Here’s to Happy

“I know you like to give gifts you can take part in,” my boyfriend Brandon said to me, as he attempted to guess what I had planned for his birthday. It’s very true. I believe experiences trump all. That’s why I’ve moved away from tangible gifts and given those close to me something we both value more, time.

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Split Rock Lighthouse

Even though birthdays are designed to be focused on the person of celebration, they tend to snowball into elaborate plans including a list of people you “probably should” invite. Think of the last weekend you had where nothing was on the agenda. Somehow, doing exactly what you want becomes a luxury.

It required a complete disregard of FOMO to skip UMN Homecoming and instead take a spontaneous trip to Grand Marais for Brandon’s birthday weekend. But camping without electricity, hiking for hours, and being removed from the noise and motion of the city was far from a downgrade,

We skipped a night of bar hopping, and instead spent an afternoon at Vine Park Brewing making our own craft beer. And instead of leaving it to the experts at Brasa, we opted for a birthday feast that evening was entirely homemade.

Yes, doing things differently has its perks.

When it comes to experiential gifts, there is an element of uncertainty. If I order a present online, I am guaranteed my expectations. Experiences? Rolling with the punches is required.

I was reminded of this this week when Brandon and I returned to the brewery to bottle our beer after it fermented for the last 2 weeks.
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Making the beer on his birthday had been great; we measured the hops for a recipe similar to our favorite IPA, Surly Furious, and while it brewed in stages we had down time to walk around St. Paul (read: and then quickly walk to the bar across the street, sorry Alchemy 365 Challenge).

For the bottling session, we brought Pizza Lucé and sampled our new beer in between cases. With a few beers overflowed, I was continuously demoted from my place in the assembly line, and instead focused my efforts on brainstorming our brewery label branding.

When 6 cases of delicious IPAs were ready to be brought to the car, we realized someone had taken Brandon’s jacket that was hanging on the coat hook. Not great, especially when the pockets included his sunglasses and work ID. This is the punch that comes with experiences. As with any day, it can be hard to overcome the hiccups.

I worried that this would overshadow the entire experience and that the bad taste left in our mouths would overpower that of the IPA. This isn’t the first time I’ve worried about this type of selective memory, because it’s only with intentional choice that positivity is our default. After a quiet car ride home, we made an intentional choice.

The great thing about experiences, is the memories cannot break, get misplaced or stolen. True happiness isn’t tangible, and it comes from people, not things. This choice was the calm after the storm of a stressful morning, of calling strangers to see if they had a coat*, of losing focus on thebeer present moment. And that’s what this beer, all 72 22 ounce bottles**, will be as well.

That’s how I finally landed on the branding for our imaginary brewery, The Gorge, and the new delicious IPA, Lotus. The label is also drawn in my mind, because this is a marketer’s idea of fun. Lotus flowers bloom after rooting and growing in mud; and I believe the best things, experiences, mindsets—and now beers—come from appreciating the work that goes into them.


*Brandon’s coat was found at a nearby bar and returned. HUGE shout out to Vine Park Brewing, Bennett’s Chops and Railhouse, and that Minnesota Nice.

**6 cases of beer is not an exaggeration, if you would like to try Lotus, please holler.

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