Kennett Square. Right back where I started from.

I pulled into town after the completing the first half of a nearly 80-mile round trip shortly after noon, entering via Rt. 82 after sneaking through West Chester and out Rt. 52 to 926. Coming in that way you avoid all the shopping malls and big box stores that have transformed the landscape all along Rt. 1 and destroyed too many memories.

I drove past the two old cemeteries on either side of the road (my parents and grandparents are buried in the Catholic one on the left) and the Little League baseball field, a lot fancier facility than when I was young, and across the borough line. As I passed through the very center of town three blocks further along, I noted that the second floor office where my parents met and which was home for a while to the company my father eventually owned, was vacant, the blinds on its huge picture window raised high to reveal a tall painter’s ladder in the middle of the empty front room.

The dark skies which has accompanied me for the entire one-hour drive, along with some period light rain, brightened somewhere during all that. Either my old home town was welcoming back its prodigal son or, you know, the weather just broke. You can make your own decisions about that.

There was already a goodly crowd on hand for the Connoisseur portion of the event and the Carl Filipiak Band was in full-out mode, very good and very loud. So loud in fact that, although people kept telling me “Bryson’s here,” I could not hear him anywhere. I believe that to have been an historic moment, one which ended when I eventually ran across the Big Fella. People have a tendency to do that, tell me about he presence or absence of Lew, whenever I arrive at beer events. Whether these are meant as warnings or something else is not always clear. Shortly before I left the grounds, one guy did ask us if we were married…I hope that’s not something I’ll hear ever again.

The low abv beers appeared to go over very well with the attendees. There were some among them who were totally unaware that this was a Conn-O-Session, Bryson told me, guys who wanted to know why this information was not online. It was of course, but I figure they’re the sort who only read BA threads about where to find Russian River on draught within three blocks of their homes or about how their brethren are mistreated and tortured at Monk’s Cafe.

I enjoyed several fine beers, including Scratch Beer #1.6 Million (or something like that), a festbier from Troegs; Chester County Bitter from Sly Fox (where Suzy Woods was inordinately proud of having been the second brewery representative to arrive earlier that morning); Brett Pale Ale from Flying Fish (a beer which Casey Hughes spent weeks and months perfecting  according to the story he told me); the bottled Small Beer from Anchor (why is this beer available in Vermont and not Pennsylvania?), and a nice peppery brew, probably my favorite of the day, from McKenzie, the name of which I cannot recall.

Triumph was a disappointing no-show; I was looking forward to sampling their GABF Gold Medal KinderPils. Fortunately, I did not have to fight the crowds at the Stoudt’s booth to the Bronze Medal winning Kölsch, having had that at the brewery a while back.

I left right after the connoisseur session, planning to do a drive around town and see how many ghosts I might spy walking the streets of my lost youth, but I’d parked so conveniently as to allow me to slip out via the back roads and onto Rt. 1, so I just went ahead and did that.

Yesterday is dead and gone, after all.

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