Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Talking to Strangers

Look! We've even got balloons! (Photo by Ross Brown)
I was on my way to a tweetup at Ottawa's Mill Street Brew Pub last night, when something suddenly dawned on me. My colleague pointed it out as I was leaving, but it didn't really sink in until I was three-quarters of the way there. "You're going to a bar to meet with strangers you met over the Internet??" she exclaimed, counting out everything wrong with that phrase on her elegant, manicured fingers. "Didn't your mother ever warn you about that?"

My tweeted response: #oops #donttellher

Luckily, nothing went amiss - and I learned just how fun it can be to talk to strangers. And how quickly they can become friends.

The Ottawa branch of the famous Toronto brewery has been packed and hopping ever since it opened in January of this year. Reservations are near-impossible to get, unless you plan a good month or two in advance. Now that I've been, it's easy to see why it's so popular. A lovingly restored old mill, original stone exterior with a sleek, modernized interior; a focused menu of drool-inducing, upscale and imaginative pub fare; and really, really, really good beer. Pungent aromas of hops and kitchen doings greet you at the door, as do the smiling, friendly staff. 

Pulled pork carnitas with Portage Ale

I grabbed a pint of Portage Ale at the bar and spent a few minutes tweeting my impressions until I was told others in the group had arrived. Ross Brown, a writer/novelist and host of the 'tweetup,' chaired the informal gathering of public servants, bloggers, academics, parents, a photographer and a former teacher (all of us wearing those same hats interchangeably, of course.) He twirped and chirped from his iPad while we all drank, ate, drank some more, ate some more and got to know each other.

Ever adventurous, I ordered a flight of 4oz samples to sip with the Carnot's, nachos and chicken poutine that circulated around the table. It's just like a flight of wine: start light and go dark, see what flavours match with which food. I started with Mill Street's seasonal Lemon Tea, refreshing with its citrus notes and backed by brewed tea tannins. Next came the Helles Bock, a German-style beer a little heavier on the malt, followed by the limited-time-only Paradise American IPA, which was hoppy and woodsy. (You will remember that I have no experience describing beers, so I'll admit to totally cribbing the notes off of Mill Street's online beer listing.)

Dolce Vita choco-coffee cake
I saved the Coffee Porter for last, to go with a (reasonably portioned) slice of Dolce Vita, a layered cake of chocolate and espresso mousse that seamlessly complimented the beer, now rested at room temperature. Waves of coffee punctuated by bursts of dark chocolate ebbed and flowed over my palate. Beer with dessert? Yes please!

Beer, much like wine, is best consumed in good company. Mere hours before the event, we didn't know each other. But by the end of the night, with many laughs and stories shared, new friendships were forged. We raised a glass on the success of the "tweetup" and departed with a promise to meet again for the next one.

So your mom may still suggest you refrain from talking to strangers, but as @bs_ottawa put it, "If we are all drinking beer (together), we can't be all that strange!"

Follow #MillStreetTweetup and @MillStrBrewPubOT for future Twitter (and non-Twitter) events at their Lebreton Flats location.

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