With the possibility of pregnancy looming in the near future, as Wife and I throw caution to the wind in an attempt to produce a second child, I find myself cherishing the beer events and moments that I've experienced – both recently and over the years. I'm all too aware that an event like Zwanze Day 2014, held on a Saturday morning/afternoon in bar/resturaunt in downtown Philadelphia, is probably the type of event that in the future, potentially nine months into the future and for all of time thereafter, that I will not be able to attend.
And I am totally fine with that.
In the event that my family does grow and consequently I experience a sharp decline in Wife's proclivity to allow me out of the house for hours, sometimes days at a time all in the name of delicious beers, I should, well in advance, come up with some sort of alternate plan that would allow me to maintain some semblance of the things from the outside world that bring me happiness. And if not happiness, at least a temporary escape from the big brass band in my brain playing the constant soundtrack to a responsible life run by clocks and dollars.
Ideally, such a plan would involve scenarios or settings that would allow me to not only continue to enjoy the delicious beverages of which I have become accustomed to, but also to meet, and more often than not, exceed the familial duties associated with being the patriarch of a family with two kids.
I imagine that with two children, as opposed to the one child lifestyle we currently have, Wife would frown upon the idea of me taking a day to myself to seek out, wait in line for, and drink strange, rare, and hopefully delicious beer while she stayed home to care for our children. I imagine returning home from such a day I would be greeted – well, perhaps not greeted, more like confronted – by a version of Wife that I would rather avoid: one with frazzled hair, crazy eyes, a shirt stained with tomato sauce, and a high pitch voice that, much like an ambulance siren, alerts you to some form of emergency and signals that it would be best if you got out of the way.
The picture I'm painting is not from some machismo construct of what happens to a woman when she stays home with the kids all day but rather is from my personal experience as a stay-at-home Dad over the summer – and that is after a day with only one child.
While I dream of someday taking my family to Monk's Cafe, the bar/restaurant where I attended this year's Zwanze Day, for a delicious meal of mussels and pomme frites, I imagine that such a meal would better suited for a day that doesn't coincide with a serious beer release like Zwanze or Pliny the Younger.
Even then, it is debatable whether Monk's is an ideal place for a family dinner. Sure, my daughter would love the mussels and frites, but the dim lighting and cramped spaces might be problematic. This is in no way meant as a criticism of Monk's – obviously the place was not designed with children in mind – it's a beer bar. However, at this point in my life, I find myself evaluating most places I go and most things I do with children in mind, specifically my child, as well as the possibility that I could soon have another.
Essentially, what I need is a place, preferably places, that I can go with the family where everyone can have a nice time and I can have a delicious beer. Like most things, I didn't realize that I needed it until I experienced it – specifically at the Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. As mentioned on BeerGraphs before, they had decent beer and a large outdoor beer garden with a playground for the kids. It was a blissful experience that I have been looking to recreate ever since.
Over this past summer, in what might be best described as an act of poor parenting during my time as Mr. Mom, I came across a place that, while not quite as kid-friendly as a beer garden with a playground, certainly had some distinct features that lent itself to both a solid family experience – a big space and bright lighting – as well as amazing beer, with over 100 taps of craft beer. In this particular case, it was one specific beer that led me there: Hill Farmstead's Edward.
No, I did not put my daughter in the car and drive to Vermont. Rather, I put my daughter in the car and drove for maybe an hour to Enola, Pennsylvania, home of Al's of Hampden Pizzeria, which is home to Pizza Boy Brewing Company.
Early in the day, I learned via Al's of Hampden's twitter that they would be tapping a keg of Hill Farmstead's Pale Ale, Edward. Apparently, the two breweries were working together or perhaps just hanging out, and Pizza Boy came home from Vermont with this as a gift from Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead. Regardless of how it happened, after my Daughter woke from her nap, I asked her if she wanted to get some pizza. She said yes and off we went.
Now I had been to Al's/Pizza Boy before so I knew that it would be a more than suitable place for a little fun father-daughter lunch. The fact that my motivations for such a trip were to try a beer I thought I would only be able to get in Vermont is besides the point.
What matters is that my Daughter and I had a great time. We ate an entire pizza, had some french fries, and drew some pictures while she got all hopped up on apple juice and I enjoyed two drafts of Edward. I look forward to going again, at least one more time as a family of three, and then many more times as a family of four (hopefully).
In closing, I need more places like this.
Edward, Hill Farmstead Brewery (11.28 BAR, 138 Style+)
Appearance = 5/5
Yellowish, brownish, orange. Completely hazy. Nice white head. Awesome lacing.
Smell = 4.25/5
Orange and earthy grass, some floral notes.
Taste = 4.5/5
Oranges and apricot. Dry grass and earthiness. A piney, floral bitterness hits you in the finish but fades quick. Quite delicious all around.
Feel = 4.75/5
A lighter feel for the flavor. Carb is fine and mild in an English Ale way. Goes down so easy. Extremely drinkable.
Overall = 4.5/5
A very unique combination of taste and feel, at least in my experience. Flavors are so balanced. I wouldn't say subtle flavors because the citrus stands out and the grass and earth stand out but nothing is hitting you over the head. Very much enjoyed it. Very much would like to have more.
J.R. Shirt is currently thinking about making his daughter an epic mixtape consisting mostly of Billy Joel's Greats Hits, minus the song about Vietnam. Follow J.R. Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to the Drinking With Shirt podcast right here at BeerGraphs or where ever you get your podcasts.