by Eric Ginsburg
Welcome to the worlds shortest Olympic tournament.
Just a little more than an hour into the Beer Olympics at the new Greensboro location of Mac’s Speed Shop last week, you’d never have known one had been held. The event — billed as a tournament including beer pong, jumbo Connect 4, corn hole and jumbo Jenga — either never quite got off the ground or had been quickly overshadowed by the events around it. After all, Thursday is bike night, celebrating one of the three legs this business stands on (the others being beer and barbecue).
I’ve seen a real beer-pong tourney, participated in it actually about a year ago in Raleigh. My girlfriend’s friend set up two ping-pong tables in her open garage, and had prepared by setting up a bracket on the door, a grill outside and a keg within arm’s reach. I’ve seen more than enough jumbo Jenga, too — Preyer Brewing advertised it the night before the so-called Olympics and Pig Pounder Brewery a few doors down from Mac’s heralded the game last week as well. There are plenty of Triad bars at this point that boast it every night. And corn hole? Well, you can’t have any extra points for offering that either.
The oversized Connect 4 was all that visibly remained an hour into last week’s festivities at Mac’s Speed Shop, but nobody cared. Aging couples, a few groups of bikers and the after-work crowd packed the house, filling up stools inside and outside at the open-air chain in Marty’s Midtown along Battleground Avenue.
A two-piece band belted covers from a raised outdoor stage, and I appreciated that after a break they turned it down a notch, making conversation easier. But again, nobody else seemed to mind. They were too busy turning up, using their phones to film a few bikers backing out and roaring away, or hollerin’ the way some people do at a rodeo and others church.
I’d listened to a podcast episode about the Waco biker shootout the day prior, and with that and my experience at Willie’s biker bar in Winston-Salem fresh in my mind, I surveyed the crowd.
Mac’s Speed Shop is the sort of place where someone might walk up and end up discussing Heavy Rebel Weekender with you or where you might hear two guys from a local motorcycle shop casually discussing Hell’s Angels, as I did last week. But it’s not a roughneck sort of place where you’d expect to see someone get clocked with an empty beer bottle. No, you’re much more likely to see a man with a lap dog on a pink leash chatting up his server like old friends.
In several ways, Mac’s feels sort of like a Texas outpost, not so much in a tumbleweed sort of way, but in that big sky, twinkling lights and hootenanny type of experience. Or maybe it’s just the brisket and the Texas toast that comes with it.
On my second trip to Mac’s, after trying a good half dozen of the dishes, I can easily say the St. Louis-style half rack of ribs are top of my list so far. The wings are incredibly smoky, so if that’s your style you’ll swear by them, and I can’t say I love the mac & cheese. But the slathered ribs, especially with a real salad as a side, are worth it.
Mac’s Speed Shop opened several locations before this one, so I imagine when somebody added a smaller beer bar to the patio despite the gigantic full-service bar inside they knew what they were doing. I’d peg much of the clientele as the Coors or Bud Heavy kind of crowd, but the beer list is remarkably lush, including Gibb’s, Preyer, Foothills and Natty’s as well as a serious lineup of draft beer and cans. This is no beer geek’s den with prized bomber bottles and aged vintages, but you can find things like Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez gose and likely several beers even craft nerds haven’t tried.
There’s wine and liquor too, if that’s more your bag, though I can’t really see asking for a glass of white to go with your barbecue sandwich.
And beer, after all, is right in the slogan.
When the jumbo Jenga tower fell, a couple women standing close to it cheered, maybe the only spectators of the evening’s sports. Occasionally the pieces from the large Connect 4 would clatter to the concrete floor below, but if the patron’s were watching anything besides the live music and ESPN, it had to be the flow of bikes pulling up.
There’s a spirit and a rowdiness to Mac’s Speed Shop, but one that stays contained. The vibe on the expansive patio is more like a formalized cookout than anything else, which is probably a big part of what draws people here to knock a few back.
Visit Mac’s Speed Shop at 1218 Battleground Ave. (GSO) or at macspeedshop.com.