“Conversation, like certain portions of the anatomy, always runs more smoothly when lubricated.” – Marquis de Sade
If you haven’t been, Grand Rapids is awesome. It’s got a great downtown, there are tons of old buildings and cobblestone roads (the siren song for a girl who grew up in Boston), lots of parks and outdoor spots, and, of course, lots of beer.
I got into Grand Rapids a little earlier than I planned and, not yet hungry, decided to do my itinerary a little out of order and kill some time at HopCat before having dinner at Grand Rapids Brewing Company right next door.
Now let me tell you, HopCat is basically my good luck charm. Something wonderful always happens to me when I’m there, without fail. HopCat is a good fucking time. If you’re there, think of me and my fantastic magical luck every time I’m there, and you strut on in, knowing my luck will rub off on you mentally.
I walked in and the place was PACKED. I grabbed a seat at the bar and began rifling through my purse for my little notebook. I found it, but forgot my bag on the seat. I ordered some beers – small pours – and just kind of hung out, enjoying the atmosphere. It was fun and energetic, with great music blasting, and a mostly younger crowd, so I fit in perfectly.
I heard a voice over my shoulder. “This seat free?”
A dark haired guy stood there, pointing at my bag. I quickly snatched it off the seat – there is nothing more rude in a crowded brewery than to have your bag occupying a seat of its own. “Sure is.”
I resumed sipping whatever it was I ordered – according to my notes, a Tropical Saison from Brewery Saison, Ray John, and Stardust Pilot – as he tried and failed to get the bartender’s attention.
“Do what I do and flash some leg,” I joked, making him laugh. The sound attracted the bartender and before long, my new friend had the beer he wanted. Coincidentally, it was a beer that shared my name. (My real name, not the nickname I use for this blog.)
“Hey.” I clinked my pen against his glass. “That beer is my name.”
We settled into an amiable and slightly animated conversation. His name was Mark, and he made his disapproval clear when I told him I’d never tried the beer with which I shared a name.
“You have to!” he burst out, earning looks from a few other patrons sitting elbow-to-elbow with us at the crowded bar. “It’s such a good beer. Promise me you’ll drink it.”
I promised I would, although probably not that night, because I’d already been drinking all day and had one more brewery left on my itinerary.
Naturally, this piqued his curiosity. What kind of pathetic, hardcore day drinker has a drinking itinerary?
So I told him all about my trip, including how my boss and paralegal had basically shoved me out the door, and where I had been and where I would be going. He perused my itinerary with approval, but added some suggestions, which I thought was kind.
We talked for quite a bit more, about lots of different things not necessarily related to beer, like his upcoming wedding and some of my upcoming jury trials, when he finally leaned over a bit and lowered his voice about an hour or so into the interaction.
“Well, you seem pretty normal, so I guess I can tell you.”
Now when I tell you that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up because I had no idea what this cargo-short-wearing white boy was going to tell me…
“I own this place.”
I shrugged, because I still had no idea who he was, but thought it was cool that he owned HopCat (and yet still couldn’t get the bartender’s attention). We kept talking, and time passed quickly. Finally, I excused myself, saying that I was going to go get dinner next door, and I hoped he had a nice night.
So I walked over to Grand Rapids Brewing Company, right on the corner, and took up a seat at the bar. I can be a bit of an anti-social extrovert (thank you, Kendrick), so after two hours of talking to a stranger I met at the bar, I just wanted some quiet. I continued reading my book from earlier as I ordered and sipped my flight. It had been a pre-chosen flight, selected by the restaurant as what you got if you ordered small pours, which I ABSOLUTELY HATE. Still, I went with it, and settled into the resentment of being slightly turned off by the place.
I ordered a burger at some point, and kept making my way through my flight as I read my book. Maurice by E.M. Forster, I think it was. One of my favorites that I read for the first time back in law school. To keep me company were Silver Foam, a lager that I just didn’t understand and thus didn’t like at all, Rosalyn Bliss Blonde, Thomas Street Wheat, Chamomile Hef, Chinniels Wit (my handwriting gets loopier and less legible when I drink so who knows what the fuck it was actually called), and the Fishladder IPA.
I got a text from Chris at Millgrove letting me know that Nick and Nora, who I had just met at Tripel Root, had just left his brewery.
I sent them home with extras, he said. You should swing by and whoever’s here will hook you up with merch. But text me if you’re coming so I can try to be here.
He certainly wasn’t on my itinerary (I don’t double up), but I figured I could swing by Saturday on my way back home. Plus, I wanted to spend an extra day on the beach. It was summer in Michigan, after all – beaches galore.
Sated and pleasantly buzzed, I checked into my AirBnb, a gorgeous, sprawling home in the nearby historic district. My hosts were a young married couple with two huge, gorgeous dogs. I made polite chit chat with them, went on the obligatory tour, and turned in early. It had been a long day, and I was excited to have all of tomorrow to explore Grand Rapids.