I‘m walking along Colfax on a sunny February morning in Denver eating a banana. I’ve only lived in this neighborhood a month, and today is my first walk downtown. I’m nervous. Damn nervous. It’s not my surroundings, possibility of a zombie breakout or fear of dropping my banana. I’m heading to my first small beer related event; a tapping of Pliny the Younger.
Pliny the Younger (PtY) was recently christened the third best beer in the world or some shit by all the beer pundit sites. It’s a triple IPA from Russian River Brewing Company out of Santa Rosa, California, and released in small batches once per year. A few weeks ago I had my first taste of its double IPA counterpart, Pliny the Elder (PtE) and absolutely loved it, so curiosity had me by the balls. Plus I’d be lying if I said I don’t want the bragging rights and coveted check-in on Untappt for drinking such a kick-ass beer.
So why am I nervous? I’m going to this event alone. Beer is a social experience, and I don’t want to be standing by myself in the corner like some poor kid at a school dance when his friends all scored dates at another school. This means apprehension hangs over me like Aladdin riding his stupid magic carpet and throwing Apu’s shit at my head. “You’ve been to beer festivals before,” I tell myself. “Huge fucking events with thousands of people. What could be so bad about a small bar tapping?”
No time to think about it anymore. I get to Falling Rock Taphouse as the doors open and there’s no line. I show my ID, get my ticket guaranteeing me a pour of the golden liquid I seek and actually get a seat at the bar. Success? Success. But now I’m about to be drinking alone with all these strangers. It’s 11 am, and PtY isn’t tapped until 1 pm so time and pacing have become my enemies.
Falling Rock has an awesome beer selection. Sitting at the bar looking at dozens of tap handles for two hours is like putting a kid behind the counter of a cake store and saying, “Now just look at this cake while you wait for your super awesome cake to arrive.” I talk beer with the people around me to take my mind off all the temptations staring in my direction. I learn how to get THC into home brews from one dude. I proclaim to another he’s a unicorn (My now-retired name for Colorado locals – they don’t think it’s funny) and a third lets me try his beer explaining how he came to love it. It feels strange, yet energizing to have that level of casual comfort with complete strangers, and time flies right by.
At 1 pm, a Falling Rock representative heads behind the bar, grabs a microphone and makes an announcement about how this PtY is slightly different from last year’s batch. He talks about the hops and grains used in the brewing process and it makes the beer seem more intimate before we run a 200 person Amtrak on the keg with no remorse or condom. My spot at the bar proves to be premium real estate as I get my pour almost immediately. I don’t know if most tappings happen with as much pomp and circumstance as this one, but I love the process.
How was the beer? Let me put it this way: If it begins as carbon, forced through millions of years of heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s core, eventually pushed out by thousands of years of tectonic activity and stored in millions of tons of rock; and it’s then blasted out by a man, shipped thousands of miles to Antwerp, gets shaped, polished and mounted to the finest 24 carat gold ring, it would only be suited for the Goddess Athena. To summarize, it’s delicious. I’m blown away that I can tell this sucker is a descendant of PtE. They have similar flavors, but the Younger is amped up in every way.
Several hours later, I wake up, face buried in my bed, from an “afternoon nap” and laugh at myself for being nervous this morning. Everything about the event kicked ass and I can’t wait for the next. In the beer community, you hear Hunter S. Thompson’s quote, “Good people drink good beer,” a lot, and it’s true. If you’re anywhere and surrounded by fellow beer drinkers, you’re never drinking alone.
An open mind and a few beers can make anywhere an adventure.