#Winterfest Dos and Don’ts (From Me to Future Me)

I am a lucky girl. I love great beer – and I happen to live in the Twin Cities, where the craft brew culture is booming. I also love great events – and this past weekend, I got to go to one of the year’s best: Winterfest.

This was actually my second year at the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild event, and both years have been great. And, well, learning experiences. I am already hoping to go again next year, so this is basically a list for Future Rachel. Still, you may as well reap the benefits of my beer-tasting wisdom, internet strangers.

So it begins.

So it begins.

Do obsessively hit “page refresh” for ten minutes before the tickets go on sale. The event is capped at 750 people, and sells out in seconds. I’ve managed to get tickets for two years in a row using this highly scientific method, and also dark magic.

Do eat before you go. Yes, they have food at the event, and it’s included in the price. I bet it’s pretty great, too. Last year I think I ate some cheese; this year I completely missed out on all of it. Whatever you do, don’t go to a 3-hour all-you-can-drink craft beer event on an empty stomach. Rookie mistake (that you only make once).

Do gloat about this event taking place in St. Paul, the right side of the river.

Do your research. Look through the program and have a top ten list of brews you do not want to miss, and find those first. Things do run out, plus you want to try the snobbiest stuff (technical term) before your tongue goes numb. Also, if I hadn’t looked over the program, I might have totally missed the Sugar Shack Maple Stout from Third Street Brewhouse. It’s made with Saint John’s Maple Syrup from the Arboretum where I used to work. I really like it, but with a pedigree like that, how could I not?

This has nothing to do with beer, but any time I bring up my time at the Arb I like to remind people I did this once.

Look, I know this has nothing to do with beer, but this is the most badass picture of me in existence and it was taken at the Arboretum, so I’m sharing it again.

Do bring your ID, a pen, and your tallest friend. The ID is obvious. The pen is for taking notes and/or writing your phone number on strangers’ hands. And the tall friend is easy to find in a crowd, and can also find you if/when you wander off.

Do dress appropriately. For some that means warm boots and gloves. For others an outfit you can easily sleep in on your friend’s couch. For me that means both.

Do find the Excelsior Brewing Company booth and take pictures of the staff; when you find them on your camera the next morning, understand that you will be left with more questions than answers:

They just posed like this, without any direction. Naturals.

Probably this was towards the end of the night.

Don’t be embarrassed when you spot someone you met and talked to for half an hour at a past a beer event and you can’t remember her name. She doesn’t remember your name, either.

Don’t force yourself to finish anything you don’t like. Give it to your tall friend who seems to like all the things you don’t (another reason you brought him), and find something you like better.

Don’t be afraid to not love the things everyone else loves. There may be a time and a place for me to drink Barley John’s award-winning Dark Knight Returns; that time was not two hours into the event, after an uncertain number of other pours, when I knew it was a really heavy hitter. Some other night, DKR.

Don’t live-tweet the event.

livetweet

MNBeer.com knows what I’m talking about, or wants me to shut up.

Do make an active effort to find and drink water.

Don’t get upset when one of your brewer friends makes fun of you for drinking water. He’s working and therefore sober, and definitely laughing at your slightly slurry, indignant response.

Do make friends. It’s fine if you don’t pay attention to her last name. You’ll think of something.

Legit beer friends.

The truest form of friendship.

Do have a safe drive lined up. Even if you cancel on your original safe drive to catch a ride with your new friend, Stephanie Beer and her boyfriend, Sober Dan.

Don’t go to the Onion afterwards. Just don’t. You hate that place. It never ends well for you there.

....Best laid plans...

….Best laid plans…

Do expect your best friend to text back: “UGH, RACHEL, you hate that place!” because she knows you.

Don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning and think, “I’ve felt better.” But since you remembered to eat before the event, and drank plenty of water, you’re actually in pretty good shape and will be up as soon as you have some coffee.

So there you have it. That’s how you semi-sensibly enjoy one of the best beer events in the Twin Cities.

(But seriously, don’t go to the Onion next year.)

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One of the Guys

There was a time in my life when basically all of my friends were gay men.  I call this time “college.”  During that experience, I wrote this in my journal:

So I found myself at a party last night, sitting on a loveseat between two gay guys.  The optimistic side of me thought, Isn’t it fun to be talking to some really great people, no worries?  The cynical side of me, the side that is slowly but surely killing the optimistic side, thought, Yep.  This is my lot in life.

