Posted January 31, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Community

Hands On Children’s Museum Shows off Local Brews

By Seth Lueck

While finding oneself highly inebriated at the Olympia Hands On Children’s Museum is usually the culmination of a series of increasingly poor life choices, once in a blue moon, it’s something absolutely fantastic.

Friday, Jan. 23 was Beer Craft 2015, an annual 21-and-over event hosted by the museum as part of their “Adult Swim” events, which aim to get adults active in hands-on learning. Microbreweries from all over Washington state came together and provided an insider’s view into the science of brewing. As the name aptly suggests, “Adult Swim” is a Cartoon Networkishly surreal series of benefits filled with science-themed games, quizzes, and interactive booths. This year’s first event, Beer Craft 2015, was no different. In the name of charity, a mixture of science-minded singles, single-minded beer enthusiasts, the occasional single alcoholic, and me all found ourselves converging on the museum to cram ourselves into child-sized furniture, drink some good beer, and enjoy the festivities.

The $25 ticket for the event, the proceeds of which go to fund the museum’s free and reduced admission program, included a half-pint sampling glass and 20 “sample tickets,” each one redeemable for a beer. This year, Beer Craft included local breweries such as Dick’s, Fish Brewing Company, George Town, Top Rung Brewing Company, Ashtown Brewing, and newcomer-on-the-block Three Magnets.

Each brewery had a “tap room” stationed among the museum’s many permanent installations, so beer sampling was occurring in places like “our fabulous forest” or “Emergency!” Happily, the plastic birds and the flashing lights of the faux fire truck reflecting over the crowded room gave the event an added and slightly surreal festivity. People talked about the finer points of dry hopped beers versus wet hopped beers over the top of a miniature plastic forest improbably filled with cloth salmon. Simultaneously, and only a few feet away, large bubbles floated precariously over the two-floor slide, from which a clearly inebriated woman in her mid-60s  emerged surprisingly unscathed.

The highlight of the event was, of course, the beer. There were traditional beers aplenty, Mac and Jack’s amber ale and Top Rungs amber IPA were expectedly satisfying. On top of the old favorites, there were also a truly amazing assortment of atypical brews. Laurelwood Brewing produced a deliciously complex ruby ale, reminiscent of some backwoods inbreeding between an amber ale and an IPA. Dick’s Brewing Company’s heavy and rich oatmeal stout seemed just right for the beginning of a cold January, and Whitewood hit the spot with its sweet and paradoxically hoppy cider. While many of the other beers had the expected notes of individuality and some unexpectedly delicious finishes (I’m thinking of you Fish Tale’s jalapeno stout), other beers missed the mark. Three Magnets beers have been, to date, some real winners, but what I was handed was less of a beet-flavored beer and more of a beer-flavored borsch. In retrospect, I should have been more wary when I was told “don’t worry about the color, it’ll be fine.” I drank it anyway—not because I liked it, but because, by then, I decided the number of beers I consumed was directly proportional to my charitableness as a human being.

The demographics were just as mixed as the beer. Couples in matching Olympia beer sweatshirts posed for pictures at the photo booth, while large groups argued over how many people they could cram into the echo room. People of all ages milled around, and one group excitedly told me they had just met “in the top of that tree,” despite the fact that I could not see any tree, and then told me that they had really bonded “making robots” before wandering off. Although I’m pretty sure that there was in fact also no robot-making station, they seemed to be enjoying each other’s company nonetheless. The culmination of the night was when a woman wearing what can only be described as a semi-formal evening gown with diamond studded earrings, turned to the guy next to her, looked down at his shirt which read in bold camouflage letters “if you can read this, she fell off!” She spontaneously raised her glass in a toast and looked into his eyes with what was, and I hope to god this is true, the most intense amount of sexual tension that has ever occurred in the history of the Hands On Children’s Museum.       

Despite the constant the press of bodies, the furniture that made everyone look like giants, the excess of shin-high, yet surprisingly non-child-proofed objects,  and the copious amounts of flowing beer, it was a relaxed atmosphere. No one died, no one threw up—at least that I saw—and even though some people wandered off midway through the night to make choices that they might find regrettable the next morning, most people seemed generally interested in learning about beer. The staff volunteering at the educational stations seemed to be both knowledgeable and passionate about what they were doing, the band Blue Laces played throughout the night from atop a miniature version of what I assume was the Titanic, and there were plenty of bubbles. When I asked people what their favorite thing about the event was, I got answers ranging from “I saw a pair of beautiful boobs” to “it’s some really great, really cheap beer,”  or “I just get to feel like a kid!” But most commonly, people talked about what a great opportunity it was for the community to come together, to drink delicious beer, and to learn together. Patrick Janson, the brewmaster at Three Magnets Brewing, summed it up best when he said, “My worst day brewing brew is better than my best day of most jobs I’ve done.” That night, we all got to share in a bit of that.

If you too want the opportunity to drink in the name of charity, and remember the more you drink the more charitable you are, there are more upcoming events. The event coordinator Gillian Henze said, “We have an exciting lineup of events in 2015 that you won’t want to miss. We won’t be releasing our schedule for the year all at once. So, you’ll have to attend each event to learn what the next theme will be, or obsessively check our website.”

So if you want to catch the next event just check the web, ask your friends or borrow your neighbor’s kids (ask first),  and stop by the museum. Either way, good luck and in the spirit of the night, cheers!