Cathy and I went to the Sly Fox Goat Races yesterday. We got there late -- we had a school event in the early afternoon for Nora and had to go to Sly Fox afterwards -- and missed the actual races and the tapping, but we were still there for the experience.
What experience? A very close thing to that great German beer garden experience, but with American personality. There were kids there, there was music, there was food, there was lots of beer, there were dogs, and people strolled about, talking to each other. It was convivial, and the beer was delicious (I did Jasper Maibock, a couple sips of eisbock, some Slacker Bock, and -- inevitably -- Pikeland Pils). We'd just come from a picnic, so I can't report on the food, but it looked good.
But the best thing wasn't the beer or the food, it was the beer being there with the families and dogs and all, showing that it wasn't necessary for beer events, beer-based social gatherings, to be binge fests. All of us were being reasonable in consumption and civilized.
Well, mostly: one stupid young feller was leaving and dropped his glass -- a shame, because they were nice Sly Fox willibeckers -- laughed like a boob and just kept walking. Nice, buddy: there's only dogs and little kids running around. Within a minute, though, four of us had converged and picked up all the shards. That's beer garden, too: the participants policing themselves.
It would be great to have this kind of thing every weekend. Beer gardens used to be common in this part of the country, but now they're hard to find. Relaxed atmosphere, friendly talking, mugs of beer (maybe something other than thin-walled glass, for safety and sturdy re-use), comfort food, and play time for the kids and dogs. The kids may see or hear some things the parents maybe wouldn't want -- I heard a bit of salty language and there was one instance of dirndl-flipping -- but I think the presence of children also has a moderating effect on that -- I saw examples of that, too, and people actually apologizing for their behavior, a great sign of civilization. Do this every weekend, and a code of behavior would come into being by itself.
Do we need the goat race part? Not really, though I'd be the first to back doing that every year, and bigger! But I'd love to see this kind of beer joy every weekend. It might teach us how to drink again: mindfully, joyfully, responsibly, together.