It’s not like I set out to collect them.  I don’t buy into that Sex in the City, every-girl-needs-a-gay thing (you know, where they exist solely to snap out one-liners/take a woman shopping/wear interesting hats).  I just met a lot of great dudes who happened to be into other great dudes.  Perhaps it had to do with working for the theater department for four years, perhaps I have a magic gift.  We’ll never know.

The point is, for the first 25.5 years of my life, I had exactly one (1) consistent straight guy friend.  He’s The Original, the guy who knew me when I dressed like this AND like this, and has stuck with me anyway.  I sort of imagined it would go on like this, me with my boys, my girls (of course I have great girl friends, too), and my one guy forever.

But you know what they say: life is what happens when you’re busy making plans with gay men.

2011 might go down in history as the year I learned to talk to anyone. I can talk to straight men as if they are actual humans, and I am one too. It turns out we have common interests: beer, action movies, football, making fun of one another, nachos…

The Notebook

Also, every one of them loves Ryan Gosling and "The Notebook" more than any girl I've ever met.

And although I still have some wonderful, fabulous boys, there are now a whole lot more guys joining The Original in my corner. Sometimes even they wonder why it has happened; my buddy Mike (editor’s note: I was going to make up a better pseudonym, but when I asked Lacy for help she strongly advocated for “Long Duck Dong” before announcing “I feel like you should know that I’m tipsy.” I’m sticking with “Mike“) recently told me, “Rachel, I spend more time with you than I do with girls.” I frakking love this. Being “one of the guys” is one of the funniest experiences of my life thus far, and I am enjoying every (occasionally smelly) second of it. In fact, I really only want my guys to remember I’m a girl when I need someone to carry heavy objects or intimidate someone for me.

So how has my life changed since that journal entry? A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at my usual table at my local bar surrounded by a bunch of my new guys, when one of them said: “Rachel is better at being one of the guys than I am.”

Yep. If this is my new lot in life, I think I’ll take it.

“Liquor and nuns”

I may not eat turkey, but I still like Thanksgiving.  First of all, there are so many other things to eat!  And it’s practically National Napping Day, which is a cause I celebrate.  And finally, I’m thankful for so much.  Here are a few things in no particular order:

  • coffee and lefse for breakfast (okay, perhaps these are in an order: the order in which they are in front of my face right now, and order of deliciousness)
  • my brother for the sheer amount of inside jokes and movie quotes that make me laugh and make everyone else wonder what we’re talking about.  “Bread.”
  • my sister-in-law for working Thanksgiving so we can finally, maybe, all get together for Christmas
  • the friends and family who helped me raise $220 for the Walk to End Hunger yesterday!
  • my mom for walking with me, and then asking “how does my walking help end hunger, exactly?” That kind of blind support is love.
  • Muppets.
  • My mom’s official review of the new Muppet movie: “Jason Segel’s mother should be proud!”
  • The ladies who found out I was without Thanksgiving evening plans and said, “Rachel, you should come over! There will be liquor and nuns. We won’t have room for you at the big table but we can set up a kids’ table for you.”
  • Great friends and their excellent families who take in strays at the last minute.  And feed them too much. More mint cake please.
  • My dad for driving through terrible weather last weekend to attend his first-ever Vikings game with me.
  • The Minnesota Vikings for keeping me humble.
  • Naps.
  • Laughter.
  • Beer.
  • God.
  • I told you these are not in any order.
  • The fact that my iTunes just started playing Protozoa’s “Zoom Zoom Zoom” from “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.”  Why do I own that? And how could I forget I own that? Amazing.
  • The fact that I can afford to have iTunes, and coffee and lefse, and access to the internet and clean water and everything so much of the world is without.
  • Hands On Twin Cities for introducing me to some great local causes.
  • Feed My Starving Children – and all the friends and family I’ve made go with me recently
  • Not working in retail on Black Friday.
  • Terrible/amazing action movies, and friends who send emails like this: “Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris are in Expendables 2. Get the f*** in line.”
  • Ten years of friendship with Lacy.  “Weebles Wobble…”
  • Really, just all of my friends who let me be my ridiculous self and seem to like me for it.  I like you, too.
  • And this: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
    and try to love the questions themselves…
    Don’t search for the answers,
    which could not be given to you now,
    because you would not be able to live them.
    And the point is, to live everything.
    Live the questions now.
    Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
    you will gradually, without even noticing it,
    live your way into the answer.”
    Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy everything to you all.

