Estes Park Brewing, Estes Park, CO

It’s legitimately comical isn’t it? Like, these posts keep rolling out in an unprecedented frequency and with every new post there seems to be no sign I’ve ever even been to Denver? Like, I think maybe the closest I’ve “been” according to this blog at this point is like, Aurora? I swear I live in Denver. But I’m just not ~vibin~ with Denver. Although, if you’re curious as to where I am the “should I stay or should I go?” front, I’m on the stay. I’m developing that dangerous kind of freedom around here. And, as much as I love you guys (my friends back in Milwaukee), being home for Christmas (and again in a few weeks for Doughboys) has reminded me how absolutely soul-sucking that environment can be. It’s a city that demands we settle and I might be giving up but I’m not settling yet.

But anyways, back to the blog. It’s gotta be unhealthy for me to open every single one of these with a weird lament about what life is and how life became as it is. Whatever. My sister’s visited the first weekend of November and we went up to Estes for the day and had lunch at the Estes Park Brewery!

We ate at a weird time of the day, which would probably partially account for the fact that there was only one large family with a million kids running around in there and no one else. But I don’t know how to adequetely describe the weird Wisconsin Northwoods vibe of this place. Like, it felt like the back hall of a VFW and not a brewpub or anywhere fit for people to actually visit? Too harsh?

Anyways, I had two beers and my sisters and I had an app sampler because we decided that maybe we wanted to eat somewhere else. (Somewhere else ended up just being Freddy’s in Longmont like hours and hours later). The first beer I had was a Renegade IPA which I gave 2/5 on untappd. Which, ooft. Brutal. I don’t have any notes (of course) so I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I just know that I didn’t. And then the second beer I had was The Shining APA which I gave an even crueler 1.75 on Untappd.

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This is so uncharacteristically mean of me, but I also know that the whole experience at the brewpub was also just kind of unwelcoming. The apps felt like microwaved fare. The server was weirdly perturbed that we were there? I don’t know. Whatever. If you’re ever in Estes, do whatever the fuck you want. But I would recommend dressing in period attire and getting a drink at the Stanley Hotel instead.

(My sisters and I did the nighttime Stanley Hotel tour and 10/10, would recommend).

Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs, CO

Long story short, I’m in Fort Collins right now. And I’m about to write about a brewery in Colorado Springs. Although my last post was about a brewery in Fort Collins, which I wrote in Cheyenne. Now, you might be wondering why I’m just never in fucking Denver and the answer I have for that is… Denver is so boring. And you guys know that because I’ve railed about it before. But yeah, I’m bored of Denver and that didn’t take long. I know. But I also should mention that I’m warming up to the sun. January is still fresh at the time of this writing, but it feels like the winter might be more bearable here because it’s never bitterly cold and the sun comes out everyday. I mean, not that the sun coming out every day is necessarily a good thing. It kinda drives me crazy. But it makes the winter seem manageable to an extent.

But you guys didn’t come here for a weather report. You came here for a beer report. So let me tell you about Bristol Brewing Company in Colorado Springs!

So, I went there back in October because I’m still that far behind. I don’t know why I decided to check out Colorado Springs that day. I just know that I was in an adventuring mood, so I took off south on I-25 and set out to get beer somewhere. And the place that I landed to get beer was this old elementary school that has been converted into a small public market that had a coffee shop, a little couple little vendor stands, and a brewery/brewpub.

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I still didn’t make notes for this place, I should mention. But I did check into beers on Untappd, so that’s something. The first beer I had was the Fresh Hop Hazy Pale Ale, which I gave a 3.5. So I guess I thought it was fine. The second beer I had was the Ivywild School Tropical Pale Ale, which I gave a 2.25, so I’m going to assume that I didn’t like it.

But pause here for history! Brief history. Mostly just a side comment about whatever whatever. The old school was called Ivywild School, so it’s nice that they were out here paying homage to the building they were desecrating with their hipster beer culture. (I kid, the whole environment was quite lovely).

The last beer that I had there was the IPA Twenty-Five which I gave a 3.75, so I’m assuming that this meant I liked it.

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While at the brewery, I met a nice guy from Eau Claire who had never been to Milwaukee, which was appalling to me. But I guess when you live an hour from the Twin Cities, why bother driving four hours south to the shithole that is the city of Milwaukee when you’ve got these shining gems of cities like, right there. Although, like, c’mon. Milwaukee is class and culture although the first homicide of 2020 was of a 13 month of baby and I’m constantly surviving being a victim of crime.

I also met a nice man from southwest Colorado who chatted me up about other breweries in the state that I’ve got to check out. It was nice. I like chatting people up at bars. It’s how I get approximately forty percent of all my social interactions, strangers in bars.

