Friday, July 29, 2011

The Wheelchair Beer Hike

(Seattle, WA)

If you were at Maritime Brewing for the opening ceremonies of Seattle Beer Week 2011 a couple of months ago, you may recall seeing some asshole arriving in an old, beat-up wheelchair.  The even bigger asshole pushing him was me.

I'll bore you with the details -- they're pretty funny:  maybe a week or so before, my pal @socialretard came to hang out at The Leary Traveler while I was working.  At some point in the session, he proclaimed that he had time for one more beer before the required 10-block walk up to Market Street to catch his bus.  He swiftly put down his Trumer Pils, paid his tab (decent tipper), and left without incident.

Later that night, I read on Twitter that he had to run to catch the bus and while doing so...


Turns out that he might have cracked a rib, too.  Serious ouch.

So, a week later, when it came time to assemble some sort of crew to hike to Maritime and then around Ballard to spread the good word of Seattle Beer Week, I grabbed an old wheelchair I had in my basement (makeshift camera dolly from my film making days) and convinced Chris that he should come out with us.  We'd take turns pushing him and he'd arrive at the festivities in style.

Wheelchair Beer Hike (SBW 2011); 5.4 miles
The Dray / Maritime Brewing / Old Town Alehouse / Stepping Stone / Naked City / The Yard

View Wheelchair Beer Hike (SBW 2011) in a larger map

Our contingent of rejects and slackers met at The Dray for a pre-function beer and Chris tried out his new ride.  It wasn't a perfect fit, but it would do nicely.  For a while anyway.

No leg rests make for a pretty uncomfy ride.
By the time we arrived at Maritime Brewing, the party was well underway.  They hadn't done the ceremonial proclamation reading or tapped the special beer of the night, but people were already well on their way to oblivion. Including this guy:

The sheer mass of humanity at the brewery prohibited us from partaking in any of the special Decompression Ale.  There was no time to wait in line for a taste and we were getting hungry.  We moved on to Old Ballard.

Our next stop, the Old Town Alehouse, was supposed to be putting on a Beer Week event in conjunction with Portland-based Upright Brewing, but due to some sort of distribution snafu, they only had the Five and Seven on tap -- which is not bad at all.

Not THE Beer Douche, but a beer douche

Old Town was pretty busy, but still managed to take good care of us.  I felt bad for not calling ahead.  Our group began as five people, but was now up to eight.  I work at a place not much bigger and when a large group comes in unannounced on a busy night, it can create a lot of headaches.  Kudos again to Old Town for doing everything they could for us.  I promise to call next time.

This weird guy started following us in Ballard.

The next leg of the hike brought us to The Stepping Stone, a little nugget of goodness in Ballard that a lot of people don't know about.  I first went there about 6 months ago and really liked the laid-back feel and sort of retro (but not pretentious) decor.  The atmosphere tonight was lively and they had Fremont Solstice on tap.  Their small sidewalk patio area became our little beer garden and some hikers took turns abusing the wheelchair.  I wasn't worried about the chair -- it's built like a tank -- but some of the stunts my fellows came up with were a little unnerving indeed.  I might consider taking a video camera on these things more often.

Stepping Stone's turntables
There's that weirdo again!  WTF?!

The last leg of the hike was the longest and (regrettably) passed by some good places to stop for a beer, such as The Copper Gate, The Viking, and Sweet Lou's.  The gang was getting thirsty before we got to our final destination.  Luckily our route took us by Chuck's 85th Street Market, a corner mini-mart in a dark neighborhood with an unexpectedly fine selection of beer.  Most of us grabbed some cans of Dale's Pale Ale, others preferred to stay out in the parking lot and continue beating up on my poor wheelchair.  Thank god no one split their head open.

It's a pretty short walk down NW 85th to Naked City, but we chose instead to go up one block into the surrounding neighborhood, presumably so we wouldn't attract attention while walking down the street, drinking from open containers of beer.  Just before we got to Greenwood Ave. (see map), a local resident let their dog out the front door to piss.  When it got sight/scent of Link it bolted toward us growling and barking.  I've been around dogs enough (not a ton, but enough) to know that it was definitely NOT coming up to say "hi".  The hair on my neck went up and as it lunged at my little buddy, I dropped the leash, growled back, and caught the approaching menace with a solid left hook.  It didn't yelp or anything, so I doubt I hurt it (I'm not left-handed, coordinated, or strong), but it surely got the message and retreated.  I didn't even see the assailing beast.  It's dark in Greenwood.  True story.

Some of us were pretty drunk upon arriving at Naked City and the Opening Night Shit Show was in full force -- actually we may even have missed the worst of it.  Looking back at the night's Twitter feed, apparently we arrived less than five minutes after the Seattle Beer News guy (towing a band of drunkards, no doubt) departed.  I don't even remember what I had to drink at Naked City that night, but I do remember seeing a lot of friendly, familiar faces.  Another good party put on by the cast and crew of NCBC. 

Naked City was supposed to be the final stop on the hike, but someone had the idea that we weren't quite finished and should head to the not-yet-open Yard Cafe.  (The Dray's sister bar.)  When we got there (it's not even 900 feet away, by the way) the front gate was locked, but there were about 40 people inside.  Clearly some sort of private pre-grand opening party.  I flashed my sexy "Urban Beer Hikes" credentials and we were in.

There's a lot to love about The Yard.  They weren't even open yet when we stumbled in, but it already looked and felt finished.  I'm sure the owners/managers would argue that a lot of details hadn't yet been seen to, but I didn't catch any.  The space is concurrently warm & inviting and open & airy.  I've been back since they opened and I can vouch for the food as well.  I knew the beer selection would be top-notch, but the great food was a surprise.  They aren't dog-friendly, but there's ample visible space on the sidewalk or in the parking lot outside the large outdoor beer garden.

Outside Chuck's 85th St. Market

After a short, but entertaining argument with a window-perched resident who lives in the building behind The Yard, we called it a night and collected our things.  Somehow the wheelchair made it the whole way through the hike!  I planned on just ditching it somewhere early, when I expected broken-ribbed Chris would bail, but he never did.  Although he was in pain most of the night, he stuck with us and completed the whole route.  Well done, man!

So, the wheelchair went back into storage.  Perhaps it will see the light of day again the next time one of my drinking buddies tries to go rollerblading or falls behind on payments to his bookie.

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