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The First Sip: Life After COVID-19

The First Sip: Life After COVID-19
Seth Garland

With more time to watch movies and shows, I’ve been reevaluating the importance of entertainment and imagination. One movie I’ve been thinking about is Big Fishparticularly the end where Albert Finney and Billy Crudup envision how “the story ends.” The ending they come up with is a bright visualization—a jubilant, cheerful scene where the son carries his dying father to a pond through a long stretch of smiling faces. As they walk down the hill towards the pond, the father gets a standing ovation from the dozens of quirky people who made up his remarkable (if exaggerated) life’s story.

Sometimes those kinds of visualizations are fun distractions—a daydream to pass the time. But sometimes visualizations are a coping mechanism, pure survival. It’s not news that we’re missing a lot right now. And when we miss things, it’s easy to let our minds wander and dream about what may come. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. With the help of some lovely folks in the craft beer industry, we’re going to close our eyes and imagine what it’ll be like on that first day back to life.

Carol Cochran, Horse & Dragon Brewing Company

“I can see the time when we are sitting, outside at the taproom on some gorgeous Colorado day, maybe still 6’ away from the next nearest table, and maybe only gathering with friends or coworkers we have trusted ourselves to come into contact with, but still—together. We are each enjoying a tall, cold pint of the fruits of many people’s labor—each of us with our own favorite, but united in the love of the craft. Crisp, delicious craft beer is (thank goodness for all of us) currently being enjoyed during isolation. But somehow that element of gathering at the tasting room or a favorite bar in the Colorado sunshine with happy people (friends and strangers alike) celebrating a break in the week and enjoying each other—that all adds that last, ephemeral element that makes a great craft beer perfect.”

Photo: Horse and Dragon via Facebook

Chris Schooley, Troubadour Maltings

“We’ve been busy on an expansion going into all of this, and we’re just firing up our new uni-system malting vessel. We also just installed our new roaster up at the malthouse in January. Ever since we first opened, we have been thinking about how cool it would be to develop custom roasts with brewers and distillers: We’re having really inspiring conversations during roasting sessions, with all sorts of folks up to our spot exploring what we can come up with together and building recipes from scratch.”

Photo: Troubadour Maltings via Facebook

Seth Garland,

“I look down at an overpriced plastic cup of the best craft beer I could find around here. A light evening shower drops a few bits of rainwater into my cup. I don’t cover it. I look over at my wife, who, for the first time in almost a year, isn’t wearing a protective mask or having a panic attack. It’s a magical time: The sun’s just about to set and a pink glow washes over Red Rocks, over the stage, over the green hills, and over downtown Denver far off in the distance. I’ve always known this was a magical place, but it’s never been so important to feel this.

Instead of people cramming themselves into the front row or trying to sneak their friends into seats they don’t belong in, everyone’s just so goddamn happy to be there. They could be airing an old I Love Lucy rerun on the big screens that bookend each side of the stage for all anyone cared. But instead, we get to hear what remains of the Colorado Symphony playing underneath one of the most beautiful and powerful voices in music right now: Brandi Carlile. Ten years ago, when my wife and I had met, my first exposure to Brandi was at the Folks Festival in Lyons at Planet Bluegrass, which is a very quick walk from a then-quiet little microbrewery called Oskar Blues.

There’s a Dale’s Pale Ale in my rain-tainted plastic cup, and wife’s got a Dale’s tallboy in her left hand. She’s taken her sandals off and I get to see a very specific empty look in her eyes while she scans around. It’s not a sad empty look, or a brainless, emotionless empty look. It’s the look of someone—who has even more trouble shutting off her brain than I do—finally shutting off her brain and letting the world pass through her.

It’s a little chilly, it’s a little wet. The beer’s a little expensive, and the seats are a little higher up than we would’ve wanted. Last year all of this would be rant worthy material and a guaranteed pre-encore exit. On this day, all of that is meaningless. Maybe it won’t be a specific artist, venue or beer. But I imagine that first moment at a concert, with my wife, with a beer—that’s what’s keeping me going right now.”

Julie Herz, craft beer program director Brewers Association

“I am yearning for when the hug and the handshakes are back and my fellow neighbor, family members and friends are all in the clear and we can once again freely great each other in a warm and open way. I yearn for when we can freely have a beer and a burger or a snack and a sip at our local brewery taprooms and brewpubs—and when we can once again gather in groups over ten people, too. Independent U.S. craft breweries are so essential and many of them need saving right now. I yearn for a time when breweries are able to be back on track and back to business.”

