“Do you know what the internet is, Grandma?” Carmen McClelland asked her 100-year-old grandmother Carmen Duran as they sat drinking beers.
“No!” was her short but absolutely-certain reply.
Duran may not fully understand the internet, but she knows that she has a place on it. The duo of Carmens run an Instagram account together under the handle @HoppyGrandma. On this page—which, at the time of publishing, has 121 followers—they share snapshots of their favorite Saturday activity: visiting one of Albuquerque’s many local breweries together.
Originally, McClelland was sharing snapshots of her grandmother on her personal page, so that friends and family could see them. But then, the brewery visits became so regular, it was consuming her entire social feed.
“I decided that maybe my own account shouldn’t be flooded with pictures of my grandma,” she said. That's when McClelland created the “Hoppy Grandma” account.
Even if you don’t know the two personally, you can’t help but feel good scrolling through their Instagram feed. Between videos or photos of Duran singing, offering a bit of life advice or, of course, drinking a craft beer, there's a lot of wholesome content to choose from.
The duo’s first brewery visit was Marble Brewery—an Albuquerque staple—because Duran’s late husband Miguel wished to take her there just before his death in 2017. In fact, McClelland began this tradition specifically to get her grandma active and out of the house.
“When he was on hospice, we went to Marble Downtown during the daytime to play games and share a flight of craft beer,” McClelland said. “He was always willing to get up and go, to get in the car and go at the drop of a hat.”
After his death, McClelland stepped in to make sure her grandfather never faded in her centenarian grandmother’s memory, just as he would have wanted. During their first brewery visit, the two Carmens played cornhole, drank beer and learned one of Duran’s new favorite pastimes: people watching at breweries. After that visit, Duran was hooked.
Since then, the duo have been checking local breweries off of their list one by one. Duran’s favorites are those with ciders, specifically a classic apple. It's even better if there are interesting foods to try. So far, the two have visited and documented nearly 20 breweries, though not every weekend trip is documented.
Among the tattooed millenials and loud music typical of taprooms, Duran sticks out like a sore thumb in most taprooms. Recently, breweries are typified by a young, homogenized crowd. Last year, it was reported that millenials spent more money on craft beer than their cellphones and utilities combined. Why then is the taproom so comforting to Duran despite being 100 years old?
“I just enjoy doing something different,” Duran said. “And, nobody gives a darn. You’re just there to get a drink.”
McClelland says that her grandma has always loved visiting breweries. She even says that her grandma famously accompanied her as the “third wheel” on two different dates, with two seperate men to visit two different breweries.
But for these two, the experience isn’t just important because of Duran’s affinity for beer. The routine is just as important. McClelland cares for her grandmother four days a week and the Saturdays that get posted to Instagram are just one of those four days. She says that taking her grandmother to visit breweries isn’t really about drinking at all. She does it because it has brought her grandmother out of her shell and allows her to enjoy new things, even at the age of 100.
“She’s my pride and joy in this world. She’s my everything,” McClelland said.
Duran spends most of her time at these breweries silently “people watching.” This frequently results in conversation with strangers, which often leads to these strangers asking for a selfie or buying Duran a beer once they find out about her HoppyGrandma persona. Duran doesn’t remember every intimate detail from every trip to a brewery, but she remembers those who bought her a drink with quite a lot of detail.
There are a few other specifics that make a brewery especially “Carmen Duran-friendly.” Any place with good ciders, warm (not spicy) soup, and lots of children or babies is a winner in her eyes.
Both Carmens get something different out of their brewery visits. For McClelland, building memories and honoring her grandfather are paramount. For Duran, each brewery visit offers a new perspective, a new experience and a new-found vigor. What may be most important, though, is it’s clear the weekly brewery visits have drawn the two closer and created lasting, tangible memories. For these two, beer is the catalyst to discover their sameness, despite their differences.
As we were parting ways, I joked with Duran, “You’re gonna be famous!”
“For what reason?” she exclaimed, genuinely quite shocked, as she clutched her cider and took a big gulp.