After I closed out, I wandered down the hall to order a coffee and sandwich just to put some carbs in my belly to soak up the alcohol before I chose to drive. That’s where I sat and emotionally whipped up that Enlightened post, which, until recently was the last post I wrote for months and months and months.

Anyways, I had a good time there even if I found the beers middle of the road. The environment is more of a family friend brew-pub than a tap room with a light sandwich and app menu, but it was still cool. I love weird old buildings (which Denver is sorely lacking), so repurposing an old school and getting to drink in it while the bathrooms are still covered in murals done by children or for children or about children is nice. Check it out if you’re ever in Colorado Springs, I supposed.

Equinox Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO

Where are we? Well, currently I’m physically in Cheyenne, Wyoming drinking a london fog at a coffee shop because this town only has three breweries and none of them open until 2pm. Emotionally I’m wondering if I’m prepared for a new year to start tomorrow, wondering how 2020 is going to manage to further destroy a life I always pictured for myself. But three months ago I was in Fort Collins getting drunk alone at a brewery in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, just as one would expect from me at this point.

I went to Equinox Brewing Company and I’ll tell you all about what I remember about it!

The vibe was chill, but I also found that most of Fort Collins, or FoCo as the more insufferable transplants among us call it, quite chill. I remember driving around on that warm fall day, trying to figure out what to do, and discovering that Fort Collins has this beautiful quaintness to it. Tree-lined streets, a historical trolley track that runs through town that I think doesn’t actually run anymore? Old buildings. Old homes. People looking happy. It was radically different than the Denver vibes. Denver is people who don’t want to assimilate to a culture and rather inflict their own on the surroundings. That’s why when you ask people where’s a good place to get Italian, they think recommending Maggianos as an acceptable suggestion.

But I digress.

Fort Collins. I went to grab some beers and found myself longingly wishing I wasn’t alone there. I was sitting alone just messing around on my phone, but I couldn’t help but notice that there was a group of people on the opposite side of the bar having a great time playing cribbage. I love cribbage. I love sitting at a bar playing cribbage with my friends and calling them a “dipshit” for getting skunked (actually I’m usually the one getting skunked) and gleefully pointing out that someone had knobs and then taking the point. It was exactly what I needed. Friends.

But I was alone so I just sat there drinking and dicking around on my phone like the loser without any friends that I was. But I did have some beer and, as we all know, only cool kids drink beer. The first beer I had was the Space Ghost IPA. I gave it a middling review on Untappd but I don’t have any actual notes from the brewery. It’s actually becoming a true wonder if I even give a shit anymore. Like, why did I stop taking notes? Why am I no longer drinking beer with any kind of regularity and why don’t I post more than once every six months? What’s wrong with me? I still love this blog. I still love beer. But goddamn, this has gotten so much harder than it used to be. I would say that maybe at this point, in late September, it would be excusable. I was a full-time grad student working almost full-time as well. But now? With classes having been done for almost a whole month? What’s the excuse now?

Sorry, back to the beer. The second one I had was a Liquid Fuel which was a NEIPA. I gave it a little higher rating on Untappd. My third beer was a Lawn Boy Cream Ale, which I gave a 4.5, which is extremely high for me. I, again, don’t remember anything about it but I guess I thought it was good. The last beer I rated was an Event Horizon Imperial IPA which I gave a 4/5. Again, very good rating for me. I’m going to guess/assume/hope(?) that  I only got a four ounce pour of this last beer because it was a 9.4% and for me being in Fort Collins and having to book it to Westminster to see JUDY, I really want to believe I did not drink a full pour of such a high ABV beer for a fourth. But I am going to guess I didn’t because I’m very aware of what my limits are and I don’t want to fuck with them. Especially not in a state I don’t know that well so far from where I live.

Anyways, that’s Equinox. Check it out. It was a time.

Launch Pad Brewing, Aurora, CO

It has come to my attention that I have not been writing these posts in any particular or succinct manner. Apparently I went to this brewery and never wrote about it, which is very similar to what happened with Enlightened, except I definitely got emotional while writing the Enlightened post (for obvious reasons) whereas there will be no emotion here. Here is the cold, hard, mean facts about a brewery in Aurora that I went to the first week of September (yes, it is currently New Year’s Eve and the sun is setting on this decade).