Chea Franz, national content editor

“I’m picturing that moment when you walk into a full taproom. You walk up to the bar and it’s packed with people, elbow-to-elbow. Nineties rock is on full-blast, but you can only faintly hear the lyrics (is that Supergrass?!) because the cacophony of banter and chatter overwhelm the room. It’s a crystal clear, sunny day and people spill out onto the patio. ‘Here, try this,’ says my friend, handing over a tulip glass filled with delicious, honey-hued nectar. I take a whiff, fruity esters fill my nostrils and then take a sip. We’ll be here for the next few hours, enjoying beer after beer, taking part in lively conversations and breathing in and out into the open air. The perfect day.”

Jake Goodman, director of marketing WeldWerks Brewing Co. 

“Here’s the thing about breweries and tap houses: At the end of the day, they aren’t simply just about the liquid that’s being poured into a glass. Sure, that might be part of the reason that a building does a particular type of business in a specific location in space and time, but that’s far from the whole story.

I think back to my days growing up in a Pentecostal church, gathering every Sunday to sing and sway along with sweaty gospel music played fervently from the stage. It was a stalwart, an institution that people counted on. Very often, though, our pastor would remind us of one simple principle: A church is not a building, it’s the fellowship that takes place inside the building.

While I wistfully look forward to that glorious moment when I can see and smell a favorite golden-hued beverage filling a WeldWerks pint glass for the-first-time-in-what-may-be-months, that anticipation pales in comparison to the feeling I know I’ll have in turning around and passing that glass across the bar top to someone with a smile and a nod.

I picture that guest as someone who will also be receiving their first draft pour in months as well and, as clear as day, I can see a communal, unspoken appreciation bursting forward not just for what we now have once again, but also what we’ve gone through together. I may not know that person, and I may never see them again, but I’ll have that moment. We all will.”

Photo: WeldWerks Brewing Co. via Facebook

Bryant Vander Weerd,

“As usual, there’s no parking in the tiny lot that accompanies the strip mall housing Ester’s and a few other small businesses off of Holly. I can’t help but dwell on that word, usual. The idea of usual has become such a foreign concept these past few months. It doesn’t take me long to realize how UN-usual it actually feels to have to deal with crowds and lack of parking again. It’s something that used to make me uncomfortable. I welcome being this uncomfortable if it means we get to be around people again.

Finally settling for a street parking spot in the nearby neighborhood, my wife and I step out and hustle our newborn daughter out of the car seat. I’ve already got Fat Tire nachos on the brain and my wife has been talking about their pizzas for about the last week since we learned of the reopening.

We brush past another couple while walking through the doors and I accidentally bump into the guy’s shoulder. We lock eyes and exchange a quick apology. Not in an annoyed way. Actually felt like both of us were so glad to be this close to strangers again without wearing masks and being concerned with infection.

The din of loud restaurant conversation graces my ears for the first time in what feels like an eternity. I’d come here for takeout a few times during the quarantine but to see the chairs turned back over and full of people was a sight to behold.

How long is the wait? 45 minutes? Again, something that usually would annoy me. But just being outside again felt freeing. I’m not giving up on this place. I’m willing to wait.

My eyes drift inevitably to the large array of tap handles on the far end of the bar. I feel like a kid in a candy store, ready to try every single one of them. Everyone around me looks happy. So many groups of friends sitting in large tables. So many smiles, laughing, and glasses clinking. In a way, we all feel like friends at this moment. The sun is shining, the beer is cold, and the quarantine is over.”

In Time (We’ll Be Dancing in the Streets)

Another show I’ve been thinking about a lot is Mr. Robot. Its final season aired in October and it’s definitely worth a binge. The third season, despite being shot several years ago, is scary relevant to what’s going on in the world today—even a fairly ominous call out to the recently departed John Prine makes its way into the all-too-prophetic show. But there’s one scene in particular that gets me right now. It’s a beautiful scene if a bit sappy, and watching it will do it more justice than any rambling I could provide. You don’t need to know the characters to feel what’s going on here.

Even though the scene gets cut off on YouTube, on the show it concludes like this (Season 3, Episode 8 if you want to look it up later):

Elliot: “Even though they never came true, we still liked doing it. In the end that was never our favorite part anyway. It was the wishing. I didn’t get that at first. Do you remember what you used to say to me, right before we opened our eyes that would make it all better?”

A pause, while Robbie Robb’s “In Time” starts to swell to a peak in the background.

Angela: “No matter what happens, we’ll be okay.”

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