A Very Naked Birthday Bath

I started this story 2 weeks ago and have yet to finish it. SORRY. I was too busy doing other things (#drinking). But also other, other things. Probably.

ANYWAY.

I celebrated my birthday for five days and have only told you about the first two. The third day happens to be my actual birthday, so I guess I should probably get into it, huh?

So if you recall from last time, my first 10 hours in Berlin were a blur of cross-city transit, coffee, food, beer, failed attempts at clubbing, photo booths, and cocktails. And then sleep sometime around 2:30am. Wifey told me happy birthday at least three times before we went to sleep, and then again first thing in the morning, because she is the BEST wifey.

So on Sunday morning (actual BIRTHDAY day), we woke late and walked to a nearby cafe for breakfast. Which turned out to be hopping, because apparently it’s the best place to have breakfast in Berlin. I’m exaggerating, but only a little. It’s epic. See:

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The best part is I think we paid like €25 for that entire spread. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I could have eaten there every day for the rest of my life (and turned into a giant balloon of a human, but whatever).

Then we got super naked with a bunch of other ladies.

Just like any other Sunday.

Cool?

Ok, moving on.

KIDDING! I will explain.

First, quick backstory: 9 months ago, Wifey and I adventured across Andalusia. During this trip, we visited a hammam. It was A-MA-ZING. And so, when we discovered that there was a hammam in Berlin (one of several, in fact), we decided it had to be part of this trip as well.

So my birthday began with giant breakfast, followed by several hours of bathing and sauna-ing with a bunch of naked ladies. It was awesome. I would absolutely go again. Hell, I’d go every Sunday. It was relaxing as fuck.

And then we were sooooooo mellow, and also very warm (yay!), so we walked for a while in the cold until we found the East Gallery of the Berlin Wall. Where Wifey took this super cool photo of me, because she is great at that:

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We then continued walking in search of a flea market, which we discovered was actually IN club central (i.e. Friedrichshain, where we were the night before). But we also found that it was closed because a tree had fallen into it. (I failed to mention before that there was a code red windstorm happening. Like, state of emergency level wind. Apparently. Didn’t stop us though.)

There had been a small series of fails, and we were also very cold at this point. So we decided on a pre-dinner break. (Translation: We bought beers to drink at the house, and then played loud music while we got ourselves dolled up for a night out.)

And then we went to the brewery.

Oh yes. Because it’s me, and I HAD to find at least one craft brewery in town. And of course we didn’t have a reservation, and they didn’t have a table. So we sat at the bar for a while and the super fun bartender entertained us for about an hour before we actually got seated. (All the while drinking beer. Duh.)

And then we drank MORE beer and ate delicious food (yum). And then, because Mr. Bartender knew it was my birthday (hooray for Wifey!), he surprised us with free shots of who-knows-what! Even better, he took the shots with us. I do wish I remembered what they were… But whatever, it was amazing.

[Note: I almost skipped ahead to our attempt at clubbing, forgetting that we actually went to another beer bar first. But it was super empty on a Sunday and we were afraid we would get sleepy, so we didn’t stay very long. Exciting stuff.]

Because here’s the thing: we wanted to party. We were fairly tipsy (drunk?) after like 7 beers each (ok, drunk). But it was also Sunday, so a) fewer parties and b) we had no idea what we were looking for. We attempted to go to Suicide Circus, which is totally fun but also we were HELLA early (midnight) and didn’t want to pay €15 to get tired within an hour and leave. So we gave up on the big clubs, and aimed for something smaller.

That’s how we ended up at this SUPER WEIRD tiny club that felt like a labyrinth and had porn all over the walls. And my wifey took this photo of me at the end of an epic photo series where I looked really uncomfortable because she kept telling me to look straight at the porn. But I guess she was right, because I look quite calm here (but fun fact: I’m staring at porn).

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So there you have it. My 30th birthday started with naked women and ended with porn. With a whole lot of beer in between. Seems like an appropriate way to ring in a new decade, right?

***

[On the next installment of Christina’s epic 30th birthday bash: Hangovers & Halloween.]

Seattle: The Ballard Beer Experience

[Part 5 of the Series Where I Catch You Up on My Drinking Doings Since December.]

BALLARD.

That’s where the beer lives.

But seriously, it’s true. The beer lives in Ballard and I have been there to drink it. Ballard is a crazy place. They have, like, 15 breweries. And only like 200 people actually live there.

(That is a gross exaggeration. The people, I mean. There are 15 breweries. More than that, maybe. But probably more than 200 people also.)

ANYWAY.

My point is, the breweries per capita in Ballard is insanely high. The beers are also insanely good. So that’s why, on a rainy Saturday in February, I went there with my friend Aiva to drink those beers.

The Washington Beer Association was actually hosting a special beer “Open House” on that day, which was part of the impetus for going beer tasting. Said open house involved hundreds of breweries across the entire state hosting special events and tapping special, rare brews from noon to 5pm on the same day. It’s kind of an awesome idea.

