I grew up in The Middle, right outside of Chicago, to be exact, so when I was invited to the annual get together at my buddy's horse farm in Michigan, I thought I should probably take the opportunity to visit and say hello and maybe good-bye to some friends I have had ever since...I started drinking beer in high school.
I traveled with my brother on a bus, two planes and one very long car ride to the rural and somewhat flat part of the state for the FFA, or as it is better known, the Fall Fuck Around. This event has been thrown every Autumn for the last four or five years in an attempt to check in and say hello to people we once held in the highest regard. Still to this day, I count many of these guys as some of my closest friends.
Initially, I was expecting more, beer wise, from my home town, but as I walked the streets looking for a bottle shop, I remembered that this place, once beloved, was also once dry, so my search would most likely be in vain. When I happened upon a bottle shop, named, luckily enough, Beer Shop, located around the corner from the old mall where I used to hang out on Saturday afternoons, my spirits brightened.
The logo on the window was well designed, and when I peered in, I saw a nice old wooden bar, surrounded by old fashioned bar stools, and coolers lining the walls of the small but welcoming shop. I would have to go in and grab some beer for the FFA later, after it opened at noon. A strange time for a beer shop to open, but this town used to be dry, so the late starting time seemed borderline reasonable.
I got there around three pm. There were a few people at the bar and some others gathered around some small tables drinking beer and talking in hushed tones. I knew they were hushed because it was conspicuously quiet for a Beer Shop, and not only that, the shelves in the coolers were conspicuously empty. I had already been to a few local markets looking for beers, but by the looks of it, craft beer just isn't a thing in the Middle, at least not as much as it is in the PNW. I had picked up a four pack of Bernie Brew, which would prove to have an intolerable after taste, but I was hoping for something local and maybe special to drink at the FFA.
As I said, the shelves were pretty bare, but I did happen to find a Jester King Noble King that I snagged, as well as a six pack of local fresh hop, though I was doubtful that at this distance, the hops would be all that fresh. I figured at the very least, I had something special in The Noble King.
We arrived around 130 on Saturday. Most of the fellas had arrived the night before, and were in a wide variety of stages of drunkenhighasfuckhangoverness. I hadn't seen most of these guys in at least ten years, some not for twenty, so there were several hours of catching up, laughing, drinking, and congenial travel down the many of multitudinous lanes of my still-intact memory.
Unfortunately, there was not a lot of beer to be had. It seemed in my absence and interim wandering through the beer-laden landscape of the PNW, most of my brothers had had to settle for the flatlands of the Middle, where it seemed most people preferred to drink hard liquor.
When you leave home, the place you know you belong, you miss it. As you travel, you appreciate the new and exciting things about the different areas, even if they are well-worn paths and familiarly flat vistas. I was only gone for five days, and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with everyone with whom I had come of age. I am who I am today in great part because of the guys I grew up with.
But Jesus if I have to drink any more of that demon-wrought Fireball ever again it will be too soon.