Friday, May 02, 2008

The Session #15 - A gradual descent into the must

As writing assignments go, composing this month's Session piece (as hosted by Boak & Bailey) has been nothing less than a challenge, as I find myself walking against the winds of common sense, along with the clichéd maxim of the craft, "Write what you can reasonably fabricate via Wikipedia searches," for as I'm proud to say I'm modestly insightful on a trivial variety of clever topics, including beer, am I a "beer geek"? A "beer enthusiast"? While there's no chance I'd shy away from a Session theme that may be somewhat alien to me, not now that I've found this fun little monthly exercise, a disclaimer needs to be made up front: I'm just not sure I qualify.

Others may, however, disagree.

Sure, I like me a nice pint of the stuff on occasion. Lots of people do. I'd like to think of myself as sitting cozily in the middle of the spectrum between complete cavemen and brewfest tickers. I don't have BeerAdvocate or Rate Beer accounts, don't have any sort of list of beers I've had the luxury of tasting, and I've so far abstained from naming any pets or family members anything like "Biscuit" or "Lupulus" or "Trubs".

[Disclaimer #1: I should admit, however, that I have an embarrassing number of German bierdeckels. Not to mention we've had to designate an entire cabinet in our distinctly compact kitchen to my beer glassware collection. And yes, the other day, I actually yelled out loud, "Hey, where's my Hoegaarden glass?"]

But doesn't there need to be a tipping point [I just typed "pint" again] if one's going to go about having graduated from the casual beer drinker to the rarified echelon of "enthusiast"? What if I can't point to a moment of conversion, that trucker's gear change moment henceforth a crown of beer evangelism was thrust upon me, rakishly tilted in a slighty snobby, enlightened way? For example, one of the aspects B&B are looking to gather from this carnival is the single, revelatory beverage that made all the lights start blinking and spark up all the fireworks, but there's a disappointment in my story there, too, as this is the sort of reverse tale wherein I didn't even taste Budweiser until late in my high school career, long after having been introduced to fine German lagers, local craft icons, and heck, even homebrew. By the time I was paying any attention to my surroundings, at college in Oregon, it was too late: I couldn't fight through the massive craft beer crowd to get my hands on crap macro-beer, even if I'd tried [Disclaimer #2: I didn't try]. There are moments, though, in the time between then and now, that could arguably be seen as signposts, changes in the weather, what have you, that signified that something more seriously beery was afoot.

A tipping point, maybe, when I forced our entire wedding party to drink homebrew?

But there's just no Gregor Samsa moment in this story. Maybe the point when I realized I was scanning wine merchants' inside distribution lists for the odd rare beer of which they might have a case or two, but who hasn't been curious? Or the point at which I realized I was the proud owner of not one, but two Moose Drool t-shirts [Disclaimer #3and this was before Big Sky was even distributing in Northern California], perhaps? I'm still not sold.

Shall I continue? Choose your own point at which I awoke to find myself transformed into a gigantic bug:

- When my then girlfriend (now wife, obviously) gave me draught equipment for my birthday?

- When cork-finished bottles of homebrew became our holiday gifts, complete with wax seals embossed with the family name and the visage of a mash paddle in the center, like some crazy, shamanistic wand of healing and unification?

- When I realized I was stockpiling a list of "wedding beer" recipes to help simplify our friends' requests?

Some might argue that the attention I warrant to photographing my hop plants would constitute an excessive amount of enthusiasm for beer-related items. But geekdom?

It's arguable, though, that my alleged metamorphosis from regular joe to a regular joe who's really into beer is that it hinges on other people's expectations: Did I ask if I wanted to chip in on that case of Black Ghost? Did I ask for draught equipment for my birthday? Sure, the fact that my young daughter calls anything I've got poured in a glass "beer" (anything I carry in a mug is "coffee", naturally) may be an indication that I might not be able to argue much further.

Like I mentioned before, there are some other fascinations in my life that I can bend an ear about, concepts and ideas and people and passions and arts that I've been known to expound on. But going through the details of the current situation, and the question posed above, there's only one detail that gives me pause:

- When, of all topics that I'm passionate and quasi-literate about, I've choosen beer as the thing that I set time aside to write about.

That's got to be it, right? If you had asked me 4 years ago what I'd write about if I found myself to share regular insights on a topic on a web log, I would not, certainly not, have said beer. And then I did. Like 99% of you reading this (you cute buncha beer bloggers out there, you), I think it could be argued that the moment when we all became "beer enthusiasts" was the moment we stopped being merely on the receiving end of the information pipeline, but decided to chime in and join the discussion ourselves, whether it's merely posting about an exciting new bottle you found on the shelf at the store down the street, or about visiting a brewpub by chance and finding something you wanted to share, or about the inside industry, or about homebrewing - that's the point of graduation. The point when we all became vocal - the point at which, for me, Pfiff! was born - is quite possibly the step at which our admiration and enjoyment of beer becomes enthusiasm and advocacy of beer.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Rob,

I've really enjoyed reading your posts lately. Since I've only joined on to the blogging wave in the last 2 months, I'm not sure if they were always this good or if they are the product of your recent musings on why you write. In any case, I've read all of today's Session posts I can find so far, and this has to be one of the best written of all. Thanks!

10:53 AM  
Blogger drinkaweek said...

1) Having been on the outside looking in on your obsession for somewhere around the decade mark, I can quite safely assert that you are most definitely a beer geek.

2) Your tipping point was the first time you home brewed. I've never seen anybody who had no real idea of what they were doing so enthusiastic about it. You were like a lil Jesus, "Behold as I turn this water (along with some grain, hops, and other stuff) into beer! Unless I messed something up. Or the bottles explode. Never the less!

3) I still haven't forgiven you for forcing me to drink homebrew at your wedding. You know I like my wedding's like I like my first dates - Full of cheap wine and tepid Heineken.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

beer geeks get laid. 'nuf said. ;)

12:03 PM  
Blogger Boak said...

I second Jessica's comment!

So what if you can't pinpoint the moment - it was fun reading anyway.

Though I always take it with a pinch of salt when people claim they've always been into something cool :-)

thanks for contributing

1:42 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

"Though I always take it with a pinch of salt when people claim they've always been into something cool"

Oops, that certainly wasn't one of the things I was trying to say in this post... Much more along the lines of "drinking the stuff because it was there" slowly blurring into "drinking the stuff - BECAUSE."

Or something. I'm knee-deep in Green Flash IPA at the moment, so feel free to ignore me...

3:50 PM  
Blogger Des said...

er, I didn't realize being enthusiastic about beer had suddenly entered the realm of "something cool." Am I missing something? Do I need to stop calling Rob a giant beer DORK? Ditto on the nice post.

9:26 AM  

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