I feel slight irony in this being first. It felt the end of an era in one way and yet the beginning of another, in another haha, or a gentle reminder of who I once was compared to who I am now. Yep I used to be a pisshead in my late teens and early twenty’s. Alcohol was my crutch for both socialising and loneliness, and we’ve always had a love hate relationship. I guess it’s that I love drinking but I hate being pissed, or the outcome of being pissed – I often do stupid shit.
But my own personal complexity runs a bit deeper, I have alcoholism running through my veins. At times I even wonder if this would have been my fate if I hadn’t got sick. Would I have also weakened to the drink like so many other family members before me? Actually, sick or not, I still go through phases every few years where I just can’t resist the temptation – and I’ve been going through one of those lately. As I said, beer is in my blood.
Anyhow this ‘brewery tour’ thing came along at quite a weird time for me. Like a week earlier when I organised the whole thing, I was pretty excited about it, but in that week I’d drunk beers on two separate occasions so I was just about over this drinking stage. Hangover’s are shit. And that aside, this really is a war within – that possibly only those with alcoholic tendencies will understand. Still I tried to think of this as just one night, and to make the most of it.
Now to quickly side-step a little, so I’m one of those annoying people who won’t tell people where we’re going until we’re there. All I ever say is that it’s a surprise. So, my acquaintance for this evening, ‘Harry’, had no idea where we were going, just that we were driving down all these weirdo back streets in Richmond. Well that was until the taxi driver remarked in a deep thick Indian accent, ‘oh look it’s Mountain Goat’. Surprise ruined.
So blah, after repeating the taxi drivers comment numerous times, and having a few laughs about the whole thing, we made our way inside. It was literally a massive warehouse where (from what I could see at the time) there was the obvious brewery at the back but the whole front part had been turned into a bar with heaps of tables etc. For an industrial area, surprisingly there was a few people there too. Maybe it was the chic rustic, uber trendy décor that enticed them in.
I sat down at a table near the back of the room, literally trying not to drink. As I said above, I knew I was coming to the end of my drinking phase. Well that lasted 15 minutes, zero will power. But c’mon really I was in a brewery, so what was I thinking? And truthfully, odds on was that was the first time anyone had had a beer there through a feeding tube. I even remember the barman catching a glimpse at what was going on, then almost smirking with approval.
Hardcore or stupid – it’s definitely something.
But beer down, and now feeling a little tipsy, it was just in time for the tour to begin. So I rolled on over to join a group of about 15 others, with one dude taking us around. He first up ran through some history of Mountain Goat Brewery, like how it first started by a couple of ‘home-brewers’ inspired by the craft beer market in America, to then starting their own mirco brewery, to then their search for capital. The ever present entrepreneur’s dilemma.
Next, we walked a little further, checked out a few of the vat’s, until we reached the raw ingredients bit. That’s hops, grain and yeast. We got to touch and smell them, we heard a few more specifics about the production process (while looking at the machines and the waste product), then finally a quick rundown of how to rid the beer of its cloudiness in its final stage. All this in the space of 20 feet. Honestly I was a little gobsmacked by how small this place was.
Like being a pisshead, well in a previous life, I’d done a couple of brewery tours before. But my basis for comparison was the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam and the Boags one in Tasmania, so I suppose that’s not really fair. The Mountain Goat operation was still a pretty class act. Actually as I found out later, this location wasn’t their main plant. Maybe this place was more for marketing and as a tourist attraction.
Anyways as the tour was now over, and as so often happens to me, an older lady came up to me telling me this rather extravagant story about her disabled niece. I mean sure she was nice, but truthfully I always find this type of thing a weird connection, like an empathy that they understand disability. Look, I suppose it is lovely. But then right on cue came the whole ‘so what happened to you’ question, which I often can’t be bothered answering because of its complexity.
Still, she started reeling off examples, I then nodded at diving accident. Bad me.
But for these few moments, for me, it was a really shit reminder of my disability. Like sure it’s obvious, sure I’m in aa wheelchair, only my reality was that I was out and about with a ‘mate’ trying to escape all of that hoo haa. Trying to feel some normality for just a few hours. But as much as I try to live my life with blinkers on, somebody’s always pulling them back. Haha so to the bar I went.
I downed a few more beers, soaked up a bit of the ambience, and even bought the Mountain Goat t shirt for the full tourist experience. And I must say hanging out at the bar [that night] was a pretty nice thing to do… well for an umm Wednesday night. The only thing that made it a bit strange though was all the cyclists walking around in their lycra, like yeah I’m out exercising (or that’s what they tell people) when really they’re drinking beer.
Well played I suppose.
Stil,l to sum up the whole thing, you know it was a pretty relaxing night out. Actually I guess there’s that same feeling of harmony and human comfort at most watering holes. Just with this one, for me anyhow, I felt much more appreciation for what was being consumed. An insight into what goes on behind the bubbles. In fact, this ‘tour’ has again reignited my interest in home brewing – but not right now.
You see this seems to be a very fitting end to my boozy exploits of late.
So as I’ve said a thousand times before, ‘I’m never drinking again’. I feel like it’s again time to focus.