Before Saturday, my dear mother-in-law hadn't bellied up to a bar in over 30 years. She touches beer less frequently than I touch the skin behind my ears. Even her drink of choice, wine, is enjoyed in relative rarity.

Yet, all it took was a properly-crooned proposal for her to stand up in the living room Saturday and declare to my wife: "Frank and I are going beerin' this afternoon!"

Her facial display registered someplace between a child on a surprise field trip and a farmer about to start morning chores, neither of which suggested she should have ever been this distant from beer to begin with. In all, she sampled a palate-pounding 25 different beers. The excursion lasted more than six hours and touched both ends of Hudson.

She left the experience with a resolution to drink more beer. You're welcome.

STOP 1: Pitchfork Brewing Co.
"I'm only having one beer today, I'll tell you that right now," she said as a flight of five was laid before us.

Pitchfork is a curious venue, cramped in a tiny strip mall space, with something called Peek-a-Boo Boxing next door. Reaching said strip mall can be fiddly the first time. Just after the first turn-off is a scene that, I swear, gets repeatedly filmed in slasher flicks.

Find it, though, and resplendent suds await. The beer that presently inhabits my dreams is Dabruzzi, a cherry stout. I pushed this onto her first; she took a sip and her head snapped back abruptly.  I'm insatiable for this beer, but she reacted like she'd just tasted Listerine. She prefers lights. Fine.

Next was a Munich Dunkel: "I like this one better than that one," she said, and recanted this with every step she went lighter -- through the Barn Door Brown Ale, Outwitted witbier, and finally to an American ale brewed with citra hops and run from a firkin.

The firkin pour, her favorite, reminded her of wine. We grounded the flight and ordered a shorty of that. It came to us on a dilapidated CD reborn as a coaster, and was quickly reduced to drops and glass lacing. My mother-in-law had soaked in, by my estimation, half a beer. She's often resolute in her self-limitations, but ... let's just say I've a strong suit in helping folks tap their potential.

Her limitation would get surpassed in a single-digit number of minutes.

STOP 2: Paddy Ryan's
That our next stop was on the other side of the taproom was commodious, indeed.

Paddy Ryan's mellifluously blends the identities of a faux-Irish pub and a barely-inside-the-box craft bar. I mean that in the nicest way possible -- this really is a great place. That said, choosing a beer for my mother-in-law was simultaneously the most difficult and easiest thing possible.

I say "the most difficult" because there's a far-reaching selection of craft beers you can get anywhere.
I say "the easiest thing possible" because one of them was Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils.

Oh, you've never had the chance to serve a beer of that name to your mother-in-law? Shame on you. Seriously, though, this is an easy, approachable beer you could put before anyone and get good results. Please don't ask me what "approachable" means in a beer context. I'm trying to sound expertly here.

My wife, who had grown tired of hearing about this while she drove teenagers around, finally ditched them at the house and joined us (My alternate title was "Leave the Kids and Go Drink, and Other Family Virtues"). We dove into appetizers and had three more beers brought over. They were, in order of my mother-in-law's favor, Lagunitas Censored, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and a shandy she sucked down too swiftly for me to identify.

My mother-in-law cruised past her one beer limit. Speaking of cruising, we then came upon that fateful decision. It was time to drop off a car.

That's when you know it's about to get real.

STOP 3: American Sky
American Sky, in a world without 612 Brew or Bauhaus Brew Labs, operates in my favorite taproom (even with them, a good argument can be made for Sky). Almost everything at the bar is coated in metal. Photos of pilots adorn the walls, and a little wooden airplane dangles over the tap station. It's like the head brewer set up shop in a hangar. They even call it The Hangar. In a past life, it might've been a hangar.

The Hangar is where I can often be found on Sundays, when Sky offers all-you-can-eat bacon for free. Go ahead and read that one more time if you have to.

I ordered a flight, a row of six little'uns arranged in their adorable propeller-shaped flight carriers, and tiptoed it over to our table. My mother-in-law left the darks to my devices while hoarding the pilot-batch shandy and Sweet Rosie, a raspberry cream ale. Pints of the two were ordered soon after.

By the time we departed American Sky, I'd venture my mother-in-law had outpunched her limit by three or four beers, but the arithmetic was hazy at this point.

STOP 4: Casanova Liquors
This was a quick stop. The Kentucky Bourbon Ale from Paddy's had stayed in my heart, and found its way into my growler. This renowned shady dealer is just on the cusp of downtown, and when you reach downtown ...

STOP 5: Winzer Stube
... you wind up in a German basement bar.

Winzer Stube is a sneaky little prick, with unobtrusive signage and no storefront on a tree-spotted section of First St. I'd love to name it as a favorite, but I don't haunt it nearly well enough. It's pocket-sized and well lit; the subterranean setting makes it feel like you've uncovered a treasure. How's the German theme? It depends on how you feel about a man in lederhosen playing Buffett on his accordion. I happen to think that's exquisitely German.

My mother-in-law, not a lover of German food. We ordered a beer flight -- which my dumb ass neglected to record and details of -- some cheese curds, and a pretzel. The food was excellent. I know the schwarzbier was the weak link of the flight, and we were given a "bonus beer" that tasted like cheese. The ladies treated this beer like an insult, but I'll champion anything likened to cheese.

