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.

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