I went, I sped, I conquered. Or did I?
If you know what’s up and follow Two Buttons Deep on Instagram, then you were privy to bits and pieces of the platonic speed dating session I attended the other night at one of my favorite spots in Troy, Elixir 16.
The event was one of many celebrating Troy’s Craft Beer / Restaurant Week, and with Shmaltz Brewing Co. mazel tov-ing the dickens out of this shindig, I knew it was one I didn’t want to miss.
This event had some serious attention to detail: it wasn’t just some loose concept that was thrown together by a beer rep. eager for sales and a bar owner fishing for a crowd. No, this promotion is part of a bigger picture. You see, Shmaltz recently released two draft-only beers in its new 518/838 CRAFT series: the 838 10-Digit Double IPA and the 518 Pick Me Up.
For craft beer fans within the new 838 and already existing 518 area codes, the brewery decided to launch a special line to help ease the collective pain of adding three more digits to every phone number in your regional contacts.
Now, before I dive into my recap, let’s back it up a bit: has anyone ever actually been to a speed dating event? I haven’t. I was in the first group of youngsters to learn how to use iPods and internet on our phones, how to text and online date. Since I haven’t really been exposed to this Gen X-er way of mingling, I was intrigued, and while I’m not necessarily looking for love, I was willing to give it a (sling)shot.
Even though last night’s event was platonic (read: a no pressure friend zone with the Rembrandt’s, “I’ll be There for You,” blasting in the background) officially, speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people in a short amount of time. Its origins are credited to Rabbi Yaacov Deyo of Aish HaTorah, a Jewish Orthodox organization, originally as a way to help Jewish singles meet and marry.
Time out: a funny coincidence/detail that can’t be ignored here is the fact that speed dating was invented by a Rabbi, and then here’s Shmaltz producing the line of HE’BREW Beers that is widely recognized for its playful-yet-earnest take on Jewish, world, and pop culture histories.
You should know that SpeedDating, as a single word, is a registered trademark of Aish HaTorah, but speed dating, as two separate words, is often used as a generic term for similar events. The first speed dating event took place at Peet’s Café in Beverly Hills in late 1998, and you can fast forward to 2017 at Elixir 16 for mine.
If you’re going to go by the book, usually advance registration is required for these things, and while there was a Facebook event invite circulating around, I’d say attendance was split into two camps: those who came for the event, and those who came for the beer but unknowingly walked into a
speed trap good time. Everyone was a good sport, as there were close to 20 participants ready to roll up their sleeves and get to the serious task of not being completely awkward in front of strangers.
After Andrew, the Shmaltz rep, and Megan, Elixir’s Mixer-in-Chief, gave us the instructions on how the fast-paced friend party would go down, participants took their places and perched atop barstools lining either side of high top tables arranged to form a long dinner party-style table (think: 6 stools per side, with a few capped on either end).
The rules were simple: participants rotate to meet each other over a series of short “dates” lasting from three to eight minutes (we sat for about five). At the end of each interval, Andrew’s iPhone alarm would chime, signaling the participants move on to the next date. This is when channeling your inner 5th-grade birthday party game skills of musical chairs, would come in handy, minus the music stopping and elbows dropping for a seat scenario. How would that go at a real speed dating event? That’s an idea worth exploring…
Each “date station” was stocked with a stack of notecards inscribed with icebreaker type questions. My first date was with a guy named Bill, wearing a Bill Murray t-shirt, so right off the bat I thought it was love at first sight, but I decided to play it cool.
Since the real Bill Murray on the t-shirt was donning 3D glasses, naturally I asked Bill if Bill was watching the eclipse. We refrained from picking up one of the note cards right away because we went off on a Bill Murray tangent, naturally.
When we got to the pile of notecards, we discussed questions like, “What is your spirit animal?” (owl, meet dragon), “What’s your favorite ice cream place in the Capital Region and why?” (shout out to Jumpin’ Jacks and pistachio soft serve twist!) and then before we could really dive into the psychoanalysis behind, “how would others have described you as a child?” time was up.
This continued for several rounds, and while I don’t have an official final count, I know we doe-see-doe’d around the table for a solid hour and change. I sat across from guys, girls, Elixir regulars and Shmaltz beer lovers. Every encounter was fun and genuinely pretty exciting, and not awkward at all!? (not for me anyway). I found a shared love for snickerdoodle cookies and apple cider donuts, someone else who isn’t afraid of clowns, but at the same time doesn’t want to see the movie, “It,” and someone who refused to select a vegetable to identify with because she didn’t want to, “lie like broccoli.”
Usually at the end of these events, participants submit to the organizers a list of who they crushed on. If there is a match, contact information is forwarded to both parties. Contact info cannot be traded during the initial meeting, in order to save face and avoid rejection and awkwardness. I don’t think we took it that far last night, but if more than 10 digits were exchanged between the crowd, then more power to the power couple(s)!
Perhaps the advent of Facebook, social media, and the slew of online dating websites is the driving force behind why people have shied away from hosting/attending events like this, but I think now more than ever it’s important to just get out and put yourself out there, be a friendly human with a desire to meet your neighbors, drink local, and essentially promote the essence of community.
I meant it when I said that I think there’s a lot of potential for this Shmaltz – Speed Dating – Elixir 16 love triangle – and even though sometimes I think I’d rather fall in cider than fall in love, I’d definitely attend another speed dating event in the future.
How do ya like them apples? L’Chaim, y’all.
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