The bartender (of course he's wearing ironic lenses and hosts tastings in his off-time) boasted up a chile-infused stout called Dragon's Milk, and told me where I could get it. Then, we went to that place.

STOP 6: Stone Tap
It's so funny how this space on First St. went from being the uneven-walled, oily-floored, lovable cesspool Dibbo's had been for over 50 years to the fresh, clean, curlicued, upper-class dining room Stone Tap is today. What isn't brick is either black-topped or wood grain; it's the restaurant version of the cars Master P used to rap about.

Dragon's Milk, you say? A 5-oz pour of it was $4.50. A growler fill is $28, and bet your bare ass on a grill surface I'll be filling one up sometime soon. Dragon's Milk was the perfect name for it; it made my eyes mist up, but drank as smooth as a freeway drive. I can't foresee getting permanent affixed to such spicy brews, but a one-night stand or occasional hate-fuck certainly ain't out of the question.

Mother-in-law ordered Tyranena's Three Beaches Honey Blonde, which satisfied her. Roughly five hours after pledging to have only one all day, she handled all three beaches alone. This is what's known as "accelerated progression." I offered her a taste of my Dragon's Milk, and she reacted to its impression the way most people do to a static shock.

This was a short stay. We drank one each and proceeded to our third meal since the excursion began.

STOP 7: Dick's Bar
As the little hand tiptoed past 8, we proceeded to the destination with which we were most familiar: The one with the chili competitions, mural of an all-fish rock band on the wall, and beach toys strung to the ceiling.

Mother-in-law ordered Capital Brewing's Island Wheat, and I had some house-recipe red that was lacking in basically everything. It drank the way a nose-hair trim feels. She seemed to enjoy her Island Wheat, however, drinking probably 15.8 ounces of her pint and leaving my wife and I with nothing beyond introductory sips. We chowed some cheeseburgers and bounced.

Her tasting of my beer at the final bar (You're right, I'm wording it that way because I don't want to have "mother-in-law" "tasting of my" and "Dick's" that closely together) was meant she had sipped of 25 taps, cans and bottles in less time than most of us spend at the office each day.

Just imagine how it would've gone had she stuck to her limit. She'd have been done after Paddy's. Look at all she'd have missed. You can call me an enabler if you'd like, but I like to think of myself as a tapper of potential ... and I wield my craft well, thank you.

Turn off your televisions. Get off the NBA website. Next year is already over.

But first, remember the one kid in elementary school who was more athletic than everyone else? Our class had one. I won't say his name because my class was so small, but everybody wanted to be on his team in gym class. We'd play kickball, dodgeball, and other games today's children are too fragile to play. Having the athletic kid on your team often meant winning.

This was before every kid was a winner.

We would shuffle ourselves in line during team count-offs (1, 2, 1, 2 ...) hoping to land the same number as the Mighty AthletiC Kid (MACK). Not everyone, of course -- there were nearly-as-athletic kids who, when teamed correctly, could beat a team of MACK and, for example, eight Franks. The nose-picking, shoes-untied masses, however, were much more comfortable on MACK's side of the gym.

MACK is now LeBron James, and he's now on a team. Good for him. Good for Cleveland. Good for the Comic Sansman, he of subprime loans and bowties.

Right after MACK had chosen his team, the rest of the NBA's free agents -- who fiddled and fidgeted with anticipation -- made their moves between conniving to play with him or combining their powers to best him. Many have yet to decide.

Take Kevin Love, for example. News sources were rife with headlines about how Kevin Love would commit to Cleveland is sent there. Of course he would! What else would he do, lead his own team to victory? Give me any stat you want: the truth of the matter is Kevin Love has never led an NBA team to even a .500 season (Credit Bill Simmons for not ever letting his readers forget this). Oh, they didn't put enough talent around him? I can hear laughter in Phoenix.

Kevin Love might win a championship, though, if he can switch spots with some other kids and wind up on MACK's team. Carmelo Anthony will not. He is going to spend his prime putting up great numbers in losing efforts, and making small mountains of money, because that's what he'd rather do. Also, since he'll be doing this in New York, his girlfriend can remain famous (Which one is she again?).

None of the other nearly-as-athletic free agents did anything eye-popping, either sticking to their nuclei of other nearly-as-athletic kids or flat-out stinking for paychecks.

In the free-agency aftermath is an NBA whose regular season reads like a book's appendix. I don't follow the NBA beyond the occasional score-check and whatnot -- yet, over the last three seasons, Mr. I-Don't-Follow-The-NBA has nailed 11 of the last 12 conference final teams before the seasons began. This is the effect: A league in which four teams are formidable, another four are long shots, and half the league will come into this season and get right to work losing on purpose.

Do you realize a team attempted losing on purpose last season and made the frickin' playoffs?! This is today's NBA.

I've said this before and I'm going to repeat it, if for no other reason because I've never demonstrated this so soon into the season. The regular season? The first two rounds of the playoffs? Forget about it. You don't need to watch. You can catch that one dunk later on SportsCenter.

