Engrained in the Beer Scene

Or

Hop to It

For those of you who follow @brwriting on the Twitter, and are here looking for information about Christian Monks and mathematicians, I apologize.  That entry is requiring more thought and research, and I don’t want to half-ass anything I put on this page.  Instead, beer!!  For those who don’t follow on Twitter, please commence to do so immediately.

I wish I could take credit for the entirety of this week’s blog title, but the first part (the title proper) is thanks to one of my coworkers, who told me that he was “engrained” in the Erie beer scene when he lived there.  We both arrived at the pun after the fact, and as far as I know it was not intentional.  Still funny, though.  The second one is all mine.

In honor of National Craft Beer Week, I’d like to talk about beer for a moment.

I’ll begin by saying that I’m grateful to have come of age when I have, as opposed to years earlier, when you couldn’t walk into your local grocery store and pick up a six pack of something local, or different, or interesting.  When I was growing up, the adults drank beer, of course, but it was usually Bud Light or Miller Light.  I can remember only one time when I heard my grandfather order a Dortmunder.  I didn’t know what that was, of course, only that it was a beer, and it sounded just as exotic then as it is familiar now.  If I’d grown up a generation earlier, I would probably also be stuck on the Millers and Buds, scoffing at these youthful hipster weirdos and their local whosits and their micro whatevers.

Thankfully, I am one of those youthful weirdos.

Beer, whatever your taste (or distaste) for it, is a beverage that is worthy of note.  For one thing, it’s ancient.  Some form of it or other has been made since at least the 5th millennium BCE.  Seven thousand years.  Seven thousand years of beer.  The only other beverages that have been produced for anywhere approaching that long would have to be wine and tea, each of which deserves its own blog entry, so I won’t touch on them here.

Back then, beer was made mostly domestically.  What this means for us is that the recent popularity of microbrews and craft brews is effectively a returning to the earliest form of one of the earliest beverages.  Pretty neat stuff.  One other bit of history that tidily transitions us into the modern craft beer scene:  When they unearthed King Midas’ tomb, the archeologists found urns with the residue of ancient beer, buried with the dead King to quench his thirst in the afterlife.  Scientists extracted DNA from the dead yeast in this residue and recreated that yeast.  The brewers at the Dogfish Head Brewery used the yeast, along with ancestral forms of grain that would have been used during King Midas’ time, and produced Midas Touch.  (Which is delicious, by the way).  Not exactly like what Midas himself would have drunk, I’m sure, but still a really cool link to the earlier days of the beverage.

Nowadays, craft beer has gotten huge, which, for craft brewing, means getting smaller.  In addition to the many, many, many, many (get the idea?) choices now available on shelves across the country, homebrewing has seen its own mini renaissance.  Homebrewing is nothing new, even in the modern scene, but the equipment necessary and relatively large (5 gallon) batch sizes have been intimidating to people with small bank accounts and smaller apartments.  Like me, for example.  Enter the Brooklyn Brew Shop.  Perhaps not the first people to start thinking about brewing in smaller batches, but they did write the book on it.  Literally.  They began by modifying the standard five gallon brew kits, and eventually started producing their own, smaller, one gallon kits.  So now, instead of a seven gallon pot, an outdoor propane burner, and a closet or garage you don’t happen to need for anything else (almost approachable), instead you need a standard stock pot, a stove, and a high shelf in a closet (easy).  Stay tuned this summer if you’re interested in my own exploits in homebrewing.  Sadly, the name Burning River is already taken (at least twice over, actually) by other craft brewers.  Something else – literary?  I’m pretty sure that actor, writer, and geek icon Wil Wheaton has already taken authors’ names for his own craft brews.  Anyway…  That’s a discussion for another entry.

Now look, any alcoholic beverage should be consumed responsibly, and for some, that means not consuming it at all.  There are plenty of excellent reasons not to drink beer, from religion to dietary restriction to addiction, and many others.  I’m not here to convert anybody away from their faith, send them into a gluten-allergy induced coma, or knock them off the wagon.

All that being said, if your reason for not drinking beer is because “you don’t like beer,” I’m not sure I buy it.  I think that saying you don’t like beer is almost the same as saying you don’t like music.  Maybe you don’t like classical music, or hard rock, or rap, but I bet if I put on a golden oldies playlist (or whatever – you get the idea), you’ll be boppin’ along in no time.  My point is this:  there are at least 20,000 commercial brands of beer in the world.  That means hundreds of thousands of commercial beers, to say nothing of homebrews.  Maybe you just haven’t found your beer yet.  Maybe it hasn’t been made yet.  Maybe you haven’t made it yet.  Give it some time and explore.  Branch out and look in unexpected places.  I’ll bet a little exploration of your local geography will reveal a store or bar that has a good selection of interesting beers.  (If you’re a Clevelander, I can say for certain that it will).

And amazingly, I have gone this entire entry without making a single beer pun since the title.  (I barley made it.  But then, it was the yeast I could do.  Ok, I’m tapped out).  As always, thank you for reading.  More to follow.

Advertisements