When I was in high school – like so many others – I drank really bad beer at parties. Warm Keystone, Natural or any other interchangeable brand that tastes like toilet water. I did not care for it one bit.
But I soon had a friend who turned 21 and vowed to change the way I looked at beer. The first brew we shared was a Hoegaarden. I never knew beer could taste good. How novel.
I recently made a confession to my wife, who has put up with my obsession with beer as best as someone who isn’t enthusiastic about the stuff can be. On a flight home to New York from North Carolina in 2008 I had two items with me to ponder and pass the time with – an engagement ring in my coat pocket and a November 2008 issue of the New Yorker with a feature on Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head.
Surprises abound. The Missus didn’t know I was going to propose to her and I didn’t know that reading that New Yorker would change my life. I had been a craft beer fan for some time, but until I read that article, I never knew what brewers could do with beer. I just knew that for a few extra bucks, my time throwing down some cold ones wouldn’t be a cringe-worthy experience.
As others have noted for years, Dogfish’s devotion for pushing the boundaries of what beer could be opened my eyes. This is one of the many lines from that piece that threw me for a loop:
Carlos took the pistol, swivelled it toward the tree, and fired a single shot from five feet away. The bullet struck with a dull thud, then fell harmlessly to the ground.
Sam Calagione was going to use this tree’s wood to create a beer.
On that night in November, I found two of my greatest passions – a lifetime to spend with my wife and an unwavering curiosity toward beer that sometimes borders on annoying. Much like how the relationship between my wife and I will constantly grow and evolve over time, so has my love and understanding of beer. That’s why I write this blog. As Steven D. Hales puts it in Beer and Philosophy: “Beer drives the human condition, even if the human is in no condition to drive.”
Curious to follow me down the rabbit hole? Hit the jump.
Beer is culture
To me, beer isn’t just something to drink to alter our state of consciousness, although William James notes it may not be a bad thing: “Sobriety diminishes, discriminates and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man.” Wine has long been an “elite” drink, historically for the wealthy and “divine.” Beer has always been the drink for the Everyman (or Everywoman). This, in turn, emphasizes its importance and power in unification. It’s something that brings the masses together, not divides it. This is why we pack beer to share with your buddies when going to The Game or heading out on a fishing trip. This is why fathers and sons clink glasses filled with foamy head instead of long-stemmed goblets with flat grape juice.
Beer is history
Beer doesn’t just have a place in my ̶h̶e̶a̶r̶t̶/̶s̶t̶o̶m̶a̶c̶h̶/̶ liver, it has a place in history. Hammurabi’s Code threatened to drown brewers in their own swill for serving inferior products, the Finnish Kalevala has more verses about creating beer than creating the world, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh shows how beer humanizes the wild man Enkidu, and the Norse Poetic Edda poses that beer brings wisdom and happiness. Egyptians paid their laborers with beer. Hell, there’s even a mathematical formula to solve the age-old question of “beer goggles.” Certainly this can’t be coincidence!
Beer is art
Ellen Dissanayake notes often in her book “What Is Art For?” that artistic nature takes on so many varieties of roles that anything can be “made special” to the point of creating/consuming art. If so, then certainly to consume and enjoy beer is to participate in an art form, from a masterful pour of liquid into a glass, to the ivory foam that forms its union, to the physical impact you can receive from being filled with an array of aromas and flavors. Beer is an art for the hundreds of #beertography results you’ll find on Twitter. Beer isn’t solely something to be imbibed and enjoyed from sense of sustenance, if not enjoyment. Beer is something beyond its bubbles and color. It’s something to see and enjoy.
Beer is connectivity
When I started this blog, my only reason was a selfish one – I wanted a means to track my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of all the beers I tried. I wanted a written account to turn back to. I wanted something I could foolishly poor my thoughts into and show something for them. But writing isn’t a selfish thing to do when I (secretly) hope to share my experience. I offer my evaluations and thoughts because I hope to persuade you, my humble reader, with an experience that has been valuable for me and will perhaps be valuable for you: “The value attaches to the purpose of the activity. The value may be just pleasure. The reasons are meant to focus your attention on certain aspects of the experience.” My experiences have led me to connect with others who are wonderfully passionate about a life with beer, a truer understanding of beer or simply the humorous side of beer.
Beer is personal
When I pour each glass, sit and reflect, my beer isn’t something to distract me from my day. It’s a step toward a better understanding of something that has been around for thousands of years. The beer I buy, make and ultimately drink is part of a larger puzzle. I love beer because it’s complex, artistic and can bring me closer to those around me. I love beer because it tastes good. I love beer because if nothing else, it’s proof that God loves us, even if that may not actually be the case.
I’m Bryan and I love beer. I hope you love beer too. Let’s see where beer takes us.