But I really did not have too great of a time at this brewery so I never felt a strong compulsion to get into it. The thing that I’ve discovered about myself in recent weeks/months/lifetimes is that I feel bad shit talking breweries now. Not that this place is worthy of shit taking. It wasn’t that bad. It was just a bummer. But I should note that everything that happens in Aurora is a bummer. This was before I figured out that I do not vibe with the city of Aurora. I am going to wholly blame Aurora for this. It is a sprawling, personality-less wasteland just east of Denver that went from being a suburb to a whole ass, all consuming city of it’s own. The population of Aurora is angling it to be the St. Paul to Denver’s Minneapolis. The Twin Cities of the West. And must like how people scoff and whisper warnings about St. Paul, that’s how people treat Aurora. This dingy and less glamorous version of their neighbors to the west. Slightly cheaper housing, endless anonymous houses and rundown apartment complexes. Disillusioned faces of one time hopeful Denverites who wanted to own property and found themselves stuck in Aurora. There is a reason that I don’t live in Aurora although my campus is in Aurora. It’s because Aurora is a huge. Fucking. Bummer.

But I didn’t know that when I went to this brewery. I had been in Colorado scarcely three weeks at this point. And that night was going to see IT at a theatre in Aurora (that I still occasionally go to and is one of the few things in Aurora I actually visit). Anyways, I should just say that I went to Launch Pad Brewery for beer because I saw on some list somewhere that it was one of the best breweries in Aurora. Which, I mean, I guess is an accomplishment because Denver’s brewery scene is so bumpin’ that it’s now bleeding into Colorado’s largest city by land area now.

I should note that the beertender (I still hate that word) told me I could not have the first beer I ordered because the keg kicked and she “didn’t feel like” changing it. Actually what she told me. It was weird. I could understand if there just wasn’t more of that kind of beer? And maybe that is what she meant to say? But she legitimately told me she just didn’t feel like changing the keg. But whatever fine.

As is now becoming a habit, I do not have notes on this brewery. But I did document everything I drank on Untappd. (Also, if we’re not friends on Untappd you can friend me @upside-) The first beer that it appears I drank was the Project Highwater which was a altbier. I gave it a middling rating of a 3.0 on Untappd, but since it’s a German style beer, that makes sense. I’m really become that asshole who likes to push off the more traditional beer flavors in favor of dumb shit like kumquat or whatever the fuck American craft brewers are doing with their IPAs and shit these days. The second peer I had was a Project Apollo and lo and behold, it appears I liked it. Wanna know why? It was an APA and I’m insufferable. The last beer I had noted was the Ariane 6 which I gave another 3 to although it was an IPA.

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I do think I had more to drink than this because I remember feeling pretty ~good~ when I was done drinking, and this was way back in the days when I had a tolerance for alcohol. But that is the point in which I stopped checking in beers on Untappd. The brewery was fine, honestly. The beers were fine. The vibe was weird but I was also there in the middle of the day on a Thursday in September. But, whatever. I just had to purge this one from the memory banks and continue on with this journey. See y’all in 2020. Maybe things will get better although I’m pretty sure they’re going to get worse.

Enlightened Brewing, Bay View

Wow. I bet you guys were not expecting another Milwaukee brewery so soon with this whole “me moving to Denver” and all. And let me just say, you’re right. You probably should not be getting blessed with a post about the Good Land this soon, but apparently I am such a bad blogger that I went to Enlightened and just deadass forgot to write about it. So today, while I was scrolling through my notes on my phone, I realized my grave error and decided that I should write about. Partially because I strive for total transparency with my audience (Nicole and Jake Smith and Wesson) and also in part because I miss Milwaukee, and specifically Bay View, in a way I never thought possible. I miss the changing of the leaves and the smell of fall and my neighbors being the most extra motherfuckers imaginable in their Halloween decorations. I miss Vanguard and Stone Creek Coffee and the Avalon Theatre. I miss a sense of community and people on the street passing you with a hesitant smile because they don’t want to get mugged but they also don’t want to be rude. I miss all of it.

And today, while sitting at a brewery in Colorado Springs, of all fuck places, I scrolled through my phone notes and saw the time I went to Enlightened and I fell into a hole of memory and loss. So travel back in time with me to this night, on a warm summer day in July, while I waited for Nicole to arrive from Michigan. I will do my best to fill this story as accurately and truly as it deserves, but portions have been lost to time and I do not know if I will be able to truly capture the feeling of the humid night in July, the eve before I saw Phish in concert for the first (and only) time.

I was antsy, that I remember for sure. And I know that Ashely was not home, but I do not know where she might have been. That is a memory I’ve lost. A fact I failed to retain. I was alone and desperate to take on the world, somewhere. Something. Anything. At this point, I already knew my days in Bay View were number. My time in Milwaukee was coming to a close. I wanted to take as much of this city, the city that shaped me, in before I was destined to leave again. I thought about going to Component again, a great love of mine, but I also knew that it was time for me to branch out. To experience something new in this city that raised me. I thought long and hard about it. How far I wanted to travel. What I wanted to see.

