This began as a story about beer and Doctor Who.
I’ll go back. Last night — two nights ago for you, now, in the future when I’ve published this — I decided to open a can of beer a friend had dropped off and watch the latest episode of Doctor Who, drinking beer and watching Doctor Who being two of my favorite pastimes.
Well, in theory. So far Peter Capaldi’s Doctor has been much better than the trainwreck that was Matt Smith, at least during series seven, because, I mean, seriously: “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”? Moffat also managed to shoehorn a dinosaur into “Deep Breath.” Stop putting dinosaurs in everything! God damn. Next we can work on your obsession with things-in-space-what-should-not-be-in-space, but I’ll grit my teeth at your trains and banks and Titanics and whatnot. I suppose that last one came from Russell T Davies, but he gave me Torchwood and a little Ianto Jones/Captain Jack goes a long way in my book.
Right. Beer. The beer came from a friend in Canada, so it was of course Canadian beer and therefore beer I had not tried before. The Publican House, Square Nail in particular, a “West Coast style American pale ale.” That struck me as odd right off the bat: yes yes, American hegemony and all that, but here we have a Canadian brewery making an American pale ale, and I wonder if they wouldn’t serve themselves better to just have a go at their own thing, really lean in to the provenance.
Because this doesn’t smell like an American pale ale. It does taste like one, with resinous, bitter hops, but then the malt comes to play, sweet and caramel and browned toast. I’m no hater of malt: my favorite beer of ours is The Whale, and some of the only beers I can list off the top of my head when you ask for my top list are Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler — which reminds me, I still haven’t had any this year — and Left Hand’s Milk Stout. Malt is my jam. Here, though, it competes a bit for attention, like when I take a video of my daughter dancing and suddenly my son is right there with her.
Meanwhile, in the episode, Clara continues her trend of actually being interesting, becoming more than the “impossible girl,” much special, very magic. As I watch and sip the diacetyl that had sprinted to the forefront of my perception, from the first sniff, becomes harder and harder to ignore. I think I’ve found a parable there, between that and the growing realization that Steven Moffat is kind of a giant asshat. Eventually it just permeates everything and sure I’ll finish it, and the other can — maybe I got a bad one! — just like I’ll keep watching Doctor Who and Sherlock, but with the knowledge that all three are problematic.
The point of all this: ah, yes. I had started to write this post to try something different, but it had become more of the same, “beer plus X” turning into “reviewing beer plus reviewing X, to lukewarm results.” The decision came from what I interpret as some shade thrown my way, and so I realized that if I’m going to write something then I need to have something to say. The point of this post, for instance, is “I like commas and em dashes1.”
Really, though, I realized that drinking that beer was not just drinking that beer. First came my acquisition of it, from a friend I met on BoardGameGeek, as thanks for picking up packages at the Buffalo UPS Store because that was far cheaper than shipping to Toronto. So that beer carries with it the history of my relationship with him and board games and beer in general, since every beer I have gets influenced by the baggage obtained from every beer I’ve had in the past.
Doctor Who doesn’t have quite the same level of weight, because while I quite like it and have an opinion on things like the Paternoster Gang2 but am definitely a johnny-come-lately to the scene. Essentially: I am familiar with the existence of Tom Baker but haven’t seen him in anything as the Fourth Doctor, so please mentally slot me in to the applicable level of “real” fan. This series more than ever seems to be hearkening back to days of yore, referencing, playing homage or outright ripping off (spoilers until the end of the sentence) “The Girl In the Fireplace”, “Dalek” and “The Impossible Astronaut”, plus Capaldi’s return to Eccleston-era levels of grump.
It’s just beer, and it’s not just beer. Neither Square Nail nor Flatline changed my life, but not everything has to. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
(Unless it’s being held by John Barrowman)