Brew ha ha
It may come as no great surprise that I’m not the kind of person who enjoys communal activities. I stopped going to the movies years ago. (Thanks, but you can keep your cootie cushions and surround-sound chewing noises.) Ditto swimming pools, with all that peeing and splashing. Please don’t ask me to clap or sing along at your hootenanny or act out “YMCA” at a Sea Dogs game. And absolutely no group hugs. In fact, would you mind backing off a bit as you read this column? I can almost feel you breathing on my prose.
So no one was more shocked than I to find myself wedged in line at the recent American Craft Beer Festival at the World Trade Center in Boston, patiently waiting for someone to pour two ounces of beer into my plastic sample cup. Not only was I happily ensconced in a crush of humanity, but I was actually initiating conversation — and not to tell some idiot he had just elbowed me and sloshed (if two ounces can slosh) my beer. I was making friendly chitchat. And I wasn’t even hammered!
From whence, then, this about-face? Had I experienced a Grinch-like transformation crossing the Piscataqua and come to embrace the human race? Hardly. It’s just that these were my people and, as far as I was concerned, they could crush away.
You see, I am the self-proclaimed Girl Who Loves Beer. I have been up to my hips in hops since the early 1990s, when I returned to Maine from San Francisco and couldn’t support the wine palate I cultivated there. Even after I became intimately associated with someone who could furnish me with all the top-flight wine I desired, I continued to cling to my taps. Granted, I wasn’t going to turn my nose up at a 1985 Stag’s Leap Single Vineyard Reserve that a certain someone might dust off from the cellar, but I might need to prep my taste buds with a nice Frye’s Leap IPA. (Just kidding. I only said that to induce the collective cringe of wine snobs across the city.)
Despite my love of beer, I’d never been one for tastings, festivals or brewery tours, where you have act all Ooh, look at those shiny tanks or Tell me more about your barley sourcing in order to get a free pint. But when our friends Dave and Weslie (who also happen to own the Great Lost Bear) invited Wine Guy and me to tag along with them to the beer fest, I thought, What the heck?, figuring we’d muscle our way past the irritating crowds, drink a few samples, then hit the town for some proper boozing.
Once there, I braced myself as we approached the throngs at the gate. When we were smoothly and swiftly ushered in, I felt like Veruca Salt when Willy Wonka admitted her into the chocolate factory. It was all I could do to restrain myself from plowing across the room with a wail of, “I want it now!”
Just two sips in, I found myself standing next to a girl toting a crazy handmade bag with a giraffe appliquéd on it. I told her I loved it, and lively conversation ensued. When my Wine Guy saw me talking to a stranger, he assumed she’d done something to piss me off. Instead, he practically had to peel me away so he and I could move on. “But she likes my earrings,” I cried.
I also made two bathroom buddies. (We all headed for the last — and presumably least-used — Porta Potty at the same time. Instant kindred spirits!) And I got yelled at with some guy in line behind me who had found himself a 16-ounce cup. I had two two-ouncers for comparing and contrasting — a violation of festival rules. We snickered together when the security guy walked off. But my favorite amigo was the fella who directed me to Rock Bottom Brewery for their jalapeño lager. As someone who shudders at the mere thought of any flavoring in beer, I know this brew sounds gross, but trust me: It was more fun than a three-legged Chihuahua.
Two hours melted away in a swirl of tasting, tossing (yes, I dumped as much beer as I drank) and chatting. As our 8:30 dinner reservation approached, I started to panic like a kid at a carnival with a handful of ride tickets 15 minutes before closing time. I was only partway through my IPA-tasting mission — there were 60 there, after all — so it was probably a blessing we had to go. Otherwise, I might’ve blown up into a giant hop.
As our group tumbled out into the sultry Boston evening, I thanked the security guard at the door and told him what a wonderful time I’d had. “Wow,” I said, hauling up in my tracks. “I’m still speaking English. I bet you understood every word I just said.” He nodded. I must be getting old, I thought.
Or perhaps it was just my beer goggles of love.
Elizabeth Peavey is taking her act on the road. “Finding ME,” an original, two-woman show featuring Peavey and “Maine’s Funniest Mom,” Karen Morgan, premieres at the Strand Theatre
in Rockland on August 10. FMI, go to www.finding-maine.com.