Choose your own adventure, bring your own ginger

Hello, neglected blog!  The last time I wrote in you it was about something important.  This is the opposite of that, but my mother has been asking for an update on the past month.  I can’t remember that far back, though, so here’s what happened last weekend, when Favorite Guy: Ginger Division and I went on a little adventure to the east coast.

Day 1: In which we are awake for 22 hours

The flight was at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, which meant nervous-flyer Rachel was awake at 4.  We got to the airport too late for my usual pre-flight Necessary Calming Beverage, and the Ginger decided to regale me mid-air with tales of bad flights he’s been on in the past.  Luckily this was the only point during our trip when I thought about destroying him.  We got off the plane and a few train rides later we parked it at our first destination: a margarita!

Brooklyneer bar sign

Sesame Street: Influencing my decisions for over 20 years.

Also, the margarita was in New York City.

During the course of the first day of the vacation, it went bar/food, five-minute nap, shopping, bar/food, shopping, walking the High Line, food, five-minute nap, bar/food.  We stayed with some friends in the Upper East Side and had a pretty excellent time; there wasn’t a lot of sight-seeing what with all the sitting and eating, but we did manage to see  a whole lot of the subway and stay awake for 22 solid hours.

supergrover

Some of the details of this evening are best kept between me and Super Grover.

Day 2: Crazy in Connecticut

We woke up, showered, brunched, and bused to Hartford to visit the wanderluster herself, Sabrina!  The Ginger has a thing for suburbs, so Sabrina took us by one of the oldest in the country before showing us a good time in West Hartford.  And really, it was a good time.  There are in fact things to do in Connecticut.  Who knew?

Day 3: Bean Town

Our planes, trains and automobiles adventure continued with a drive to Boston.  The three of us stopped at the Onyx Hotel (highly recommended, and not just for their animal-print bathrobes and faux-fur bedspreads) before hitting Quincy Market and the Harbor and catching a bit of the Freedom Trail.

Nice donkey

No, I don't know why there's a statue of a donkey on the Freedom Trail, but I do know it's important for every tourist to sit on it, preferably while a stranger stands just off-camera and says "nice ass."

A little bit of shopping and eating and we were on to the Haunted Boston tour!  This was a highlight of the trip for the two ghost-loving non-redheads among us.

Later, out to the Oldest Tavern In America (or so the sign says) – The Bell in Hand – for a bit of live music and dancing.  Sabrina and I each picked out our “boyfriends,” and it took all night for us to realize our boyfriends were actually each others’ boyfriends.  Yep; in a room full of burly Bruins fans, we gravitated towards the two waif-y hipsterish guys with excellent floppy hair.  I have been in the Twin Cities too long.

Day 4: Family, Fenway, and Farewell

A few of my Massachusetts family members met the gang and I for brunch at the Eastern Standard.  It was great, but too short for a once-in-a-decade visit.  They took us around the corner to a little place called Fenway for a photo op.

Fenway

Then it was goodbye family and Sabrina, hello Old Ironsides/excuse to make Anchorman references!

Old Ironsides

It really is an old, old wooden ship!

She’s 214 years old and she’s still afloat and still commissioned – it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Next up: Tavern on the Water for a nice view of the city and a little interaction with some real Massachusetts folks, who told us Happy Hours are illegal in Massachusetts but that they had danced on the bar we were sitting at before.  I should note these were two 60-ish couples.  I liked them.

Last stop before taking off: Giacomo’s, or as The Ginger keeps calling it, “Giergamo’s? Guillermo’s? Gargamel’s?”  We waited in line for about forty minutes outside, during which time I realized I needed to find a bathroom (bear with me, this story goes somewhere).  So I went to a pharmacy across the street and asked the employee if there was a bathroom.

“Not here, but at the fire station down the street.”

Naturally I left, assumed I heard her wrong, and went a few doors down to another store.

“Try the fire station next door.”