We figured that in order to take full advantage of this special event we should go somewhere where there are a ton of breweries within walking distance of one another. So, Ballard. Because that’s pretty much the only place in the whole city where that’s true.

We started at Northwest Peaks Brewery, a nanobrewery that I actually hadn’t been to before. They had some sort of special beer on tap outside, but we decided to cozy up inside the super-tiny space and order taster trays. I drank 4 beers: Eldorado Pale Ale, Redoubt Red, Challenger IPA, and Snowfield Winter Ale.

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(Also, the table was made of maps!)

Our next stop was to trek a few blocks through the rain to one of my favorite Ballard beer spots: Reuben’s Brews. And the place was HOPPIN’. There was barely standing room, let alone places to sit. We decided that since we were already there we should drink something. Aiva ordered a taster tray, and I went for the special release: a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Russian Stout.

Yuuuummmmmmmmmm.

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Oh, did I mention that it was 11% abv? Granted I only got a 6oz pour, but still. If I weren’t feeling it after brewery #1, I definitely was after this beer.

At this point, we had 2 options. We could go to Stoup Brewing for more new beers, or we could go to Jolly Roger Taproom (Maritime Pacific Brewing) for happy hour and snacks.

Snacks are good. Especially when you’ve been drinking. So we did that. (And we also drank more.)

That’s where we met up with Kurt.

Kurt is a 60-something man who I met at a bar last fall. He is a Ballard local and loves beer, so he asked me to let him know next time I was in the area. So I did. And he came and drank beers with us. He also regaled us with stories of his youth, when he would get high and and go to crazy parties and hook up with girls. (Or wait, that story was about his trip to Iceland. Last year.)

Basically, Kurt never really grew up. And it’s sort of awesome.

At this point, it was 4:30pm. We had half an hour until the beer events would end. We could hit up one more brewery, or we could not. Then Aiva suggested we go to Populuxe Brewing, which wasn’t on the event list but is super awesome so we went there anyway. (Aiva also really loves this place, and she is cool so I trusted her.)

It was a very cool place. Well done, Aiva.

Also, Kurt bought us beers! (He said he was very thankful that we gave him an excuse to stop folding laundry. We are so nice.)

I was pretty tipsy at this point. I also had dinner plans at a friend’s house, so I purchased a growler (whee!) and somehow clumsily made my way south to a neighborhood far, far away from Ballard.

The best part of this day was the fact that I drank tons of beer. The worst part is that there were still, like, 10 OTHER BREWERIES that I didn’t get to go to. So…I guess I have to go back to Ballard. Very soon.

P.S. You will notice that I did not tell you what beers I drank at Jolly Roger or Populuxe. That is because I don’t remember. And I was inebriated enough that I forgot to write them down on Untappd too. La dee da.

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.

Think globally, drink locally.

Now, all you PBR-lovers out there, don’t fret. I still like a good cheap macro-brew every now and again. But it is a proven fact that local beer is always the best choice. Proven because I’ve done it and I’m telling you that it’s better.

This past weekend, I ended up in Corvallis, Oregon for an ultimate frisbee tournament. “Where the fuck?” you say. Yes, indeed. It’s pretty much nowhere, home to a giant state school and a bunch of breweries. My co-worker and I entered the town late on a Friday evening looking for a decent meal, and a brewery seemed as good a place as any.

Now don’t get the wrong idea; Flat Tail Brewing didn’t blow my mind. But it was pretty damn good, and a million times better than eating greasy food at the A&W down the road and then drinking PBRs in a parking lot. (Not that I’ve done that. But it sounds kinda lame.) The point is, the beer was delicious, the food was above-expectations, and I kind of wish I could go back because there were at least six other beers on tap I wanted to try. But I won’t, because you couldn’t pay me to back to Corvallis.

In November of last year, I had a similar experience. While spending a weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas I ended up at a local brewpub, and it was one of the most quaint and adorable spots I’ve been to in a while. If I lived there (thank goodness I don’t), I would frequent that spot regularly.

And in Vancouver last October (home of my most favorite cocktail bar EVER), I made a brief pit stop at Granville Island Brewing, and almost drank enough to spoil the cocktail experience that followed. But fortunately for me, nothing could ever spoil that cocktail experience. NOTHING.

As I slowly make my way through the Seattle breweries (only a few so far: Georgetown, Fremont, Elysian, Elliott Bay), I realize that local beer is more than just “Local Beer.” There’s an atmosphere that surrounds a small local brewery or brewpub, an atmosphere that you can’t find at any old bar that serves any old beer. A tad more upscale than your average dive bar, but also friendlier in a way. The people who work there take pride in what they do, and they love to talk to you about their beers. And if that’s something you’re into, you can’t beat it.

Next week, I’ll be hitting up a brand new local spot in a brand new local place. Kona Brewing. If you don’t know where that is, it’s probably for the best. Jealousy can be an ugly thing.