Then I remembered the steady stream of kind and daily regulars that graced us at the cafe every day. The staff of Enlightened Brewing right in Bay View. I hadn’t had a chance to visit to their old tap room before they moved into the more spacious one just down the road from the cafe I worked. And that is what I set my sights on. I drove, though I know that I could’ve walked. But in Bay View, it was a dicey. I headed up there after ten pm, and in a city like Milwaukee, anything could happen. I could’ve been fine to walk, or I could’ve been mugged. Anything. That kind of city. No matter how dismissive and belittling the people pf Denver want to be about my hometown, Milwaukee is not some small Midwestern town where everyone smiles and says “How’ya doin’ der?” It’s a city. A city with problems and crime and concerns. A real, goddamn American city.

And so I went.

The night was warm and I was not prepared for the lack of air conditioning, though I do not know why. At that point, after all that time in Bay View, I should’ve known better. Air conditioning was the exception rather than the rule. But it wasn’t terrible. They had the windows (garage doors) wide open and occasionally we would catch a cooling breeze that weaved from the lake, past the houses and down the long and winding roads to this brewery on Allis Street.

The humidity caught in the wood and fill the place with the familiar and comforting scent of “basement bar.” It felt like home. That’s what Milwaukee always felt like to me. Home. A bitter and contentious home. A place that I could never wait to leave but could never picture living without. A place that accepted me for who I was, but still felt it their responsibility to point out my flaws. Milwaukee.

The three beers I had were Barbe Rougue, Te Ipsum, and Sentient Twig. I made absolutely no notes on these beers nor did I even rate them on Untappd. But I don’t know if it mattered. I have such fond memories of this night, of me alone at this brewery, of the moments of comfort being invaded by the realization that these days were numbered. My time in Bay View was numbered. My time at Stone Creek was coming to an end. These places, built by people so firmly rooted in Wisconsin culture, emanating such a visceral feeling of Home, would not exist outside of Milwaukee, or Wisconsin, for me. Even in Denver, a bar that smelled like a basement bar would still be different. Soon… Everything would be different.

But that night, at that brewery, in that part of time. Everything felt right. Me alone at a a bar. Me happy to be where I was. Drinking good beer in the Good Land. Genuinely embracing the culture that made me, raised me, honed me.  Check out Enlightened Brewing. Feel the warm embrace of a bar that smells like fresh wood and beer. Live in the culture we were meant to, and know that I’m still struggling to find that here in Denver. A city that everyone says has a great beer culture.

Coors Brewery – Golden, CO

I’m living my best life right now, is something I tell myself every single day when it becomes more and more apparent that I am, in fact, not living my best life. Denver is so boring for me, my dudes. I can never find something truly worth doing, most of my time is spent fighting with people about couches, making coffee for business people in LoDo, and avoiding school work. When I’m depressed and broken to my core, I see a movie now that I’m an official AMC A-List member, which is just their version of MoviePass. (Not to brag, because this is wholly not a brag, but I’ve legitimately seen every movie being shown at AMC right now.)

But last Thursday I had some free time and was, once again, suffering a wholly crushing couch-related defeat, so I was looking for something to do and decided to do part two to the MillerCoors tour that I started way back in 2017. If you want me to lament about the passage of time, I can, but as we speak, I’m texting Smittsburger about where we were at 24 versus where we are now at 26 and I’m too sad to really get into it. But you can check out that post on your own if you so choose.

Anyways, I went up to Golden just to discover that this tour is $5 for Colorado residents and $10 for everyone else. It’s self guided. And you get three beers at the end and a pint glass. Is it worth it? Fuck no. Here’s the thing. I don’t give a shit about listening to recording of a guy in a recording booth in California, wondering why he went to Julliard if all he’s going to do is audio tours, reciting a script about fucking trash beer. I don’t care. Coors is the same story as literally everyone else. He was like “oh, I am a German immigrant and I know not what to do other than to brew the golden ale of the gods.” And then he was like “but alas, where?” And found some crisp af water in the mountains and was like “ahoy, here I shall stake my claim.” And boom. Fucking beer. I love Halloween.

Of course there was like, scandal and intrigue and shit, but man. There’s beer. And the tour is boring. And the line to get beer at the end was so long that I only had one and slammed it, because I’m 26 fucking years old. I do not need to wait literally twenty minutes to drink a goddamn Banquet Beer. That’s the kind of shit you do when you have a fake id that only works at a trash heap bar on Water Street. I can literally walk in anywhere in this whole nation and just buy a good beer. Not something only suitable for flip cup and your grandpa’s garage. Not even my grandpa’s garage. My grandfather only drank Miller Lite. Like an American.