Sure enough, there was an actual fire station next door.  Full of not-unattractive firemen.  Who I had to ask to lead me to the bathroom (“It’s right back theah, sweetheaaaaht”).  My only regret is that I did not buy a t-shirt to commemorate my time at this fine establishment.  Or, you know, one of those calendars.  You know the ones I mean.

Firemen Calendar
You knew what I meant but I wanted to put this here anyway.

Anyway, back to the restaurant!  Or actually the line out in front, where we met another awesome local couple (the guy talked about his twenty years of working for Phil Collins and building a stage for Steven Tyler at Fenway) who pointed out when a local hero walked past us: Zdeno Chara, captain of the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins and tallest dude in the NHL.  Yes, I googled all of that.  I had no idea who he was.

Zdeno Chara

Although if he had been dressed like this even I might have recognized him.

Dinner, Necessary Calming Beverage and flight: our whirlwind tour of the East was over.   Now I’m back and it’s taken me the better part of a week to get this blog post together.  My goal is to have my next vacation planned before I completely unpack from this one; at the rate I’m going that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Best Things of the Week!

Today started with a trip to the dentist and concluded with a visit to the eye doctor because apparently it’s Rachel Maintenance Day.  There’s just about nothing I hate more than going to the dentist, except possibly someone poking me in the eye while talking about my “unusually large optic nerves.”  So let’s bring on some Best Things, I need cheering up.

1. Back to the basics: Dinner, Movie, Shoes

My Favorite Guy: Ginger Division took me out for a date with the mall on Thursday.  We enjoyed 1/2 price bottle of wine night and then went shoe shopping, which is the preferred order of things.  Then we went to see Contagion.

Contagion Poster

A.K.A. that movie where Gwyneth dies horribly and immediately. Fun for the whole family!

We didn’t love it: me, because I’m not really a fan of end-of-times movies that are in any way realistic (throw a Terminator in the mix, though, and I’m there). Him, because it doesn’t really have an ending.

Part of the movie takes place in Minneapolis, which was jarring.  Not so much because having the end of the world start in my backyard is scary, but because it was Movie Minnesota, which is: suburban Illinois with a thin, even layer of snow on it.  I found this…distracting, and it made me glad more movies aren’t based in Minnesota.

After all, this is the only movie we need to represent us accurately:

2. RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL!

I went to my first ever Ren Fest on Saturday!  I rode an elephant in a circle; I went to a Guinness tasting (I enjoy my Irish roots very much); I posed for a courtly photograph and looked ridiculous; and I paid an old Irish man a dollar to play “Ashoken Farewell” on the violin.  That was probably the highlight for me, though it made me a little weepy.

You’d think riding an elephant would be the highlight, wouldn’t you?  No, later Manolo gave me a piggy back ride across the parking lot, and she moves a lot faster than elephants and I do not have concerns about whether or not she is treated humanely.  So that was the other highlight.

There was then an unfortunate run-in between a head (mine) and an elbow (not mine) that wasn’t fun, but didn’t leave any lasting damage.  If the elbow reads this blog, the elbow should understand that all is well.  And I think it might have been my fault, anyway.

3. Love is in the Arb

Yesterday, I went back to the Arboretum for an event called Collegeville Colors.  I visited with my old Arb pals and wound up taking a walk with two environmental education enthusiasts.  You would think I’d be able to identify trees after working at an Arboretum for a year, but I really can’t.  Correction: I can identify when something IS a tree.  But beyond that I’m kind of lost.

Well!  Three years and one personalized walking tour later, I can now almost definitely tell you if the leaf you are holding is from a Red Oak, a White Oak, or Other.

tree at arboretum

Nature is a beautiful and confusing thing to some of us.

Best Things of the Past 2 Weeks and 2 Days

Here’s what I’ve been up to in roughly the last 16 days, Ma!

1. Volunteering and forcing my family to volunteer, too

Along with some alumnae of my college, I painted a fence and house in North St. Paul with Hearts and Hammers last week.  It was pretty fun — I mean, I don’t want to come paint your house, or anything — but getting to know different people and wearing my sweatpants in public without fear of judgment is always a good thing.  Until the next day when I could barely move my legs or neck.  I really, really won’t be coming to paint your house.

The next day I (somehow) went to Feed My Starving Children again, to another special session for the Horn of Africa!  This time I brought my mother and sister-in-law for some girl bonding.  There are no photos of this girl-bonding because no one looks good in hairnets.  Except, of course, my gorgeous sister-in-law.  I look even more ridiculous standing next to her, so really: no pictures.

