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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Yelp Block Party

Friday
November 14, 2014

Last night was great fun for me here in Columbus, as I attended Yelp's Brewery District Block Party. For those of you unfamiliar with Yelp, it's a free website that allows people to give reviews of businesses and services.

I used Yelp to find a new chiropractor to help with my migraines soon after I moved to Columbus. I didn't have much to gauge the various chiropractors here on, but people raved on Yelp about Tri-Village Chiropractic Clinic in Grandview Heights. Based on that advice, I went there and found that, indeed, it was worthy of the praise it had received.

Last week I saw where you could sign up to attend the Yelp party, which was free with a suggested $5 donation to charity. It made me wonder if it was like the infamous free party at Bar Tampa in March 2002 that was really just a trick to get people in there early. Luckily for me, the Yelp Brewery District Block Party was the real deal.

Since I was in adventure mode last night, I decided to try something else for the first time: Lyft. It's a taxi-like service but with regular people using their cars to drive others around. And... I was thoroughly pleased with it.

The Lyft app is great -- you simply enter your location and it lets a driver know that someone needs a ride. It shows you a photo of the driver and his or her car, which is very helpful and provides some peace of mind.

Lyft handles the payment side of things, using a person's credit card on file for the bill. It took less than ten minutes for my driver to arrive here at the Quarry, and from there it was off to the Brewery District. My ride back at the end of the night was similarly easy and hassle-free, and I'll definitely be using their service again.

Unfortunately, some cities and municipalities have tried to outlaw Lyft and its chief rival, Uber. As I noted on Facebook last night: enjoy it now before it's made illegal.

When we arrived at the starting location, an upscale special event center named Vue, I was stunned to see hundreds of people lined up outside. My Lyft driver dropped me off at the end of the line, and I chatted with some early 20s looking girls who got in line behind me who were lamenting that one of them had never received a confirmation email from Yelp. I assured them that it should be fine, since there was a master list of everyone who had signed up. And I was right, as they all made it inside without trouble.

It was a cold evening with sub 30 temps, and the roughly 15 minutes spent in line outside were unpleasant, really the only negative aspect of the evening. They were checking IDs since it was a 21+ function, plus they had to scan in everyone's QR codes to ensure that we were in fact signed up for the event, so it took some time to finally get inside.

I was thoroughly impressed with what had been set up. Keep in mind that this was a free event, but they had probably two dozen different vendors lined up between Vue and the other locations, with the SweetWater Brewing Company in primary beverage providing mode.

They gave out drink tickets: three for Vue and three to use at the other Brewery District venues taking part. I was able to try SweetWater Blue, which is a delicious beer with a hint of blueberry. The balance was perfect, just enough to add flavor, but not so overwhelming that it's like drinking a wine cooler. I was impressed.

There was a photo machine set up inside where people could take pictures with friends and it would print out the photograph for you. This also was free, I might add. Since I was rolling solo I decided to take one of myself, and it turned out well. If I had a scanner I would include the photo here, but alas at this point I don't.

Check out the mural being painted at World of Beer.

From there I headed to World of Beer, a lively bar with a woman painting a mural and plenty of TVs showing the East Carolina/Cincinnati football game. The line interestingly went up a flight of stairs to the upstairs area, where I tried the SweetWater Festive beer. The guy serving the cups of beer noted that it was from the first barrel of the limited seasonal production run, for whatever that's worth. It was good, but not as tasty as the Blue.

There was also food being served, and while I opted not to wait in the long food line at Vue, it worked out just fine at World of Beer. A company called Made From Scratch Catering was serving up samples of its Honey Brie grilled cheese sandwich. I wasn't impressed with the offering until I took a bite... and it was delicious. I mean it was REALLY good. Easily the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had and it's not even close.

Time was starting to become a factor at that point, with the block party's 9 p.m. end time drawing closer. Next up was the Backstage Bistro, where servers brought around yet another type of beer, this one being a German style pilsner that was just okay. I found myself talking with a couple of girls in line along with an Asian dude who was saying English wasn't his first language and challenging them to guess where he had been born. Perhaps elsewhere he would have seemed obnoxious, but in that setting his antics were entertaining.

The girls were planning to head over to World of Beer from there, and I let them know about the really good grilled cheese sandwiches being served. I told them I'd meet them over at Brick, the final destination of the evening and where the after-party was set to take place.
Brick has an upstairs traditional bar/restaurant area, but downstairs is where the real fun is. There was a main room set up with even more beer samples -- you see why I used Lyft to get to/from this event by now, I hope. My drink tickets were gone by that point, but I managed to charm the attractive woman at the serving area into letting me try both of the SweetWater beer samples being given out: Pale Ale and Extra Pale Ale. The "extra" part amused me, but they were both good.

There were also wine samples being given out along with an area where dinner roll sized pulled pork mini-sandwiches were being served. Unfortunately they were putting cole slaw on them, which is not my thing at all, but I managed to snag one before the offensive topping could be added. And, like just about everything else last night, it tasted great.

Adjacent to the downstairs room was quite possibly the coolest layout I've ever seen for a dance floor, in a room that looks like it was made by a massive drill that bored through granite. The vibe in there was great. There was yet another bar to be found in a side room, which had several televisions all showing the Bills/Dolphins NFL game. I spent a short amount of time watching, at least long enough to know that going out last night trumped staying in to see a dull battle of first-half field goals.

Soon after, the girls I had talked with over at World of Beer showed up and said hello. This scenario can be tough for me because of my mild prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness. It takes me seeing someone several times typically before I can accurately recognize them, even beautiful women. As you might imagine, that can be a challenge. But I've learned some tricks through the years for combating that, including making mental notes on clothes, hair length, etc. And, in this case, it worked out just fine.

I sat down at their table to chat with them, using the edge of the chair as someone had stashed their belongings in the back part of the seat. But soon after, a woman who had actually been eying me up earlier came over, concerned that I was sitting on her stuff, including a well-hidden hat. I assured her that I wasn't, but it made for an awkward interaction as she decided to relocate her belongings elsewhere.

But overall I had a great evening, fun times with new people and a chance to see a section of Columbus I had been wanting to visit but hadn't yet. Even the ride home was a cinch; the Lyft app shows you how close your driver is to your location, which allowed me to stay inside where it was warm until just before he arrived.

Apparently these Yelp events are at least somewhat frequent, and I definitely plan to try one out again soon. Particularly with me having such a relatively limited network of people here in Columbus, these events look like a great way to meet new people and experience new adventures.


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