Also, it’s total horseshit that this tour costs ten dollars and you get, arguably, less than the free Miller tour in Milwaukee. Because on the Miller tour, you also get pretzels! Here you had to buy pub pretzels out of a vending machine! Like a monster! And there’s no caves. In Milwaukee, they have CAVES and caves make the tour. And they don’t even have to “make” the tour because the tour. Is. Free.

The buildings weren’t interesting to look at. They were historically appealing. They were just… buildings. Factories. The Miller Valley is a rich and bustling little area that preserved the interesting history that Miller brought to Milwaukee. What the fuck does the Coors Brewery have? NOTHING. There is nothing redeeming. Just like most of what I’ve seen of the immediate Denver area. No goddamn culture.

4/10, would not recommend.

*I took pictures but my phone won’t let me get any of them off the phone and onto my laptop but that’s fine. The pictures weren’t interesting anyways.

Vision Quest Brewing Company, Boulder, CO

Let’s get nostalgic. A lifetime ago, back in 2017, I was asked by my boss of the time what my plan for the summer was. She wanted something big, lofty. A self betterment of sorts. At the time, all I could come up with was that I was going to Utah in June. I remember saying that and her telling me that it wasn’t good enough. I pondered a moment longer and said, “I don’t know. I need something else… A… I don’t know… a vision quest.” I was in one of my millennial sads. It was March. I felt stuck in my job that I hated, in a city that I hated, in a life that I hated. Does this sound familiar? Well, it should. Because this was the running theme of this blog. Me drinking beer as a way to outrun my millennial sads.

It’s wild that moment was over two years ago. Two years ago, before Daze of Beer, before the ComBITment 2018, before Phish and even that one time (which turned into two times) I saw Umphrey’s McGee. That was when I was 24 and hadn’t embraced just the absolute absurd bullshit that life can be. In 2017, my millennial sads peaked. In 2017, I bottomed out. In 2017… I never thought I would ever actually get that Vision Quest. And maybe I won’t. But here’s something I haven’t talked about here yet, and it’s important. It’s something big. This is me taking an active role in my life instead of just letting my life happen around me. I am starting my new life at a brewery I’ve never been to before… In a town I’ve never been to before.

Today I might not be on that vision quest I dreamed of. But I am at Vision Quest Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado. 

Y’all know a lot about me. A lot about what my life is. Everything on this blog is never new information for anyone because the only people that read it are people who know me personally. But sometimes I like to pretend that y’all don’t know this. You don’t know why I’m in Boulder (actually I bet no one knows why I’m in Boulder in particular, which is simply because I just didn’t know what to do with my day today). But thinking about 2017 me, the idea that I could be sitting in a Boulder brewery drinking beer is unheard of because when you’re Millennial Sads peak, you can’t picture yourself outside of your millennial sads.

I’m in Boulder because I have no furniture in my apartment and my air mattress deflates in an hour. My apartment is within driving distance of Boulder because I don’t live in Bay View anymore. I don’t live in Bay View anymore because I moved to Denver. I moved to Denver to try to make the most of my life. I’m going to grad school. I’m trying to fix the stuckness that 2017 Me felt sitting at her desk every day dreading the phone ringing. And that 2018 Me tried to drown in beer and weird bits and excessive travel. And early 2019 Me was crushed under while working at a coffee shop in Oconomowoc. I’m trying to better myself.

And now, here I am, not quite achieving that vision quest I always assumed I would probably venture on with my former officemate for some reason. But I did find this brewery that is going to have to be Good Enough. And I didn’t even go looking for it. I didn’t drive to Boulder to go to a brewery called “Vision Quest.” I drove to Boulder because I was bored. And while sitting in the parking lot of the busiest Target I’ve ever seen (before figuring out this town is 90% college campus and it’s move in weekend), I looked up breweries and this is the first one that popped up. And it felt like a calling.

I didn’t need to try mushrooms in the forest or drop acid at a concert for a jam band I don’t give a shit about. This is my kind of vision quest. Just a brewery serving standard issue beer.

What did I drink? Well, I had an apricot sour that was actually pretty good. I think it maybe could’ve “soured” a little longer as I was getting a little bit of yeasty flavors in it, but I still enjoyed it. This is a rather small operation going on here and the fact that they endeavored to devote space to aging a sour is inspiring. I know that the sour trend can be tough on smaller breweries that do not have the space or time to just let beer sit around for a few months while it gets weird.  I also had a “That’s Really Cute” which is a double IPA and ho-leee-fuck is it good. Startlingly good. Insultingly good. It is so good I find it unfair that not only are humans allowed to fucking brew and serve this shit, but they are serving it 40 minutes in moderate traffic from my apartment at the bottom of a Big Ass Hill my car had to go over, and my car did not like going over it. Un-fucking-fair.

