’s rolling up his sleeves, that fucker, purposefully showing off the colorful tattoos on his forearms.

“On the other hand,” I break in, “the Barclay Stout has hints of cocoa powder and vanilla, a creamy finish, a lengthy tail, and nice head.” I actually flex my pecs as I say this, while Smitty tries not to bust out laughing.

“Wow.” She blinks back and forth between us. “Tough decision.”

Competing for women is our little game. I get the girls who want the fit and clean-cut type, and Smitty gets the ones who like ’em tattooed and dangerous.

There’s plenty of female attention to go around. We just enjoy this bit of nonsense.

“Hmm,” the girl says. “I think I’ll try the Goldenpour first.”

“Ah, well,” I say quickly as Smitty snorts out a laugh. “He can tap it for you.” Smitty gives me a grin and reaches for a glass. She moves down the bar to wait for her beer.

“Can’t win ’em all,” Hamish—my best customer—says from a barstool in front of me.


“But the night is still young. As are you, whippersnapper.” Hamish is a carpenter. His studio is a hundred yards down the road. In fact, he and I own matching old brick mill buildings on the Winooski River, where we each spend a lot of our waking hours tending to our respective businesses.

His is a high-end woodworking operation, while mine is devoted to mankind’s greatest accomplishment: craft beer.

“Plenty of fish in the stream,” I agree. And right now I’m more worried about serving all the fish than banging them. It’s Thursday night. The weekend onslaught begins now, and I’m more or less ready.

Becky is working the tables tonight, which means Ed Sheeran is playing on the sound system. We have a rule—the waitress controls the playlist. She’s making her way around the room right now, stopping to light a candle on every table. The reach-in coolers are stocked. The empty tables are clean.

It’s November, so tonight’s crowd won’t break any records. The Gin Mill is the busiest during ski season and leaf-peeping season. Summers are pretty good, too. But there’s a lull during November until the ski resorts open.

Tonight we’ll be serving two kinds of customers—locals and foamies. A foamy is a beer tourist—a crazy soul who has come hundreds of miles—or even thousands—to sample Vermont’s hard-to-find craft brews.

This year they’re all dying to drink Goldenpour by the Giltmaker Brewery. Rated 99 by Beer Advisor, it’s the new Heady Topper—terrific yet impossible to buy. You can drink pint after pint right here at the Gin Mill, or you can wait in line for two hours on Tuesday morning outside the brewery in Waterbury. They’ll sell you exactly two six-packs.

Lucky for both me and the foamies, I serve Goldenpour six days a week, along with a dozen other rare Vermont craft brews. To get the word out, I’ve spent the last year writing to every beer blog and travel website in the world, making sure they know that the Gin Mill is the place to be if you want to taste the best.

And it’s slowly beginning to work. My bar is always crowded on the weekends and often on the weeknights, too.

I opened a bar because I wanted my life to be a seven-day-a-week party. Turns out owning a business never really feels like a party. But I love it anyway.

“Need a fill up?” I ask Hamish.

“Nah, I’m good,” the carpenter says. “Thanks, kid.”

“So what beer do you want to serve at your party?” I ask. He and I are planning a retirement shindig for him next month.

“Goldenpour, if you can swing it. But if you can’t, that’s okay, too.”

“I’ll ask. If they say no, I’ll bring something good.”

“I know you will.”

The door of the bar swings open, and I glance up out of habit. I make seventy percent of my receipts Thursday through Sunday. If I served food, too, that would even things out a bit.

If only.

The new arrival isn’t a customer, though. It’s Chelsea from NorthCorp, my beer distributor. “Happy Thursday, hot stuff,” she says. “I brought you a new IPL.”

“Yeah? Awesome.” I lean over the bar, grab Chelsea into a one-armed hug, and plant a kiss right on her jaw. Chelsea is a great girl. Not only does she keep the Gin Mill stocked with trophy beers, but she also really likes to fuck me. She’s my BDWB. Beer distributor with benefits.

Am I living the dream or what?

“Chelsea—Hamish and I have an invitation for you.” I pluck a card off the stack on the bar.

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