Update (Jan. 13, 2020) : I originally wrote this when Boo was about 8 months old. He’s 15 years old now and suprisingly doesn’t like to go by the name “Boo” anymore. That’s not the only thing that’s changed — so has the local brewpub scene. For some newer beer-related inspiration, check these out!
I’ve written about how happy hours are different these days, being a new mom (a title I will carry, by the way, for the next 18 years). Now I get it. It’s not just that they don’t happen as often as they used to. It’s not just that I have to plan more in advance to make them.
Where I live, in the beer capital of America, where there are more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the country, moms and dads are allowed to indulge in happy hour at their favorite brewpub without worrying about booking a babysitter. That’s right: here we love our kick-ass beers so much that we open up the institutions that brew up the hoppy goodness to our beloved children (whom, of course, we love more than the beer). Microbreweries are smoke-free here, and unlike the pub food I have had to grudgingly endure at breweries in other parts of the country, the food at the brewpubs here is quite tasty and as innovative as many restaurants.
Happy hours are generally from 3 – 6 pm and then 9:30 to close in most bars and restaurants in town. This afternoon, we met some friends at a local brewpub that is especially known for being kid-friendly. We arrived around 4:30, ordered some cheap-o $2.50 microbrews (they have award-winning beers here, but most places in the city can boast similar statements) as well as some under-$5 burgers and fries. The scene at 4:30 is a normal Northwest beer scene. Lots of wood tables (promptly wiped clean by Type-A, newly-discovered-germ-freak mom – AKA, me). Glasses filled with beers running the pale-to-stout spectrum. Plates of garlic rosemary fries, ribs, salmon sandwiches, salads with local organic produce. Couples in their thirties with kids, older-former-hippies-turned-dot-com-money-makers, thirty-somethings without kids wanting to take advantage of the happy hour menu. In the corner, next to a big glass wall looking down upon the big beer-making vats, is a manageable-sized play area for kids.
You can take kids almost anywhere in this city, and some of my friends who have never been here blink twice and furrow brows when I tell them we take Boo to brewpubs often. Yet it’s a part of life here, and one of the reasons we find it hard to think of moving elsewhere sometimes (really, no offense to any other cities, but our beer -both in selection and in quality – kicks your beer’s ass by far).
By 5:30, however, the place is packed. Swarming with people, most armed with a tot under age 10. Even we parents get overwhelmed by all of the babies and kids after a while. It’s loud, and Boo’s chatter or sudden shrieks blend right in with the general buzz of the place.
We don’t go to see-and-be-seen bars for happy hour anymore, and we don’t go to happy hours at our favorite higher end restaurants anymore either. As well-behaved as Boo is when we go out, there are still some inappropriate circumstances. But I love that the city has found a way for parents to still feel like somewhat hip and not-so-old people by keeping the numerous brewpubs low key, casual, and family-friendly. A place we can dish about politics, fashion, movies, relationships and work with our kids by our sides. Where we can feed baby a bottle with one hand and sip a refreshing locally-brewed amber ale in the other.