2. Brewery Tour-ery

As alluded to in this post, I somehow managed to schedule myself for two brewery tours on Saturday: the Summit Brewery (again) and Flat Earth Brewery.  Did I have a great time? Of course I had a great time.  Was it a ridiculous decision? Of course it was a ridiculous decision!  Is there any other kind?

3. SKOL VIKINGS. SIGH VIKINGS.

Well, Lacy and I went to the game.  That much is true.  And our seats were not really that bad — we could see every blown opportunity just perfectly!

Jared Allen

We could also see Jared Allen's butt perfectly, so that's something.

Actually, that’s not nice.  They played thirty minutes of great football!  And then whatever happens to them at halftime every week happened again, and it was like the second they came out of the locker room — with a 20-0 lead — everyone in the place felt it.  It was no longer a winning football game.

I still managed to have some fun.  Being there with Lacy, for instance, was great.

Rachel and Lacy at football

This picture was taken during the first half; notice the absence of tears.

The, shall we say, tight ends are always appreciated.  Seeing my name on the back of about half the people in the stadium is a weird kind of thrill, too.  Chris Kluwe’s ricochet-style tackle was about as cute as a tackle can be.  And Jared Allen showed up, even if some of the rest of the team (or coaching staff) didn’t.

My throat hurts from 3.5 hours of screaming; my soul hurts from a lifetime of caring.  I’m not a sports analyst (or a movie critic, clearly); I just love the Vikings a little too much.  I don’t know what’s going on with them right now, but I will continue to cheer them on, lose or lose worse, season after season, because that’s just the kind of idiot I am.

Who wants to go to the next game with me???

Sports and wine: a winning combination

(see what I did there?)

In the effort of full disclosure, I should probably admit I went on two (2) brewery tours today, and might still be feeling the effects.  During the first, I kept Lacy abreast of developments via text message.  These are messages I sent her:

One (11:48 a.m.): “Beer one is a stout.”

Two (12:02 P.M.): “Two is an Oktoberfest.”

Three (12:25 P.M.): “And thE THIRD IS A PORTER WHY IS THIS IN ALL CAPS.”

As usual, I find myself funnier than anyone else ever will…even accidentally.

True Love at the Brewery

A picture from tour two: Promises were made, hearts were broken.

Anyway.  How excited are you all that Moneyball is in theaters??? Pretty excited, right?  I know I am; now maybe I’ll stop getting “exclusive invites” to this movie, which I already went to see once at a screening about two weeks ago.  I took my friend Becky, who charitably gave it an “okay.”  I gave it a “there’s a reason sports movies are usually about athletes and games and not general managers and math.”  But ONCE AGAIN IN THE EFFORT OF FULL DISCLOSURE, the reason Becky and I even went to this screening was the free wine they offered us beforehand.

First of all, how confident are you in your movie if you are feeding your preview audience wine ahead of time?  Second of all, why wine, which makes a lady* such as this pretty sleepy?  The last time I drank wine before a movie I wound up writing in my journal in the darkness halfway through due to boredom (different day, different story).  I didn’t do that this time, but I was restless.  In all honesty, the movie is getting good reviews, and it might be okay, except that it is pretending to be a sports movie.  As an avid watcher of sports movies, I can tell you this is less about sports and more about a dude who has a job.  Sometimes he’s on the phone or crunching numbers.  He also has an ex-wife.

If that still sounds appealing to you, go for it.  After all, dude is Brad Pitt.  And he does have a Jonah Hill sidekick.

So why did I title this post as if I feel positively about the combination of wine and sports?  Because THANKS TO A BOTTLE OF WINE and the proximity of the internet and an unfortunately memorized credit card number, Lacy and I will be attending our first ever Vikings game tomorrow.  We are sitting in a section that might as well be called “Hella Gone” but we absolutely could not care.  Even when I woke up the morning after said wine/internet shopping, and the first words out of Lacy’s mouth were “remember what we bought last night?” I’m more excited than ever.  You know I would have bought those tickets anyway, but thank you, Pinot Grigio, for convincing Lacy she “needs” to go with me.  SKOL WINE.

*I use this term loosely**

**see what else I did there?