What Even Happened in 2016
Oh hello blog, how are you? It's been a while. I'm glad you're still here.
My failure to keep this blog frequently updated is largely due to two issues: 1) I'm quite busy, balancing a full-time job, freelance work, a somewhat needy little dog, and a personal life of some sort, and 2) I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I hate putting forth effort on something if I don't think I can finish it or it won't be up to my entirely self-imposed standards. The first issue I can do little about, but maybe I can give myself a break on issue two.
Anyway. Here we are, nearly two weeks into 2017, and while I'm well past the "deadline" for a year-end recap or "Top 10 Whatevers of 2016" post, I'm going to look back anyway because this is my blog and I can do whatever the hell I want with it and also I've finally got a moment to collect my thoughts on the past year which might help me make a forecast for the coming one.
2016 was hectic. I meant to start it off by writing one of these posts about 2015 (one of the best years of my life) but obviously never got around to it. (See paragraph one for why.)
JANUARY - FEBRUARY
I spent most of the beginning of 2016 kicking around New York City, working, lamenting my life, pondering the point of my continued existence. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN. Things felt stagnant, and the only bright light ahead of me was the second Iceland trip I was planning with my cousin Caitlin. It always helps to have something to look forward to, and I consider international travel to be the ultimate in anticipatory joy.
The Iceland trip I was so looking forward to happened, technically beginning on February 29 (leap day!) You can see all the pictures and read all the nonsense here. While on that trip, I produced "Volcano Bread," which would be an important thing later in the year. (Ooo! Cliffhanger!! Now you've gotta read the rest!)
At the end of the month, I read an absurd-sounding article advertising an opportunity to "Drink Beer, Travel the World, and Get Paid" via World of Beer's "Drink It Intern" program, so of course I applied. I was challenged to create a little video with no money and minimal time, renewing my interest in making small, fun, (possibly pointless) projects in my free time.
I heard back from World of Beer on what I thought was a ridiculous long-shot, and was informed that they'd like to offer me the position as one of three WOB "Drink It Interns". WHAT. I was flabbergasted. Not only was it an awesome opportunity, but more importantly, I had distinguished myself from 7,000+ applicants with my photo, video, and on-camera skills. That felt pretty good.
I flew to Tampa to meet the WOB marketing team and get to know the brand, meet the other "interns," and also find out what exactly the summer would have in store for me. This was the opportunity I needed to get creative again and in general, be excited about life.
My first trip as a "Drink It Intern." I flew to San Diego, CA to visit Stone Brewing and get the inside scoop on a special collaboration blend for World of Beer, as well as attend Sourfest. I don't think I'd ever had a sour beer before my connection to WOB, and now I was swimming in them! While in San Diego, I also took an impromptu trip into the desert with a new beer friend and visited the post-apocalyptic terror that is the Salton Sea.
From San Diego I went straight to Kansas City, MO, which was, somehow, possibly hotter. I met Jeremy Danner of Boulevard (great guy, wonderful twitter presence) and attended Boulevardia, where I got to taste a bunch of amazing beer, ride a ferris wheel, and even made some great friends. KCMO might be considered "flyover" but I'd say it's definitely worth a visit.
July started off with a friends trip to Ocean City, MD for Independence Day, which was a much-needed retreat from real work, side work, and the general feeling of dread that was only beginning to fade from my personal life.
A week or two later I repeated the drive to the mid-Atlantic coast with my second WOB trip to Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, DE, a town I know intimately from spending summers there with my family for the past several decades. That experience, while familiar in many ways, was one of my favorites of the summer, and so incredibly special. A lot of people know who Sam Calagione is, but I bet very few get to help him make Scrapple beer.
August. The coup de grace. My one international trip as a WOB "Drink It Intern" was in the middle of the month, but I got it started a little early. I flew to Stuttgart, Germany to visit a friend in Waldenbuch and see a little bit of Bavaria before "reporting" for duty in Belgium for WOB. After a few days in Southern Germany I flew to Brussels, spent one night in a hilariously tiny hotel room, and then spent several days being chauffeured around the country by my private driver, Guy. His English and French were limited, my French is very bad, but we had a great time nonetheless.
I visited the Chouffe brewery in the south, Maredsous Abbey (for which the beer is named, but no beer is made on the premises), Liefmanns in Oudenaarde, and Duvel near Antwerp. I got lucky with mostly very good weather in Belgium, and absolutely loved the country. The people were friendly, the food was good (and tremendously unhealthy, waffles for days) and of course, the beer was neverending. I also had great timing and got to see the carpet of flowers in Brussels' Grand Place which is only rolled out for one weekend every two years.
I failed to blog about any of this, but produced some content for WOB.
After an incredible few days in Belgium, I took a train to Marseille via Paris to squeeze in one more European country and a little Mediterranean flavor before heading back to the states.
Immediately upon my return to the U.S. I drove back to Rehoboth Beach, DE to spend a couple days with my family and celebrate my 30th birthday. It was a full two weeks away from home (and my pup!) but so absolutely worth it.
September was relatively chill, and I was grateful for that. After a crazy summer of travel it was nice to take a break and enjoy the end of summer in NYC. At the end of the month, I took a short weekend trip to Portland, Maine to visit with some family friends and celebrate my dad's birthday, and that was plenty of travel for me.
In October I started an intro to CrossFit program, which I really liked. I didn't end up really joining CrossFit though because it's hella expensive. And I hate getting up early. I also went to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO with fellow Drink It Intern Ben, and that was a pretty fun time.
At the end of the month, I premiered my short film from Iceland, "Volcano Bread" at the New York Food Film Festival. I was shocked to win Best Super Short Film, and then even had a viral moment afterwards when the video got picked up and circulated by several well-known blogs and news outlets.
The first weekend of November was The Weekender, a festival put on by Boiler Room and Ray-Ban out in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It was free, and the whole idea of it sounded quite odd (free tickets, free accommodations, remote location, tons of DJs and parties, and... it's... free??) but it was awesome. We danced, we played skee-ball, we ate a Scrapple breakfast at a place called Piggy's. All the hallmarks of an outstanding weekend.
Later that month my good friend Patches got married out in Montauk, Long Island, and the end of the month had me back home in good old Baltimore County, Maryland, for Thanksgiving. A lot of car trippin' in the month of November.
I failed to blog about any of it.
And now the finish line! Thank goodness because I'm tired of writing this post. Blogging is tiring work you guys. December was the resurgence of work travel: I spent a week in Los Angeles for a pharmaceutical ad shoot, during which I managed to squeeze in a visit to Universal Studios for the Harry Potter and Simpsons rides; and a weekend road trip to Washington, D.C. for a freelance shoot. And then I also went to Baltimore for Christmas. Man, I'm tired. I guess that's everything that happened in 2016.
And so, in closing, 2016 was a year of contrast. Just kidding.
It was a year filled with exciting opportunities and interesting new places, even if some of them were destinations I wouldn't have necessarily picked on my own. 2016 was a year of paid travel, but hard, challenging, hectic work. Being a "Drink It Intern" was such a unique opportunity that afforded me so many experiences that a person would never normally get, and while it wasn't quite as simple or glamorous as just "drinking beer and getting paid for it," I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I learned a fuckload about beer (and learned that I have even more to learn), developed some new interests, and made some new friends. I got creative again and took on more than seems humanly possible.
And now that I've had a look back at 2016 and everything I accomplished, what's on the menu for 2017? It's impossible to say for sure, but I aim to do my first homebrew. I aim to make create more and be more creative. I aim to plan another international trip. I aim to get back to the Pacific Northwest to visit my brother and his family. And that seems like a pretty good place to start.