My grand exit from Milwaukee was turbulent. My life was filled with a lot of crying and yelling and downs this summer. So many different people disappointed me in such wild and weird and unexpected ways. But so many other people, people who had no reason to step up, showed up and were there for me and helped me get here. To Colorado. To a place where I could sit here and drink a fucking beer at a place called “Vision Quest Brewing.” A place that found me.

I can promise you that I’m not done crying. I can promise you that things are going to probably get a lot weirder and more stressful before they level out. But for today, for right now, I am sitting at a brewery drinking a fucking beer like a goddamn American. And that’s all I can ask for.

 

Hacienda Brewing Co – Milwaukee’s East Side

It was a Saturday, that I know for sure. A Saturday on the first day of June, where I worked diligently to get my cafe in order before I went home for the day. I was loading a dish washer filled with mugs to be sanitized, counting down the seconds until I could remove my apron and head home. And that’s when I heard it, “Can I speak to your manager?” The voice. The phrase. The moment. Jacob P(hucking) Smithsonian the Eighth. Standing there before one of my baristas, hellbent on causing global destruction.

No. I told him no. How dare he. And Ashley. And Molly. Arrive there, on that day. The day of my daughter’s wedding. And ask a favor of MY barista? To that, I say no. But, that is how my day started. It was the end of an eight hour spiral into hell and the start of some hot fresh sassy content. It was the day we went to the Hacienda Brewing Co. grand opening in a neighborhood I avoid like the goddamn plague.

We did pre-game at 1840 Brewing in Bay View, which is a place that should probably get a post at some point. I love 1840. They have great beers. We’ve been there a few times now. But I haven’t actually ever dedicated time to even considering writing about them because I am not a Good Blogger™. But one day. Hopefully sooner rather than later. You know how things can change around here at the drop of a hat without notice.

Sorry, but anyways, that’s not what this post is about, though it hundo p should be. This post is about what we did after going to the ever-delightful Bay View brewery. What we did was schlepp all the way tf to the East Side to hit up the Hacienda Brewing Co grand opening.

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Alright fam, here’s where my Bay View bullshit is about to come out. Lemme start with the beers. It was bumpin’ in there, so we each had a grand total of ONE beer a person. Because it was so busy, which was to be expected it was a bitterly cold, rainy June day and everyone was squeezed inside a brand new brewery. Molly got the Tropi Choco. I think she liked it. I got the I’m Not a Doctor, which none of us liked. Jake got the Does Anyone Work around Here? Which, if memory serves, he also was not a fan of. And Ashely got There’s No Other Way, which I do believe we all liked.

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I think that we would have to go back to have a better sense of the beer, to be totally honest. But while we are on the topic of honesty, let me talk about why I’m not too eager to rush back up to the East Side. First and foremost, I am not an East Side person. Especially not that far up on the East Side. I feel old up there. I look old up there. It’s all college kids just bumble-fucking about, hoping to make friends, score weed, or get laid. None of which I really want to be around. Such an intense and frustrated energy those cargo shorted, Hawaiian shirted dude-bros carry with them into their bars, clubs, and pizza shops.

But second, this brewery really embodied something  that I am never super interested in. And, do forgive my old lady rant here for a brief moment in time, but I have to speak my peace before I die of old age and have to haunt y’all to accommodate my unfinished business. And here it is. What Old Lady Natalie has to say about her issues with Hacienda. It’s too Instagrammable. And that is coming from a person who runs Instagrams and routinely says things like “this is my aesthetic” or simply “aesthetic.” Everything is so perfectly tailored and manufactured and planned to be great on Instagram. And I know this because I have Instagrammed it.

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The lighting is good. The colors are visually pleasing with high contrast and funky colors. There are different prints and neons and shapes and patterns everywhere. The color schemes lend well to being highly saturated in a filter. And my cynicism does not allow me to enjoy this. It makes me think that this was all uniquely and intently manufactured to trick these 22 year old aspiring influencers to instagram the shit out of this place for free publicity. And you know what? It works. I instagrammed this place. I have now seen numerous friends and casual acquaintances instagram this place. It is just meant to be Instagrammed. It’s the Wonder Museum of Milwaukee breweries.

There. I said it.

And I think the thing that really gets me down on this and makes me want to rail against it so hard is that I don’t feel like any of the beers we had were good enough to let the place stand on it’s own. And I know that it’s a new-ish brewery and I should be forgiving, but I think that a lot of new breweries that do not have this ultra-instagrammable interior don’t have a chance to find their footing and find what makes their beers good and unique before they go under. And I understand that Hacienda is a subsidy of a larger brewery (Door County Brewing Co.), so they have the money and support behind them from the jump to offer these visually stunning taproom experiences, but I just feel like… it’s inauthentic.

