Once a haven for malcontents and outcasts, the coffee shop is now a mainstay for beanie-sporting normals and nomadic nine-to-five'ers looking to leech wi-fi. No more is the coffee shop a rendezvous point for anarchists beyond the wall. Now, ranks of yoga moms join together for chai lattes while coordinating efforts on an Etsy shop.
Game of Thrones, by contrast, has always been for the supremely dorky. When the first book was first published in 1996, the sexed-up story of revolving monarchies became a darling of the nerd community. However, since the premiere of the 2011 HBO series, Game of Thrones has transmuted into a mainstream sensation.
This is why a Minneapolis coffee shop was the perfect place to celebrate the upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones.[jump]
To be fair, the Dunn Bros on Hennepin is not your typical coffee shop. Franchisees Sanjeev and Loveleen Azad have modeled their posh Uptown location after a European cafe, and theirs is one of only a few Dunn Bros that serve beer and wine.
The Azads are professed Game of Thrones fanatics, so much so that Sanjeev dressed as Oberyn Martell one Halloween before the vengeful showman had his head popped like a grape in season four. His fandom is what drove him to chase down his Ommegang distributors when he heard the New York brewery was planning to release yet another of its Game of Thrones beers in time for the season-five premiere.
Dunn Bros was able to secure three kegs of Ommegang's Westeros-themed beers -- a red ale called Fire and Blood, a dubbel called Valar Morghulis, and 2015's exclusive, a dark saison called Three-Eyed Raven -- and decided to co-opt their nationwide tapping event last Saturday night. Dunn Bros weren't the only Twin Cities bar to throw the event (the Bulldog in Lowertown St. Paul also participated), but Azad, in his nerdgasm, added a twist: Anyone who showed up to Dunn Bros dressed as Khaleesi or Drogo would receive a goblet of beer on the house.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. From 6 to 10 p.m., not a single person showed up as the Mother of Dragons or her ill-fated hulk of a husband. In fact, for the duration of Dunn Bros' Game of Thrones party, the coffee shop looked like, well, a coffee shop.
A man in a soccer jersey gulped a Three-Eyed Raven while browsing a copy of the Strib. A serious-looking grad student picked at a muffin while she prowled Excel spreadsheets. Outside, a gaggle of dads waited for the bus. Meanwhile, a woman crocheted a scarf as the Game of Thrones theme played for the third time in a half hour.
Ubiquity is a vampire, and the mass appeal of Game of Thrones has drained the franchise of any geekdom that fans might've once been ostracized for. Having a comprehensive knowledge of Westeros's denizens and their affairs is now as nerdy as drinking cucumber water.
The accessibility of the show garnered from the HBO co-sign as well as endless merchandising and cross-market promotion (such as Ommegang's own campaign) have made nerdism a trend. Reciting Daenerys's origin story was a mockable offense 10 years ago, but now, it'll get you a million views on YouTube. And having even a cursory understanding of the plot will get you a foothold in any brunch conversation in America.
I've never read A Song of Ice and Fire, and, after four years of ignorance, I only just caught up with the show in January. But that doesn't stop me from engaging a genial-looking Midwestern dude named Matt at length about a mystery character joining the cast for season five and Sophie Turner's casting in the X-Men film franchise. Around last call, a clan of Uptowners join me in a discussion about how Arya's storyline will deviate from the books. I spend nearly an hour talking to Sanjeev and Loveleen -- who previously debuted a menu item called Winterfell Bruschetta -- about who will die next on the show. It's like we're discussing cuts at Vikings camp.
As the lights came down at Dunn Bros, it was clear the Star Wars-ization of Game of Thrones had long since been completed. Saturday night was hardly a death knell for the franchise's niche appeal. That fight had been conceded by the eggheads half a decade ago. The reason no one in attendance was cosplaying was because there's nothing sensational about being obsessed with Game of Thrones anymore. It's a business-casual affair. George R.R. Martin's world of high fantasy is not for the nerds. In fact, in 2015, the most alienating thing you can do is not be a GoT nerd.