“Special” makes me think of those cartoon specials I saw as a kid. You know, the ones with the ’70s graphic of the word “special” spinning at you in Technicolor with that music going, so it’s like all the cartoon characters stumble out drunk, and little kids everywhere are traumatized for the rest of their lives…wait, that’s horrible. Actually, since it’s July, when it’s almost always warm enough to hang out outside, even at night, we’ve decided to celebrate drinking outdoors. A number of places in Riverwest have excellent facilities for that. How to decide which ones to use? Why, consult your Barhopper, of course. The Tracks – 1020 E. Locust Street • 562-2020 Distinguishing Features: The open flame pit was pretty distinctive. Also, all outdoor beer comes in plastic cups. And the flowerpots are bolted to the tables. Outdoor Lighting: There were a number of big ball lights on pillars, as well as a large tree festooned with Christmas lights. Also, there were two small pieces of red, white, and green rope lighting on the side of the awning. What did it mean?! Mexico? Italy? Was the red supposed to be orange? Was it left over from the one week of the year when Tracks becomes O’Brien’s? Dear G-d, what did it mean?! Flora: A large tree, flowers in pots by the fence and on the tables, vines hanging off the fence. Fauna: Volleyball players. Gardenicity: The concrete floor is to be expected, but the fake flowers dropped the rating a bit. The Gig – 1132 E. Wright • 562-0219 Distinguishing Features: The closed in deck surrounded by trees gave the impression that you were in the dark, unknown, unforgiving darkness. Outdoor Lighting: One small light at each table. Nothing on the fence, and no streetlight reached through the trees, leaving you in the dark, unknown, unforgiving darkness. Flora: Tall trees all around the tall fence that closed you in, shut out light, and further enforced the idea that you were in the dark, unknown, unforgiving darkness. Fauna: Anything that might have been alive in there was reduced to the merest hint of terrifyingly vague motion in the dark, unknown, unforgiving darkness. Gardenicity: Low. A wooden deck with a wooden fence, so it’s all natural, but the only plants were outside in the dark, unknown, unforgiving darkness. Onopa Brewing – 735 E. Center Street • 264-3630 Distinguishing Features: Possibly the largest beer garden in Riverwest, stocked with many wooden picnic tables, pallets of bricks, a huge factory-type machine and some kind of large silver…thing. Outdoor Lighting: A few standard lights, and the warm glow of Center Street’s lampposts through the chain link. Also passing headlights from Center Street. Flora: Big pots made out of half-barrels hold pretty yellow flowers; there’s one tree growing out of the asphalt near the wall, and tall grasses have been planted in a boat, which I suppose is meant to represent either the outdoor explorer at rest, or that someone thought it would be neat to plant tall grasses in a boat. Fauna: A single tiny insect braved the June cold at our table. Sadly, “June cold” is not a joke. Gardenicity: Well, the ground is asphalt, but there’s a very large quantity of plants and the plastic chairs even have a rose pattern on them. Uptowner – 1032 E. Center Street • 372-3882 Distinguishing Features: Like someone’s backyard, right down to the lawn chairs, concrete patio, and grilling on a Sunday afternoon. That’s right. I was drunk on Sunday afternoon. What do you think of that? You think you were there and I snuck out when it was my turn to buy the next round? Damn. Outdoor Lighting: Hmm. Might’ve just been the sun. I’m not used to this spending-time-outdoors-thing. Flora: Very green grass and some sort of vine thing growing on top of the fence. Fauna: Naught was stirring. Maybe if June actually counted for summer in this state… Gardenicity: High. Plenty of grass on the ground, and one corner was given over to an actual garden, featuring a variety of green plants and a stone Buddha. Circle A – 932 E. Chambers • 562-5927 Distinguishing Features: The big tree at the center of everything makes it. The whole thing consists of a green metal table and a lacquered wooden picnic table, which probably doubled the Circle A’s seating capacity. Outdoor Lighting: There was a pair of colored lights on the side of the building. Not sure how much that would really illuminate anything. Flora: Total wild garden. Grass, weeds, and that big ol’ tree. Also a spider plant thing of some sort. That’s all that’s in my notes, so I have no idea where it might’ve actually been. Except that it probably wasn’t growing out of my beer can. I think I would’ve noticed that. Fauna: Birds were chirping and aphids were everywhere. Gardenicity: High. It was all about nature, especially barley and hops. No wait, that’s me. Well…the Circle A’s beer garden was also all about nature. Just different nature. Like, not barley and hops. Other plants. Instead. Of the barley and hops. I’m going to stop typing now. All right, then. This has been the Barhopper Beer Garden Special. I hope you’ve all learned a valuable lesson. Not from me, mind you, but valuable lessons are always good to learn.