It seems like so many stories I read on the internet focus on glamorous, trendy places where people go to have fabulous drinks, food and are surrounded by beautiful people. FUCKING BARF. Ok, let me take that back (FRAB GNIKCUF), because every once in a while that sort of evening is fun. More often than not, I’d rather stick my nuts in honey and then dangle them in front of a menstruating bear than spend an evening surrounded by the social elite. You can rub elbows with high society just about anywhere. I’ve been in the same bar as the dude who played Zack Morris. Twice. Once I was wearing hole-filled jeans, a t-shirt with a unicorn fucking a bear and I wasn’t even close to breaking the establishment’s dress code.
Name dropping aside, I think we sometimes forget about the amazing times that can be had away from the trendy hotspots or even out in the middle of nowhere. Who doesn’t enjoy fires, fireworks, guitars, stars and quiet lakes from time to time? Isn’t a bar or restaurant that has the charm of a bad John Wayne movie or Bonanza episode always intriguing? Quirky places like this can be an awesome change of scenery and, more often than not, actually have some descent beers available.
For this reason I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Greenville, Michigan. It has all these things and a budding beer culture to boot. Towns like this are awesome for getting away from your usual scene. Variety is the spice of life, and Greenville has a very pungent spice that can make you remember why you normally prefer your regular spice. Admittedly, my parents live there so I have personal reasons to go, but I genuinely enjoy myself when I visit.
First off, my parents live down the street from one of the best liquor stores in town. Ree’s Country Store has everything you could want. Literally. It has a pizza joint on site, grocery stuff and always seems to be staffed with the hottest chicks in Montcalm county. I’m talking Jamie Pressley in “My Name is Earl” or “Joe Dirt” hot, but that’s just what works for me these days. Once I get done eye-banging the help, I like to turn my dirty looks towards their Beer Cave.
While not huge, they have the usual mass produced AB/MC beers, but then actually have a solid local craft beer selection in 6-packs or individual bottles. And the prices are not bad. I walked out with a 12 pack of Hamm’s Premium and one individual bottle each of Founder’s Red’s Rye, New Holland Dragon’s Milk and Bell’s Two Hearted for $11.56 AFTER TAX AND DEPOSIT. 12 taste bud killers and three premiums for under 12 bucks. That’s a fucking awesome way to rock a Saturday night; drink some beers, light off some fireworks, possibly accidentally set a boat on fire, maybe steal another boat and go to the Baptist campground across the lake to pass out on the playground or row out to the middle of the lake and take a dump off the side of the boat. You know, mix things up.
Don’t have family or friends to kill time with? There are a number of bars in the three-quarter mile strip of downtown that have plenty of charm and booze to offer you. The Winter Inn is a staple establishment on the strip and my personal favorite. I know it’s classy because it has a front and back door, and has a separate dining room that is always filled to capacity with senior citizens. The lighting in the main dining and bar area is murky and the walls are all original wood. They don’t worry about “jazzing” anything up but the wood actually is nice with its original finish and fairly rustic. Their hardwood floors are scuffed and beat all to shit so you don’t feel bad throwing your peanut shells and inhibitions down for someone to pick up later.
The beer selection here, similar to Ree’s, is impressive for a town of less than 1,000 people (Huge fucking assumption right there). They have the usual Bud, Miller and Coor’s Light beers expected in a rural area where a tractor driving down the road is as common as a drunk girl squatting to pee outside a car after last call screaming how she is the epitome of class. On top of the usual suspects, they have Guinness and Smithwick’s and then 5-6 taps dedicated to Michigan craft brews. The last time I went to the Winter Inn I was pleased to find Michigan’s newest craft beer player, Perrin, had a couple beers on tap along side Founders and Bells.
But let’s cut to the chase. The REAL reason small towns like Greenville are a great way to break the regular routine is the small festivals that contain get-drunk-and-fall-down beer tents. Greenville’s very own Danish Festival is a weekend-long celebration of the Danish origins of the city (Another total fucking assumption) with the center focal point for anyone over the age of 21 being the big ass beer tent.
This might divide some of you only because it’s a well known fact that beer tents are usually sponsored, and thus solely supplied, by one big name beer company like Anheuser-Bush or Miller-Coors. Just remember I don’t just love beer. I love beer culture. This is a point I hope to keep driving home in all my future posts. Beer tents and the people who are found in them are all a huge part of beer culture, whether you want to call that beer served good or bad.
In all my years of being a drunk, very few things compare to the insane shenanigans that happen in a beer tent. Sit back, watch the shit show unfold or get right in the mix yourself. Chat up some of those crazy, drunk locals that came to either drink or to fight. Who knows, maybe you’ll run into an ex-girlfriend’s best friend who’s name you don’t remember atfuckingall and she’ll accuse you of dumping your ex and immediately moving onto some other girl that you clearly knocked up and married even though you “Weren’t ready to commit and put a rock on her friend’s finger,” when you’re actually just standing around chatting up the pregnant wife of the guy you rode with. I’m fully convinced Jerry Springer was born in a beer tent.
I know not many people are going to travel to a small town unless they have to. My challenge to you is if you’re travelling through one, have relatives at one or just want to really have an adventure and break your normal routine, these small towns have some pretty interesting gems to offer. I challenge you to seek one out and give it a shot. If nothing else, you will probably come away with a great story, and in the end isn’t that the best reason to go anywhere?
An open mind and a few beers can make anywhere an adventure.