Well, I finally did it!
I finally graduated and got my MFA! All it took was two years, [more than we care to admit] in student loans, 20 packets of work consisting of 750,000 words written, and over 250 books read.
And what better way to celebrate the culmination of all that work than to take a hike with my beloved Zach and my parents through a boggy, bug-filled swamp! It was *almost* Canada!
Okay, we didn't set out to hike through a swamp. We looked at a map of Vermont (where my grad program is located) and saw there was a wild bird preserve about two hours north of our B&B. Two hours is a no-time drive for desert dwellers like us, who are used to driving two hours or more to work every day -- not to mention 4 hours to a dentist or go bulk-shopping at the nearest wholesale store. I, Zach, am not included in this "us." To me, a place as close as Rio Rancho is too far to drive for ANYTHING. And it's only four hours away during rush hour.
As it turns out, "wild bird preserve" in Vermont actually translates into "mosquito-infested bog land."
No problem. Zach and I had already stopped by a pharmacy to pick up some bug spray. Mom and Dad said to get something with DEET in it. But I'm not into salving aerosol poison on my skin. No, sirree. Instead, we found a brand sporting a natural pheromone guaranteed to make the bugs pinch their noses and fly far away.
With our pest-repellent force field applied, we bravely forged the puddles forming the hiking loop around the preserve. We swatted bugs until our arms were sore. We doused each other with more and more bug spray, but it was no good. That pheromone must have been some kind of hubba-hubba bug perfume because those mosquitoes and black flies harassed us until hour skin looked like bubble wrap! Mine didn't. Not that I'm saying neener-neener.
Okay, I am saying neener-neener.
After surviving swamplandia, Mom, Dad, Zach and I sought refuge at the Vermont Pub & Brewery. We were super excited to visit this particular brewpub because its founder, Greg Noonan, is a kind of godfather to American microbrewing. His 1986 book, Brewing Lager Beers, was one of the early textbooks for home brewers. He opened the VPB in 1988 and ran it until his death in 2009.
The day was sunny and the humidity was mild, so when we arrived at the large, brick-slathered corner building, we asked to sit on the patio. Lucky us: a local jazz band was setting up for a gig. Unluckily for us, we got the waitress who felt serving up grub 'n' suds was beneath her ambitions.
When lil' miss I-hate-my-bar-apron finally stopped by the table, Mom and Dad got some local hard ciders and Zach ordered the Grand Slam Baseball Beer. Just seeing it on the menu made us think of Isoptopes Amber -- the best ballpark beer in the world! And I was feeling in quite the baseball mood, let me tell you. I had just watched three Kansas City Royals in the same All-Star game for the first time since the late '80s -- and they were all on the diamond at the same time. This, not entirely coincidentally, has led to my first taste of a pennant race since I was old enough to understand that I would never understand the infield fly rule.
The menu touts the Grand Slam as a light-bodied American pale ale. I took that to mean: not quite as in-your-face as a strong IPA, but a foundation of flavor you could build your stadium on. And... well, the emphasis was on "light-bodied." The brew didn't do anything special; it wasn't watery, but it wasn't rich. It had all the right components, but not in any way that made you sit back and sigh. Like watching a Little League contest: the love of the game was there, the know-how was mostly present, but it just wasn't executed as beautifully as a major-league double play. I'm glad I tasted it, but I wouldn't go back for the second half of a doubleheader.
I ordered the house Weissebier: the Beetlejuice. (I guess I hadn't had enough bugs out on the trail). Honestly, I was attracted to the menu description of the Beetle where its subtle banana and clove flavors were touted. Just thinking about that odd yet magical combination whisked me nostalgically away to the Franciscan Well in Co. Cork, Ireland, with its banana-y...clove-y...bubblegummy...Friar Weisse! Ssssttthhooo delissshhhuttthhh!
Oopsstthhh! Ssstthhhorry, I'm drooling again. Well, one sip of the Beetlejuice was enough for me to know that "subtle" in Vermont translates about as well as "wild bird preserve." This beer was a banana-bananza! It unified all banana splits around the world! By the time I finished it, I had Gwen Stefani's Ain't No Holla Back Girl stuck in my head (It's bananas! B-AN-AN-AS!) Too bad the waitress weren't no holla back girl, either. I might have been able to try another of VPB's beers. But our meal was done and the jazz band had played their last song of the afternoon. So we departed from Vermont Pub & Brewery a bit disappointed and underwhelmed by the overall experience. Cheers to the jazz band for elevating our time as high as they did!