Craft Beer Weekend


This weekend, Buddy and I celebrated not having kids.

Don’t get me wrong.  We want kids at some point, after I’m done with school and started on a real job.  We’d really like to wait until I’m rich and famous.

For now, we’re happy being parents to cats, who can be left at home in the care of friends if we want to skip out.  Which is exactly what we did.

About five hours from here is a brewery which was doing a special limited release of one of their annual beers.  Buddy, being a craft beer enthusiast, really wanted to go and, because they were limiting the number of 22 oz bottles each customer could purchase (6), he needed me along as a mule.  It’s not that the beer is so amazingly good that he plans to drink all 12 bottles himself.  He has a vast network of friends with whom he trades hard-to-find brews.  Those 12 bottles are trade currency.

The brewery was going to hand out purple bracelets to the first 300 customers at 6:30 am on Saturday.  Those lucky customers would be let into the brewery at 8 am for some inexpensive sausage biscuits and then allowed to make their purchases starting at 9 am, lining up based on the number on their bracelet.  When they ran out of purple bracelets, they switched to gold bracelets.  Those customers had to wait outside until all the purples were served and then hope that the brewery hadn’t already run out.

People weren’t supposed to start lining up until 2 am.  When we got there at 12:30 am, we were extremely grateful that our friends had gotten there at 11:30 pm.  The parking lot was full and the waiting party was well on its way.

You see, when craft beer people get together, they do “shares.”  Everyone brings a couple of bottles of rare, limited edition, or even aged brews.  Then they offer up tastes.  It’s part of what makes the craft beer community so strange to me.  Most people, when they get together to drink, are just trying to get drunk and have a good time.  Craft beer people are like oenophiles in their appreciation of the product (they use some of the same terminology), but they are more like foodies in their egalitarian attitude.  Wine people frequently come across as rude and stingy, mostly because good wine is expensive and it behooves the serious collector to save it for as long as possible to increase the value.  From what I can tell, wineries are trying to change this attitude and engage younger generations, probably because craft brewers are so successful with this strategy.  Foodies, in contrast, have very limited shelf life for their products.  Half the fun is eating and the other half is sharing with other foodies, who will appreciate your offering and make you feel justified for spending $8 on goat cheese.

Beer doesn’t have the shelf life of wine, but some are made to be aged for a year or so.  It’s also a controlled substance and is difficult to ship long distances safely.  The fans of this product love sharing, but only enough to give samples.  That night in line was spent by most people moving through the crowd and sharing stories and beer with complete strangers.  It was an unexpected atmosphere, rather exuberant and welcoming.

There were a couple of police officers there for the event.  They basically let everyone know that as long as they didn’t see anything (like open alcoholic beverages on a public street after midnight), they didn’t have to notice anything.  And, even though people were drinking steadily the whole time (and we could smell some less-than-legal smoking), the cops didn’t need to get involved.  They were just a friendly reminder to keep things amiable, which is exactly what happened.

Down sides to this trip were few, I think.  The brewery piped out loud music the whole night, mostly crap.  I think they were trying to give their fans a party environment when many just wanted to get some sleep or chill with their friends.  The group of guys behind us seemed to be of the opposite opinion and spent the night yelling and swearing aggressively.  All this added up to a bad night of not-really sleep.  It wasn’t going to be good to begin with, given that our “beds” were lawn chairs, but a little less noise would have been welcome.

Still, the breakfast was tasty, the beer was great (even to me, a non-beer drinker), and it was actually a good time.  We probably will never go to that event again (we were told that the crowd was twice the size as last year).  It was a long drive and we really enjoy sleep.  And I’m being amply compensated for my mule duty (I get to build up my professional wardrobe up to the amount he spent on the beer and we’re getting my favorite almond macaroons).

We finished up at the brewery around 10 am and then went to visit Buddy’s Aunt and Uncle who live only an hour beyond the brewery.  They weren’t home when we got there, so we spent the afternoon in Barnes & Noble (me writing a paper, Buddy trying surreptitiously to sleep).  That evening, we went out for some excellent German food (after a most-needed/desired shower) and spent some time playing with Auntie and Uncle’s new puppy and kitty.  Oh, they were so cute.  That night, we slept in a soft bed we were unusually grateful for.  Spending the night on a sidewalk in a lawn chair really makes you feel for the plight of the homeless.

It was a good weekend and only possible because no kids.  Next weekend, we’re going on another short trip.  Independence is fun.

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