We’re going on a beer run
We’re going to get a six pack
It’s 120 miles and back to Santa Rosa.
To get some Pliny The Elder Double IPA!
OK, I know it doesn’t have the same flow to it as the text in the children’s book “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. But taking my four-year-old daughter on a drive this past week from Oakland up to the home of the Russian River Brewing Co. was just as adventurous as that family’s trip across all those scenes of inclement weather and obstacles on their way to find a bear in a cave. And all they got out of their sojourn was hiding under their bed covers as they were chased by a bear back home.
Beer runs used to be a staple of my days back in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Washington State University. Back in the day, Wazzu was one of the pre-eminent party schools in the country. It helped that Pullman, Wash., where Wazzu is located, is about 7 miles from Moscow, Idaho, and that Idaho was one of the last states in the country to raise its drinking age to 21. When I got there, Idaho had just joined the rest of the nation on the 21 bandwagon. But the Famous Potatoes state included a grandfather clause: If you were born before a certain date at the time 21 became the legal drinking age, you could still buy alcohol and drink legally in the state.
And I made that grandfather clause.
What this resulted in was that for my first year-and-a-half at Wazzu I spent nearly every Friday afternoon collecting cash from my buddies and loading into my 1974 Dodge Dart and making a beer run over the state line. In those days, it was not surprising at all to see half the customers at Moscow’s Rosauer’s grocery store in Wazzu gear and preparing to mule carloads of $10 30-packs of Stroh’s back across from Idaho to Pullman. Why a case? Well, you had to have a case just to get started on the night, of course.
Now? Now, I have a wife and two kids. “Runs” of any kind these days usually involve racing to the store for more milk and bread. Going to the liquor superstore that is BevMo isn’t even that spectacular knowing that I can only spend so much time looking up and down the craft beer aisle when the kids will be home soon and demanding chicken nuggets and Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Last week, however, I made an executive decision and chose to make a beer run. But this wasn’t any kind of beer run. No, I would be going up to the Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, Calif., about 60 miles north of Oakland, to get something special. Something that I had heard about, but never seen on the shelves here at home: Pliny The Elder Double India Pale Ale.
Pliny is one of those beers that has a reputation that elicits hushed reverence, and explosive excitement from IPA fans. I’ve had friends as far away as Florida ask if I could get them some of The Elder. When I was visiting my mom in Tacoma this past summer, and looking for some local beers to bring back to California, a guy working at the Pint Defiance beer store recommended another beer saying, “If you like Pliny The Elder, you’re going to like this.” I knew I would have to try it. I asked my brother, who is coming to visit us right after Christmas, if he wanted me to pick up any Pliny The Elder. He reply was succinct and unequivocal: Hell yes!
But in order to do this, I would have to take a companion with me on what would be longest beer run of my life: My four-year-old daughter Maddo.
The reason I took her along was simple: She had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon that day. And rather than send her off to preschool in the morning, then have to run out to get her at midday for her appointment, I figured it made more sense just to keep her at home and have what Maddo calls, a “Maddie-Daddy Day”. Only with buying beer as the central activity of the day.
As I like to do with my daughters when we have a day off together, we began our adventures with a trip to Ole’s, our favorite breakfast joint. Maddo wanted, “WAFFLES, BACON, EGGS AND MILK!” If there was ever any doubt about Maddo being my kid, the love of a good breakfast, and bacon in particular, dispels any of those thoughts whatsoever.
Knowing that the brewery opened at 11, and needing to ensure we made it back in time for Maddo’s 2:30 appointment, we hit the road to Santa Rosa around 9:30. The local news said it was best to allow for extra time on the road up there, as a new casino had just opened, leading to miles of backups of slot jockeys who just couldn’t wait for the weekend to blow their paychecks. But we blew past the exit with no problems. I guess all the gamblers were either out of dough and gone, or had camped out on the casino floor so they wouldn’t lose their favorite one-armed bandits. We got to Russian River Brewing about 10 minutes before the door opened. This was no big deal, as a quick stop in the local Peet’s for a coffee for me, and a chocolate milk for Maddo, took care of all the time killing we needed. And then, the doors were open.
In addition to the distance traveled, and the company of my daughter, this beer run was different from any other in my college days for one major reason: Russian River puts a limit on the number of bottles of The Elder one person can buy. That number is six, 500ml bottles at $5 each. This is a far cry from that Rosauer’s store in Moscow, which would have let you cleaned out the beer fridge of all the crappy Keystone Light you could haul out the door. And if you’re going to drive all the way from Oakland to Santa Rosa, you might as well bring home the maximum the brewery will allow. And grab six bottles of Blind Pig IPA while you’re at it, too.
Beer in hand, we took the obligatory photo of Maddo outside the Russian River Brewing Co. and then proceeded to head home. Of course, we had to make a pit stop for lunch. I figured I’d get some input from Maddo as we were burning down the highway.
“Go to your favorite place, daddy!”
“Where’s that, honey?”
This was interesting because 1) I had never been to a Five Guys burger joint before. [I prefer In-N-Out], 2) The one time I tried to take my daughters to a Five Guys we couldn’t find a place to park, and both girls were asleep in the back seat of my truck. I ended up cutting my losses and going to In-N-Out, anyway.
But, thanks to modern technology, a quick Google search showed that there was a Five Guys not too far down the road from us, in Petaluma. About 20 minutes later, we were pulling off the road and I was ordering a bacon cheeseburger and fries for myself, and some fries for Maddo. For reasons that make me wonder if the kid is indeed my daughter, she has yet to become a burger fan. Now, point her in front of a pile of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and she will devour all of hers, and her sisters, without a second thought.
My burger and many fries were eaten on the road, and Maddo managed to knock over most of her fries and a good amount of her water in the back seat. Still, we made it back in time for her doctor’s appointment–One in which the doctor said Maddo’s tonsils should be on the chopping block—And managed to not break a single bottle of Pliny The Elder or Blind Pig in the process. A couple of days later, I cracked open a bottle of each. And based on how good both are, I’m ready to make another run, with or without Maddo, right now.