Old, New, Boroughed, Brewed

You may not be able to buy the Beatles love, but you can absolutely buy it for me and Noah. I will give you the link. I will give you the address. But first, I’m going to tell you about one of our spring escapades: unexpected, unplanned, on tap.

It was the end of May, and though our monthly train passes were nearing their expiration date, our thirst for museum memberships was not. One fine weekend morning, we hopped the Q to Astoria, our eyes set upon the uncharted bit of land known as the Museum of the Moving Image.

We wasted no time securing our free memberships courtesy of IDNYC  (New Yorkers, you simply must get that ID) before diving for the stairs. We were greeted by a smattering of 2001: A Space Odyssey paraphernalia, and Noah whipped out his phone to document a few wall displays. “My dad will love this,” he said.

The museum’s ongoing exhibition, Behind the Screen, began in the next room. Just as onscreen, the movie stars were billed first. Frozen in their frames, they looked austere and timeless in black and white. The stars’ graveyard quickly gave way to rooms of their relics: Robin Williams’s Mrs. Doubtfire body suit mingled with Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of Frankenstein wig (Surprise! It’s auburn), while cuts of wallpaper, loose pages of scripts, and set models stood dutifully at attention in their cases. Shelves overflowed with kitsch, and vintage magazine covers papered the walls. More than a museum, the rooms felt like the extended attic of an elderly collector’s home, stuffed to the rafters with memorabilia of time gone by — too painful to part with, or perhaps too extensive to imagine moving.

Past a display of sheet music nestled one of my favorite pieces: a model of a theatre, or perhaps it was an opera house, snuggly fitted into the wall. It was dimly lit and beautifully detailed, recalling old ghosts of my performing days past. This little delight shared a corridor with an art installation-slash-movie theatre called Tut’s Fever Movie Palace. Its screening room was lined with unsettling larger-than-life, Egyptian-tomb-inspired figures that sent chills down my spine – quite decidedly not a delight. I imagined them springing to life, holding us hostage in their lifeless stares. Noah and I ran from the room as if the hounds of hell were at our heels.

We strolled through the remaining exhibitions without incident, remarking on how the experience differed so greatly from our other museum visits. Though it was intriguing, there was no austerity, no sense of being in the presence of grand, important work. We left as we might have left the home of that imagined elderly collector: with a few blinks and the bemused question, What was that back there? 

Once we were back out in the sunshine (blinking and bemused), neither of us wanted the outing to end. We’d researched the area a bit beforehand and knew that there was a brewery about a half-hour walk away. Heat be dashed; we wanted BEER. And soon enough, we were waltzing into the taproom of up-and-coming craft brewery  SingleCut Beersmiths. With its high ceiling, concrete floor, and grey brick walls, the space felt pleasantly industrial. And as the brewery was named after a body style of guitar, it came as no surprise to learn that bands often play live from a corner loft. The room’s most notable trait, however, was its patrons: they were everywhere. Once a lesser-known neighborhood gem, word had certainly gotten out about SingleCut. But the crowds didn’t distract from any pleasantness; the buzz was soothing. Our beer was even honey-colored. (I opted for the Jån Olympic White Lager, while Noah tried the 19-33 Pilsner. Both were quite good, but our favorite was Jån, the spiced wheat.)

SingleCut was great: the beer was good and the vibe was alive. We liked that it was a local, independent brewery. But more than anything, the taproom stirred up old memories. Inevitably, talk turned to our favorite brewery.

Blue Owl Brewing opened in East Austin in 2015, snagging the intrepid title of first sour mash brewery in the US. If first wasn’t enough, they’re also the best. Our introductory visit was perfectly spontaneous – it was a crisp November afternoon, and we were driving through the neighborhood. We didn’t want to go home just yet, so we checked the map for nearby watering holes. Not ten minutes after first reading their name, we walked through their door.

The place was bright and pleasantly busy. There were plenty of seats, and most flat surfaces bore succulents, which were quirky and quintessentially Austin in their plastic dinosaur pots. A friendly local behind the counter explained the process to us (buy a glass, get four pours,) and we enthusiastically exchanged our plastic for a pair of Blue Owl glasses and our first tastes of sour mash manna.

It was a perfect Austin afternoon: The sky was a clear, heartbreaking blue, the air held an energizing chill, and the beer was an education. We marveled at the way each style, from pale ale to stout to wheat, was perfectly pulled off. A sour stout? We were skeptical, but Professor Black schooled us. Spirit Animal was also aptly named, touching our souls as no pale ale had done before. We weren’t just tipsy following our samplings of Little Boss, Dapper Devil, and Van Dayum! – we were in love. (Do take note, Beatles. And refer to the Blue Owl link above for the promised address.)

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Over the next couple of months, as we planned and prepped for our 2016 move to New York, we mentioned Blue Owl often, intending to visit at least once more before saying good-bye to Austin. We finally made it back just days before our departure, in time to sample their newest release: a double IPA called Can’t Quit You, served in a themed glass. (Cheers to Black Star Co-op, with whom Blue Owl collaborated on this beer.)

It’s no secret that fond memories breed bias, but the taproom lived up to our rose-colored memories. Can’t Quit You was wicked and wonderful, and we were clicking our heels over our growing collection of Blue Owl glasses. Reclining in the courtyard with Noah that evening, I knew that the little corner brewery would forever top my favorites list.

Back in the taproom in Queens, I found myself missing Austin. Noah and I left so many ghosts there, along trails, at the bases of mountains, in breweries and restaurants. But alongside the nostalgia was a fair amount of excitement – we’ve been making unforgettable memories in New York, too. From Riverside Park to the Brooklyn Museum, we gather favorite haunts with each new adventure.

The only question is, Where to next?


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