This past weekend I went to a local craft beer festival. It was, true to form, full of fancy-ass beers, sunshine, crazy-happy crowds — lots of beer will do that to you — and general good times. What’s more fun than wandering around downtown on a lovely summer afternoon in a sundress, sampling tons of beer by companies and breweries genuinely passionate about what they’re doing and more than happy to share?
I really look forward to this event every year since it started: maybe it’s the “craft” aspect of the alcohol, but the meathead/frat guy contingent is pretty nil, the crowd is always good-natured and considerate, and while I’ve never considered myself a beer person, it is fun to sample all kinds of new drinks and find something new. (Last year I fell in love with ciders, lambics and porters; this year I found a few stouts and IPAs I really dug: Stone’s Levitation Ale was a favorite, Kasteel Rouge lambics, and a bunch of beers from a Chicago-area brewery, Finch’s, whose Secret Stache Stout is the closest a beer has ever tasted to a milkshake, to my taste buds at least!)
But what I like most about this craft beer festival is that it’s a perfect way to end the summer, kind of like my weird version of a pagan festival to augur in the harvest season. This summer has been weird and hard and strange, but this weekend I felt like I squeezed in a last ideal bit of it. It had that golden, carefree feeling summer is supposed to have, that sense of honeyed pleasure and abandon — how time stretches before you, waiting to be filled with something easy-going and good. As I ambled about on the sidewalk, my cute little tasting glass in hand, I thought about how life gives you little grace notes to mark the endings, beginnings and transitions of things. I thought about the rituals you make for yourself, about how bittersweet yet pleasurable it is to mark the passages of time — how it makes the past robust and full, the present more rich and beautiful and the future something to treasure. And then I stepped off the curb towards another tent, where I drank a bit of apple-ginger cider and ran off into the golden sunlight. Lightness of spirit had never felt so hard-won.