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Fuck yeah, my friends. I said it! Inauthentic. If ever there was a drinking game to accompany my blog, it would be to take a drink every time I get on my high horse about authentic vs inauthentic experiences. This is exactly why I live in Bay View (for now, more on that later). Because I’m the asshole who thinks they have the right to decide what is and is not authentic. I do not have the right or authority to do so, but I do and I will continue to be an asshole about this until the day I die. I don’t know. I like the kitschy, weird, and unique drinking spaces, but I like them when they seem to have slowly evolved over time, collecting knickknacks and dust at equal measure. Not opening your doors and on day one you have this weird and wild look about you. That feels like it’s pandering. And again, inauthentic. It tricks you into feeling things that capitalism wants you to feel to force you into becoming a more valuable consumer. It’s a Don Draper like lie.

So, anyways. We went to Hacienda. I might go back if I have time. But I’m running out of time. We all are, in fact. But for right now, mine is more short than most. Remember what I said. I may live in Bay View, but only for now.

Hi Sign Brewing – Austin, TX

I don’t want you guys to ever think that I have forgotten about the blog, because that could not be furthest from the truth. I love this blog and the passion I have for this blog is only hampered by the constant barrage of defeats life keeps hurling at me. In an ongoing effort to better my life, it just keeps slipping further and further away from a controllable place. I don’t really drink much anymore, nor do I really go to many breweries anymore. It takes so much effort to put on a pair of leggings just to roll into MobCraft once a month anymore. I work a lot. Weird hours. I’m sad and angry a lot. Weird emotions. I’m tired. Oh so fucking tired. Constantly.

But way back in April I went to a brewery in Austin, Texas while I was there for a job interview (for a job I didn’t get). And I got drunk with a middle-aged Tito’s traveling salesman and one of the beertenders who I think might have said he was also like a head brewer or owner or something. And that was a fun time. If you can remember all the way back to April, the last post I had go live actually was written at this brewery and I was drunk when I wrote it and forgot that I wrote it until I saw it one Twitter. That’s wild. And exciting, for sure. Or such a constant bummer of a life that is lived solely for the comforts of alcohol. But regardless, here we are. I went to Hi Sign Brewing in Austin, TX.

Getting here was a trip because it was down a road that had a million warnings telling me not to go down the road. That there was no road and if I chose to pass all these signs telling me to turn back now without heeding there warning, I would almost surely be murdered. Or something. I’m not quite sure what they said. I just know that they did not want me to go down there. But I was bored, tired, and just had a four shot lavender latte with oat milk from some coffee shot and it was 5pm and I was ready to go to bed party. But at the end of this road was a brewery! And I went inside of it.

When I got there, it was happy hour time and there were a few business-y people hanging out. I posted up at a table under a mural of Jay-Z (for some reason?) where I caught up on my socials and also worked on cranking out some content for this blog while drinking a beer.

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The beers I drank were the Super Astronaut, Salty Dog (noted as “alright”), Hi-C (noted as “good, their most known beer”), No Scooters, and Mellow Johnny (noted as “good lager”). I should also mention that I think I drank more beers than this, because I had a flight of four pours and definitely continued to drink for hours after that, but that list only has five beers on it (four of which were in the flight), but I did not note them. But that is because, as I mentioned before, I got drunk with a traveling salesman who was in his fifties and we regaled each other with tales of seeing bands live and drinking in weird places and the one time he ended up dating a girl who was addicted to heroin but he decided that maybe he wasn’t a heroin guy (although he also assured me he was definitely a coke guy in the 80s).

The brewery had its garage doors open and although within the city limits of Austin, feels so set apart from the sprawling hipster city. Out back there were trees and a grassy area with some food stands. I know there was pizza being served out there because Mr. Tito’s ordered one and offered me some of it. (I declined, never take food from strange men trying to seem cool to a 26 year old girl who admitted to be traveling alone). But it was beautiful.

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As I mentioned, especially in April, things were not going well. I was transitioning into a new cafe and a new role, I was constantly stressed about what I was going to do for money and work and a living. The weather in Wisconsin was still bitterly cold, we were still weeks away from our last snow fall, and months away from our first good weather day (that day just happen four days ago, but don’t worry, yesterday it was 40 degrees when I saw Jason Isbell OUTSIDE on the LAKE. Ugh.) But sitting somewhere that was moderately warm, with a warm breeze, cool beer, and the company of misfits and misfortunates in America’s leading Hipster Capitol (suck it Portland), everything felt wildly okay. Not great. Not even good. But okay. Like even if life was a constant drudging march of disappoint, there were moments like that, where you were an anonymous girl in a city far from home, shooting the shit with just some guys that you’ll never see again. That’s my brand.

