So much of my enjoyment of a drink depends on the surrounding atmosphere.
Take last Saturday night, for instance. Wise Man Brewing was having their first anniversary blowout, with bands and beer releases each night. I wanted to try at least one of their new barrel aged offerings, which meant that for the second time in our town, my husband and I would take an Uber to see what we could get into.
The first time we ever went to Wise Man, the crowd was fairly slim. We’d shown up at noon on opening day — the time we’d read that they were opening — and already 40 people were into their second beers. Still, we found a table along the brick wall opposite the bar, and we had a great chat with a grizzled guy who made his own homebrew and stored bottles of Sexual Chocolate in his basement. By the time my parents showed up, the ordering line was out the door, but we relished in the fact that we were two of the first ones to enjoy the brewery in its infancy.
Cut to a year later. People are spilling out the open garage doors in the rain because the barroom is standing room only. People are standing back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder, and I’m weaving between men to get to the bar, hoping my boobs and backside don’t brush up too much against strangers.
The line is short because the rockstar bartenders have learned much since opening day, and the system (plastic cups, no flights) makes pouring a breeze. But finding a place to sit or even stand is difficult, and there’s no way my husband and I can hear each other talk.
We stand outside against the brick wall and share an umbrella, which sounds romantic until we start burping up Mountain Calling IPA and moscatel barrel-aged Belgian strong golden ale in each other’s faces. Since we’re standing, we drink a little too fast and fifteen minutes into arriving, we’re empty handed.
“I’m not going back in there!” my husband says. I have to close out the tab, but I agree that I don’t want to stay. We debate taking an Uber back home, but I was cooped up in the house all day and want to walk around a bit, which he’s fine with, rain be damned. I’m sure we can find a quiet place to sit and chill — even on a Saturday night — and I’ve got dark beer on the brain.
We walk down Trade, where Fiddlin’ Fish, the new brewery in town, is almost as crowded. We pass the corner where Test Pattern is and are surprised to find it’s out of business, maybe because the Garage has closed down.
On a whim, I make us cut down Liberty, and the Trophy Room looks dark, even closed, but we realize it’s just the angle and the lighting. There’s no one sitting by the front windows, so we jaywalk across and flash our IDs at the door.
Ever since we left Wise Man, I’ve been craving a hearty, complex stout, and I find just that — Stone Xocoveza on draft — at Dogwood Hops and Crops next door. I carry it into the darker, cozier Trophy Room so my husband can order TOPO Eight Oak at the bar.
The couches by the front windows are new; they’re a welcome change from the backless stools and stiff countertops that had been there since the place first opened. I lounge on the faux leather and look out at the young people walking by or standing, smoke somersaulting as they blow it into the hazy orange street light. The coffee, chocolate, cinnamon, and spices from the Xocoveza fill my mouth as I reflect on the fact that sometimes, my enjoyment of a night out doesn’t just depend on the crowd and the availability of comfortable seating.
It also relies on internal factors: feeling happy and open to the moment, being on good terms with my husband, following my instincts. Hell, we could duck into a seedy dive bar and enjoy PBRs if it’s conducive to a larger joy and spontaneity and feeling like the moment is right.