“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.” — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Cultivate was magic.
I think it was Roald Dahl, one of my most favorite childhood authors, who said that the greatest things were often hidden away in the most unlikely places, and for me that was the most romantic little brewery tucked away in Berrien Springs.
It was about ten minutes down the road from Tapistry, but it was far removed from anything else. Tapistry was at least in the middle of a (tiny) downtown; Cultivate was surrounded on three sides by super tall trees, and there was basically no cell service.
I parked and just looked around, then up. The clouds were unreal.
That’s the thing about flat, wide open country spaces: they give the sky such a chance.
When you pulled into Cultivate (RIP – I was deeply saddened to learn in the summer of 2017 that they’d closed their doors for good), the first thing you saw were the hops. They had a great concept: grow some hops, and use them a few steps away to make beer on site. Of course, they ordered more hops – you’d never be able to grow enough hops to sustain a brewery like this unless you had acres and acres. And I’m sure they did the roasting of the malts off-site (they grew those, too). Just a fantastic little extra when visiting this place.
I walked in and was greeted by hands down the most attractive bartenders I’ve ever seen. DAMMIT WHY DID THEY HAVE TO CLOSE DOWN. Anyway, I perused the menu and noticed that, sure enough, they had a great offering of light summer beers, along with a few dark ones. I ordered a flight by writing down the names of the beers on a lovely flight paddle that I low-key contemplated stealing. (For like 0.2 seconds. I was wearing a little sundress; I’d never be able to smuggle it out.)
Words to live by, right? I certainly thought so – it was why I snapped the pic. A great reminder, because all of these words resonate with me and how I try to live my life. They were even kind of the theme of my trip!
The Extraordinarily Good Looking Bartender chatted with me as he put my flight together. I made sure to let him know that I’d heard about them from the guys at Tapistry. The craft brewery scene is so incestuous; it’s great. Breweries are not shy at all about recommending other good ones to try, and I think that’s really nice and try to let the staff know about it. It just fosters/encourages a nice camaraderie.
I got my flight and sat down at one of the hightops.
Pursue was a gentle, pleasant wit that I really enjoyed. Strive was an unusually fruity saison. Explore was a very chocolatey, almost too sweet stout, and Smile was a Belgian single that I liked most of all.
I was starting to sip my beers at the high top but the allure of the patio proved too much, so I moved outside to finish. This was my lovely, peaceful view:
Like I said, surrounded on all three sides by tall, tall trees. With no phone to play with (I was trying not to use it too much on this trip, anyway, and just really be alone with my thoughts or making new friends), I focused on my beer and the greenery. I swear, just looking at something green and natural relaxes me.
It was such a nice escape for an hour or two. I just sat and drank and sighed and relaxed. It’s nice to be able to turn off your mind for a while. Criminal defense work is tough, and you have to be mentally strong, and manipulative, and anticipate all sorts of problems, and get a read on people real quick so you can best communicate with them (at their level, in a manner they understand), and you have to be able to think things through on seventeen different levels at once.
It’s really, really nice to be able to turn that off. (It just takes some time.)
The beer helped, though. 😉 Beer always helps turn my brain off, but in a good way.
I like who I am when I have one good beer in me. Not like a 4 or 5%, but like a 7%-8%. Get one of those in me and my uptightness kind of bleeds away. I’m a little flirty, more self-assured, very relaxed, almost irreverent. I like who I am with one beer in me.
And I liked who I was at Cultivate. I was calm and serene and content. Those things can be difficult to achieve – for me, because of my high stress job, cultural restrictions and emotional manipulation always awaiting me at home, and because of how dependent I sometimes am on my phone, on social media, on distraction.
I have never been to a brewery that I would describe as romantic. But that was the word that sprung most readily to mind. It was ensconced by tall trees. The temptation of phones was removed. There was growth and greenery. The beers were light and tasted like summer. There were picnic tables and lounge chairs and everything was so completely comfortable. It would have been the perfect place to go with a girlfriend or boyfriend, a wife or husband. So romantic.
It’s fitting then, I think, that I would use that word to describe a place that is now closed for good. F. Scott Fitzgerald defined the sentimental person as one who thinks things will last, and the romantic as one who has a desperate confidence that they won’t.