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They had good beer. I think that’s the main takeaway from the situation. I think that’s why no one comes here, to hear if a place has good beer. And this place does. And it has a relaxed, no frills, but wholly fulfilling vibe I didn’t find many place in Austin. It thrived in authenticity, which I often rail about and seem incapable of finding in newer cities. But this place was unpretentious and wholly good. 10/10 would recommend. Alright kids. Now go to bed.

Component Brewing, Bay View, Milwaukee, WI

I’m trying really hard to get regular content back in rotation so I’m just going to shelve part two of the Michigan series. It was a stretch anyways to make it a three part posting when one of those breweries was in Michigan City, Indiana. So I’m just going to write about what sparks joy. And something that sparks incredible and unspeakable joy is a relatively new brewery in Milwaukee that is right down the street from my house. And that brewery is Component Brewing in Bay View!

The first time (of many since) we went to Component it was on the night before the Midnight Magic parade when we decided to crawl through the city of Milwaukee trying to find coasters from as many breweries as we possibly could. We went to Eagle Park (bust), City Lights (I should’ve written a post on this but didn’t), Third Space (private party but also, bust), Mobcraft (Jamie let me steal a few coasters), and lastly, Component.

Finishing the night at a brewery like Component was dicey. On the upside, I was driving so I was sober enough to appreciate the experience, but my friends were not driving. And Jake was really embracing this because I told him I would drive his drunk ass all the way back to Mukwonago, which was a rare treat for him, so he was really not driving. But we arrived at Component Brewing, or more accurately, a warehouse attached to Twisted Path that, at that time, had just one little sign on printer paper that was just like “This a’way!” With an arrow pointing inwards to the warehouse. And I thought checks out and followed the sign, and the subsequent signs written in Sharpie on paper that said “keep a’goin’!” And I was like yes sir. My friends, on the other hand, were a bit more hesitant than me. Which is a fair response. I could’ve been following a trap set by a serial killer who knew exactly how to kill me and just blindly was like “Whatever, there’s beer at the end! Or certain doom! Both are great options.”

But our results were the latter. We walked into a tap room with two guys sitting at the bar, and then just the place to ourselves. And we ordered our beers. I didn’t make any notes from this night because I was so enraptured by the experience. This shining hidden gem right in my backyard. I know that both Jake and Ashley had the Rosie sour and I definitely had the Down The Road’s A’Piece IPA. That’s all I had to drink, but . I do not know if they had something else.

Since then I’ve had the Bay View Brunch, the Bascule Brut with both the pineapple and the mango tea, the Mosaic Theory, as well as the Rosie Sour. And those are just the beers that I have marked on Untapp’d, which we all know I am historically terrible at. And every beer has been outstanding.

And on that first night, Steve, one of the owners/founders/brewers/bartenders stopped by our table to ask how we were doing and what we thought. There we found out the incredible history behind the brewery. At the time (as of late November) they only had one employee that wasn’t one of the owners/founders/guys who were also two brothers and a cousin. And the beers were all themed after a very special place in their hearts– Bay View. The Rosie sour is named for their grandmother who raised their parents right there in Bay View. That’s like if I named a beer Kathy after my grandmother, who also raised my dad in Bay View (until she found herself with a whole Catholic brood of kids and Fresh Prince’d their asses out to New Berlin). It was sweet and personal. There was clearly a love and passion for their city and their neighborhood and their beer. And it showed.

As I kept saying, over and over and over again, there was no reason why their beer should have been as good as it was. They were a brand new, months-old brewery that were serving up beers that tasted perfectly honed and crafted and care for in a way many older, more established breweries still haven’t mastered. I asked where they brewed, and was informed that in a room about half the size of the tap room right next door. I was in awe.

This brewery is a one-of-a-kind kind of gem that you don’t find too often. It feels personal and loved and inspired. We have started hosting our own personal game nights in their taproom, and they always seem to not hate us for sitting there bitching at each other about cribbage counting errors, card game follies, which, in a taproom the size of their’s (read: small and intimate), it would be easy to find us overbearing and to kick us out. But they have never made us feel as though we are burdens to the vibe. We are just members of it.

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Please check this place out guys. I want to see them both grow and flourish and thrive, but also I don’t want you guys to know about it and I demand that you forget everything I’ve ever said because this is our own personal Bay View haven. (But actually check this place out. I cannot stress that enough.)

I’m actually writing this inside a brewery right now! That might mean I will get another post queued up for you guys on this delightfully terrifying murder factory I may or may not be drinking in right now! With love and adoration, you malevolent dictator/founder.