Here are your four NBA conference finals teams for next season. This isn't a prediction. A prediction insinuates odds of inaccuracy. This is the absolute, 100-percent will happen.

Spurs and Thunder, again, in the West. As long as their competition is content losing to them in the second round and does nothing to significantly improve, I don't see why this would change. There is a KMart aisle stocked full of squads just dying for a second-round exit. This is what's called "a deep conference."

My hometown team? They're getting set for another blow-up-and-rebuild. There's no point waiting for anything. The Timberwolves peaked as a franchise when they precipitated the Lynx.

Pacers and Cavs in the East. This is "the bad conference." This is the conference in which eight or nine teams will make it their mission to lose. The Pacers aren't bad enough to get beaten by anyone else; the Cavs will have MACK and his band of lucky line-jumpers.

Shut up about the Bulls. Remember that scene in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby is coming back from the injury, when he's driving around the track at the pace of a brisk tip-toe, yet screaming in fear? That's the Bulls best player right now.

The rest of the league might as well cease to exist. Until the conference finals, it's a six-month sales pitch for jerseys and shoes. You probably know whose you want anyway.

It's nice outside. There are plenty of cat pictures to giggle at. The number of breweries in the U.S. just surpassed 3,000 for the first time since the 1870s. I assure you, you've got something better to do than watch the makings of an already-known conclusion.

Tune in next May. You can thank me later.

There are smart ways to bacon, and there are ways that precipitate eye-rolls and groans.

Remember back when bacon's wheels were only beginning to turn? A Baconator sat in everybody's to-go bag, the state fair had started selling it on a stick for $5, and I was considered loony-bin fodder for having bacon put in our wedding cake. That you could do more with bacon was suddenly a secret to everyone.

Then, it was no longer a secret. Bacon went public. Bacon became Bakon Vodka (which tastes like grill surface run-off, if you're wondering). It became bandages. It became an alarm clock app, an ice cream flavor, on and on and on. Spokesmen squawk "Bacon" in commercials incessantly. I won't jump off a cliff and say "These things make me enjoy bacon less" ... but that thought has crossed my mind.

Day Block Brewing Company on UrbanspoonWhich makes it all the more refreshing that a place like Day Block Brewing can present to you bacon in an innovative yet enjoyable form. I present to you, the bacon flight: Three types of bacon with varying seasonings and sauces. Paired with a beer flight, it's a satisfying set of experiments. Paired with a Carolina BBQ pizza, it's the first stage of a meal you wish every brewpub could bring out.

The Basics: Day Block was named best new Brewpub by the Star Tribune this year, and was one of the first to pump fists when the 2018 Super Bowl venue was named -- Day Block will be two blocks away from the stadium. You can find their location on their website. Look at that handy map. It even tells you where you can park your bike!

They recently began Pilot Wednesdays, in which they offer three test batches for public review. How neat is that? In addition to bacon and beer flights, Day Block offers pickle flights and cheese flights.

The first time me wife and I drank at Day Block, we hung with the brewers and I motor-boated some hops. This time, we sat next to an inked-up couple who loudly discussed their meth-using friend. I don't say "inked up" in an artistic way; they looked like they had my high school margin doodles permanently put on their bodies. Also, they had those cute little nose rings I want to grab onto and work like a door-knocker.

The beer and bacon flights came out first. The bacon came in cute little cubicle cups, each with a unique sauce inside. There were three strips per cup -- if you're married, that means one apiece with a third to be bartered for a blowjob or maybe the next dishwasher fill-up at home. The sauces were all a good time, but the soy/Thai peanut was the preferred system of dress.

Pairing bacon flights and beer flights allows you some good ol' trial and error. There were no bad beers, and there was no bad bacon, but there were certainly curious combos. In the end, The Wit beer and the Thai peanut bacon worked together best. As for beer by itself, I champed the Belgian pale ale and my wife chose the porter.

Day Block's menu isn't especially deep -- just salads, sammies and pies -- and that's a good thing. Think about it: A brewpub juggling beer and a big list of bites? I'd rather see a few pins kept in the air than a bunch of them scattered on the floor. We had a look, and settled on the Carolina BBQ pizza.

This pizza is reminiscent of Agave Kitchen's steeburger -- and, as you well know, a comparison to a steeburger is a very, very good thing. I wouldn't touch coleslaw in a cup if there was a $100 bill at the bottom of it, but put it on a burger or pizza? You'd think Braveheart led me onto the plate.

The dough was foldable, the crust cushy, the toppings plenty. If you really need me to nit-pick at something, the chicken got overwhelmed by its peers on the palate -- which, by the way, includes more bacon. In all, it was $17 well spent. Service was good on top of it -- the tender could've mechanically taken our bacon sauces, but insisted we try dipping the crust in them. Little things.

At least from my point of view, Day Block is doing everything right. Their location is prime, their beer flight is without a weak link, and the pizza chases beer just about perfectly. It should come as no surprise they're one of the remainders who didn't take their bacon and hurl it off the deep end.

You won't find pretenders at Day Block. No bandages, no alarms, no screams. Just bacon, pizza, and good suds to wash it down with.