About a year and a half ago I read the book Fermenting Revolution by Christopher Mark O’Brien. On the whole it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it’d be, but O’Brien did a very good job of conveying what I’ve come to call communing with beer.
Most nights I’ll have a beer with dinner, or before bed, or perhaps both if I’m feeling frisky. I sip, smell, swirl, taste and enjoy what I’m drinking, but that’s what it is: a drink, a beverage. A very good one if I say so myself, and part of the holy trinity of liquids I consume (the other two being water and coffee), but in the end nothing more than something delicious and wet.
Occasionally, however, I commune with beer.
The feeling I get is hard to describe, but in essence it’s when the beer I’m drinking becomes more than a drink. It becomes a philosophical entity, a conduit through which I become connected to centuries of beer brewers and drinkers. Staring at the last few ounces of liquid in the bottom of my glass, and the trail of lace it left as I consumed it, the beer changes. It becomes… BEER.
We at CBW have set out down a path to devote our lives to beer. It is at the top of my list of hobbies, or interests, or whatever you name the field on a social networking site. When I go out to dinner, I suggest the restaurants with a good beer selection. When I go on vacation, I scout out the breweries in the area. When family members don’t know what to get me for holidays, they look to Niagara Tradition and other beer-related stores.
Why? Why is beer different from coffee, or orange juice or ginger ale or any number of other drinks? I like nachos a lot too, and coffee and The Decemberists, but none to the extent of beer. Why?
There seems to be an alchemical reaction that occurs, whether in the glass or in my head, after at least three glasses of beer (yes, I’m willing to accept at least part of the magic involved in this being the result of having three glasses of beer, but bear with me). By three glasses, the repetition is meditative, and you’re able to see past the incidental physical characteristics of the beer: its carbonation, bitterness, malt sweetness and alcohol merge, along with all the other flavors and aesthetic characteristics. It ceases to be about the beer itself and becomes about the beer as an abstract concept. It transforms into more than the sum of its parts. 1 plus 1 equals 3. Beer becomes BEER, and when I say that I love beer it’s not an alcoholic beverage, it’s me professing my love and admiration for all the brewers and all the beer that has has led to that moment.
It’s spending a night out at the Blue Monk with an uncle I haven’t seen in years, as he tells me about homebrewing in Oregon in the 80s. It’s wandering around Chicago by myself, dropping in barely-invited to the craft brewers there and having them welcome me with open arms and talking to me like I’m an equal. It’s spending a Saturday helping the largest homebrew competition in the state, taking an hour and a half to drink, evaluate and discuss the finer points of one specific style of beer.
This doesn’t happen often. When it does, though, when I’m flooded with feelings of well-being and contentedness, it’s the closest an agnostic Discordian can get to a religious experience. It is my sincere hope that our beer will some day inspire others to commune with it.
Here’s to beer.