Day-Drinking with my Mother-in-Law and Other Things I Don’t Even Remotely Regret
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 hoo-doggy 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.
Pitchfork Brewing Co.
“I’m only having one beer today, I’ll tell you that right now,” she declared as a flight of five was set down before us.
Pitchfork, if you’ve not yet been, is cramped in a tiny strip mall space with something called Peek-a-Boo Boxing next door. You see the mall from the highway and wonder how it gets any business at all, then you taste the beer and instantly figure it out.
The beer that presently haunts me is Dabruzzi, a cherry stout. I pushed this onto her first; she took a sip and her head snapped back abruptly. I’m a raving nut for Dabruzzi, 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 reminded her of wine, her favorite. After the flight, we dialed up a shorty of it. 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.
Within the next 10 minutes, her limitation would be surpassed. We didn’t even have to get in the car.
That our next stop was on the other side of the taproom was commodious, indeed. We exited Pitchfork and were magically inside Paddy Ryan’s.
Paddy’s is wood-paneled, and sleek. It’s Irishish, but very suburban. The bartenders dress nice. You probably wouldn’t spit on the floor. The beer menu made my next choice simultaneously the most difficult and the 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 served that beer to your mother-in-law? Shame on you. Seriously, though, this beer is a net positive wherever you put it. Give it to anyone, anywhere, with anything. It just works.
My wife had grown tired of hearing about this while she drove teenagers around, 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 dialed three more beers up. 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.
The shandy was followed by the moment of truth. It was time to drop off a car.
Cue the montage.
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.
The flights are literal here: a row of six little’uns arranged in their adorable propeller-shaped carrier. My mother-in-law left the darks to me 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, I’d venture my mother-in-law had outpunched her limit by three or four beers. The arithmetic was hazy at this point, however.
This was a quick stop, for a growler of that Kentucky Bourbon Ale. 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. 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 I neglected to record — 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 soaked it on up.
The bartender (of course he’s wearing plastic-framed glasses 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. Dragon’s Milk was the perfect name for it; it made my eyes mist up, but drank as smooth as a freeway drive.
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 called “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 stepped into the place with the chili competitions, the mural of an all-fish rock band on the wall, and beach toys strung to the ceiling. Ah, Dick’s.
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 “mother-in-law” “tasting of my” and “Dick’s” that closely together) meant she had sipped of 25 taps, cans and bottles in less time than most of us spend at the office each day.
That only means we go 10 hours next time.