AOC Challenge Week 3: Let’s Talk About Breweries

Hello! in 2018, I’ve decided to start my own personal writing challenge based on “Acts of Connection,” something I thought about while hiking the Camino de Santiago. You can find the whole story here

Quick note before I start: This week’s challenge was supposed to be about attending the NYC Women’s March. Due to an audition and an unmovable doctor’s appointment, it was not in the cards for me this year. BUT! I would love to put together a blog post mid-next-week about your experience at any of the Marches, this year’s or last. Please feel free to send me (through here or through Facebook) a short paragraph about how marching may have strengthened your feeling of connection and unity with the world and community around you. I will put them together in a post around Thursday!  Thanks in advance!

But without further ado:

Week 3: BONDING OVER BEERS!

Except for that dark year when doctors believed I was allergic to gluten, Ben and I have always been beer people. At least we thought we could be considered beer people at the time. Micro breweries had yet to enter our lives. As we move further and further away from the age where it’s acceptable to blow way too much money sitting at a bar and stumbling home at 2am, we started searching for something to fill that social gap. Sometimes you just can’t sit inside and play with your cats or watch another rerun of The Good Place again.

From 2000 to 2016, craft breweries in America shot up 165%. In New Jersey, this jump reached 203% in just four years due to legislation that increased licenses to microbreweries and loosened serving and distribution laws. Now you can drink at a small brewery after doing a tour of the facilities–which is usually done with a beer in hand.

Beer people are the best people

Education plus artfully crafted booze=a fine group of happy people hanging out with dogs in a cozy, wooden room. Ben and I escaped our persistent 2016 slump by seeking out these little back-of-a-factory wonders every time we felt blue. Most of these small breweries transform old industrial, square-shaped buildings at the end of long creepy driveways into bars with coziness levels to battle Brooklyn hipster bars.

Since no food is prepped (or usually allowed) on premises, there’s almost always a brewery dog and/or cat. The type crowd always tends to look about the same. Bearded men in flannel that hold the door for the group behind them, people who wave and smile even if they don’t know you, women in comfy clothes leading a card game at their table, and a lot of the time–babies! I have seen more babies and toddlers chilling with their parents in breweries than any other adult social gathering. As a kid that grew up going to my parents’ theatre cast parties, I can attest that hanging around responsible adults in these situations helped provide me a healthy relationship with drinking. So hooray family beer activities!

The artist generation

Millenials get shit for a lot of things. When there’s change, someone needs a scapegoat. But you gotta give it to milennials for grasping onto a small movement that celebrates artisan craft. Last night, Ben and I ended up driving down a dark driveway in Hackensack. The only thing I know about Hackensack is that Billy Joel wanted to move out of it in his song. But now I also know that Hackensack attracts a delightful group of humans. At the end of this road, sits Alementary Brewing Company. In any other situation, driving down a road like this in the dark would make me say, “Nope! Danger! Turning around!” But instead, we found a collection friendly North Jersey artsy types smiling and heading into a well-lit, hygge-filled room (I used hygge in a sentence!). As you enter, we checked out art on display from a local artist and signs about their Sunday yoga class, Namaste for the Beer.

Art, yoga and craft beer might sound like a recipe for pretension, but it is anything but. Not only did I run into three friends at this random Hackensack haven–two of which I haven’t seen in nearly 15 years–but I feel like I could have stricken up a conversation with any of the regular Joes in the place and had a grand evening. It takes a lot to make this introvert feel comfortable in a bar crowd.

So here’s a room in a weird-looking parking lot, drinking someone’s artwork while playing cards games. Breweries never seem to have the vibe of “let’s get drunk!” There are no shot specials, sugar-filled cocktails, or a collection of loud 30-something dudes that just got out of their finance jobs that stare a little too long when you walk to the bathroom. I feel good about humanity when we go to breweries.

And the best thing? They seem to be everywhere. Visit a small town in the middle of nowhere, and you still get to go chat with beer types, support a local business and try delicious beer.

I know I’m late to the beer game–this is already a thriving subculture I know very little about. But after seeing how it’s helped our family bond, helped me feel even more proud of small NJ towns, AND given Ben and I hobby that gets us out of the house–away from our nudgey yet elusive theatre careers–and talking to new people, I approve.

Tell me about your favorite brewery!  I want to go!

Other awesome finds include: Magnify Brewing Company, Rockaway Brewing Company, and of course our favorite, Cape May Brewery (note: if you can help it, get married in a town surrounded by wineries and breweries).

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