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.