Tom the Brew Master (and small town hospitality)

As always, a blanket statement to start:

The only way to travel is by drinking the local stuff. Not doing that would be really irresponsible. Support local booze-makers!

And so begins a tale of boozing my way through the Northwest. My whole plan originally was to take in the scenery, hike a little, wander the small towns, and reeeelllaaaaaxx. Because that’s what I needed to do.

But then I walked into a visitor center in Port Townsend, WA where it suddenly hit me: isn’t there wine up in these parts or something?

And that is how I met my downfall. (And by downfall I mean: the greatest vacation in history.)

Weirdly enough, the wineries were really just a vehicle for me to find out about the brewery that I went to later. Fairwinds Winery outside of Port Townsend was only so-so. Harbinger, in Port Angeles, was much better. And they also served beer.

Wait, what?

Being the first winery I’ve ever seen with beer on draught, I had to ask. Apparently the beer is from a local nano-brewery that actually brews out back behind the Harbinger tasting room. I didn’t really want to ruin a great wine tasting by immediately doing a beer tasting afterwards, so I took a mental note of “BarHop Brewing” and decided I would go to their taproom later.

[Skip ahead to the brewery, because that’s what you came here to read about anyway.]

Nano-breweries are pretty much the coolest. And if BarHop Brewing becomes as big as I expect it to (i.e. a reputable microbrewery selling throughout the Northwest), I am going to give myself a hell of a lot of credit. Because I found it first. [That is a lie.]

The bar was relatively quiet, with only about 10 people inside. Pretty shocking for a Friday night, but apparently no one lives in Port Angeles. Whatever.

I wandered in, claimed a seat at the bar, and ordered the summer seasonal, a sour-blonde ale. I then picked up Beer West magazine and read half-heartedly while people-watching and overhearing a hilarious lesbian couple argue about what to buy their friend for her baby shower.

I chatted briefly with the bartender, who I found out was the daughter of the brewer himself. The brewery is not yet two years old, and apparently he started the whole project in their bathtub. As it should be.

I ordered a second beer (a Northwest Pale Ale that will, as the brewer later told me, “fuck you up”). Awesome.

So if that wasn’t enough of a hint, yes, I did get to meet Mr. Brewer himself. He and his crew came in a few moments later, at which point one of lesbians (Theresa) came over and said, “I’m surprised you haven’t joined us yet! You’ve clearly been enjoying our conversation.”

New friend #1. Score.

Then Tom the Brewer talked to me for a loooong time about how it all started, and his trip to Africa, and his trip to Istanbul, and backpacking across Europe, and how he quit his 6-figure paying job in the health care industry to become a brewer. Holy crap he was the coolest. It’s the perfect example of that 60-year-old man who comes out of his midlife crisis as cool as he was when he was 18. Love it.

[Side note: I ordered another one of those pale ales, and good lord that shit is strong.]

Basically the evening devolved into drinking and chatting with a bunch of random strangers. I have never felt more welcomed and at home in a bar in my life. Or in any new place, for that matter. These people were the greatest.

And so, like all fables should, this one ends with a lesson: If you are in a small town, find the local brewery. All small towns have one.* I am sure of it.** [Unless you’re in a dry county, but why on earth would you go to a place like that?]

*This probably isn’t true.

**I still stand by this statement regardless of the validity of the previous one.

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