The other day I asked my boyfriend’s eldest son, 9-year-old Emmitt, what he had had for dinner.
“Majestic fries,” he said.
Oh my goodness, what fancy fries! I thought. What could possibly be glamorous about these spears of potato? My mind raced. Were they topped with uni, black truffles or A5 wagyu? Were they fried in duck fat? Dipped in foie gras? Sprinkled with caviar? These all sounded like majestic possibilities, but there was a problem. Emmitt’s food preferences can be summed up as Foosackly’s chicken fingers with extra salt. He won’t even eat Pop-Tarts.
“What are majestic fries?” I asked.
“Fries from the Old Majestic Brewery.”
That made more sense. What didn’t make sense is that he and his little brother, Lucas, had been to Old Majestic before I had. In fact, they had already been to every brewery in the city, tagging along with adults, playing lawn games and eating fries. So last weekend I asked them to take me on a brewery crawl to all of Mobile’s active craft beer houses: Serda, Old Majestic, Iron Hand and Braided River, which, on that day, was in the midst of its grand opening party.
This seemed like a fitting way to break my dry (January) spell and get the boys talking about something besides the “Super Smash Bros.” expansion pack. I also wanted to hear their reviews of these places, because breweries are no longer just spaces in which to drink beer; they’ve become standby community hangouts for families and patrons of all ages. We mounted our bikes in Midtown and pedaled due east, first stop Serda.
We parked our bikes in the brewery’s big courtyard and I kept guard while the boys and their dad, Gabe, went inside for a couple of cups of water and a flight of whatever beers were on tap. They came back out with our beverages and we adults sat around a gas-fueled fire pit, sipping on four brews that were dissimilar in color yet all fairly similar in taste and body. We were the only people there.
The boys, quickly bored of flipping through a copy of Lagniappe (obviously they hadn’t found my latest, very entertaining column!), took to doing donuts on their bikes in an adjacent lot. I’ve seen food trucks parked there occasionally, but never when I’d been buying. The boys decided they were not fans, because Serda used to have basketball hoops, according to them, but it didn’t anymore.
“I’d give them a ‘five’ for the water and a ‘three’ for the activities,” Lucas said. Fair enough. We then pedaled four blocks north to the site of Old Majestic.
On the inside, Old Majestic is quite grandiose. It has cathedral ceilings, big windows and long tables, like a beer hall you actually want to hang out in. It was lively, populated with adults and kids of all ages, from infants to teens. I bellied up to the bar, asked for a flight of beer and inquired about the fries.
As it turns out, they don’t make fries at Old Majestic. They don’t actually make any food there. You can order delivery from The Cheese Cottage next door, but, like Callaghan’s, they sell chips, not fries. Where had Emmitt even eaten those so-called majestic fries? No matter. Old Majestic has a serve-yourself popcorn machine and a toppings bar of powdered flavors like caramel corn, so I stuffed my pockets with the free snacks and carried them outside.
The boys sat on a picnic table in the front patio area and played a suspiciously quick game of chess. Gabe and I sipped on a nitro stout and a dark porter that tasted like molasses.
“The Cheese Cottage is really stinky,” Emmitt said, referring to the scent of fromage wafting its way across the lawn. “Finish your beer so we can get out of here!”
Iron Hand, like all of Mobile’s breweries, was conveniently located only a few blocks away. But its strikes added up quickly. First, it didn’t have outdoor seating. Second, all of its windows were covered with thick curtains, so you couldn’t monitor the safety of your bikes parked al fresco. We took our chances, left them around the side of the building and went in for more beer and snacks.
The boys raided Iron Hand’s cabinet full of board and card games, while Gabe and I enjoyed small glasses of the Wee Heavy, a Scotch-style ale, and the Gingerbread Imperial Stout.
They came back with a card game called “Would You Rather?” I asked Emmitt the questions while Gabe and Lucas played checkers next to us.
“Would you rather … never be able to speak again or never be able to walk again?”
“Walk, then I’d have an excuse to play video games all the time,” Emmitt said. I voted speak.
“Would you rather … burn out or fade away?” I chose burn out, my preferred method of dealing with the high-pressure work scenarios and toxic relationships I have tended to put myself in previously.
“Fade away,” Emmitt said, chewing on a soft pretzel bite. “It doesn’t hurt.”
I quietly stacked the cards and put them back in their box. Much to think about.
Two hours in and the boys were over it. By the time we got to Braided River’s opening party, which included food trucks and lawn games in a blocked-off lot next to the brewery, it was packed. The boys spotted some kids they knew, and Gabe spotted some adults he knew. So I was deputized with braving the inside bar for our final beers of the day. Emmitt left me with very specific instructions: “Get in, get something and get out. Got it?” Got it.
Inside, thirsty Mobilians stood shoulder-to-shoulder in lines that didn’t seem to start or end in any particular place. The patrons who made it to the bar seemed to be ordering a half-dozen beers at once, even though they did not possess enough appendages to carry the plastic cups away. I was getting impatient. Gabe texted, asking how much longer it would be.
“It’s a great turnout!” one person next to me said.
“I think they have way more people than they thought they would,” another chimed in.
When I finally got to the bar, I asked for a cup of their house red and one of their brown. I took a few delicious gulps before trying to squeeze my way back outside. I looked around at all these people — friends, strangers, families — out on a Saturday afternoon, practically elbowing each other out of the way to support a brewery they hadn’t even heard of before last week. It was, I had to admit, all pretty majestic.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist and Boozie’s most unreliable Baldwin County spy. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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