Session #63: The Beer Moment

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Our 63rd Session is hosted by Pete Brown from the UK, and as his Session falls on Star Wars Day (May 4, “May the Fourth,” “May the fourth be with you”) he’s decided on a similarly cheeky topic: The Beer Moment. Read his entire stream of consciousness or the abridged version below.

I write to try to encourage other people to share the simple joy of beer as much as I do, to switch on people who drink beer but don’t particularly care about it that much, to suggest to them that there’s so much more they might enjoy. No one says you have to do it this way, and no one ever made me the spokesperson for beer. It’s just how I decided to write, in the same way others decided to write in an opinionated way about what they love, and what they hate.

So in that spirit, my choice of topic — with 62 topics already covered — is this: simply, the Beer Moment.

What is it?

Well, what is it to you? What does that phrase evoke for you?

That’s the most important thing here. Switch off and float downstream, what comes to mind? Don’t analyse it — what are the feelings, the emotions?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently, because I’ve been talking about it to various people who are working hard to try to improve the image of beer in the UK. Because whether we articulate it or not, whether we drink vile, sunstruck Corona or barrel aged imperial stout brewed with weasel shit, it’s about the moment far more than the liquid itself. The only people who disagree with me on this are people I wouldn’t want to share a beer with.

The moment — for me — is relaxation, reward, release, relief and refreshment. It’s a moment to savour, a moment of mateship, potential, fulfilment, anticipation, satisfaction, and sheer bliss.

It’s different from the moment you drink wine or spirits — it’s more egalitarian, more sociable. It’s not just about the flavour, nor the alcohol. It’s about the centuries of tradition and ritual, the counterpoint to an increasingly stressful life, and the commonality, the fact that it means the same thing to so many.

At least — I think it does. What does it mean to you?

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I was especially taken by Pete’s instructions, where he paraphrased the opening line of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows (one of my favorite lesser-known Beatles songs), which in full is “Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream.” The phrase itself is from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and that sounds like an excellent place to start; relaxed and floating, mind free of distractions — beer in hand.

The “beer moment” is for me the essence of what makes beer one of my life’s passions, distilled — or perhaps more correctly fermented — down to its core ingredients. In many ways, as Don Younger famously quipped, “It’s not about the beer, it’s about the beer.” And as inscrutable as that may sound, I believe Don was on to something. While beer is, of course, the liquid glue that binds us all together, it’s the opportunities and potential that sharing that beer creates that is the essence of the beery moment for me. Beer is the great facilitator. I makes so many other things possible, most of them entirely positive. If that’s starting to sound too zen or new agey, don’t despair. Let me put it another way.

My job often requires me to drink beer alone, which is far from my favorite thing to do. It’s perhaps the worst way to have a beer, even though it’s sometimes necessary. Alone, beer is stripped of all its intangibles, its raison d’etre. You can evaluate the constituent parts, its construction, even how they come together as a finished beer. In other words, on a technical basis. And that’s how you should begin, but there must be a discussion waiting at the end of that process. I just finished judging the World Beer Cup in San Diego this week, and even in this august setting, after silently scoring the beer and making notes, a lively discussion follows each flight. That’s as it should be, whether in a professional judging setting or the local pub. It’s the sharing of the beer that makes the moment.

The number of ways, places and settings in which beer can be shared is limitless. It has adapted itself to virtually all societies, civilizations and communities since, almost quite literally, the beginning of time. It has been an integral part of countless ritual moments, both solemn and casual; a part of people’s lives from birth to death, used to celebrate both moments and many more in between. Of all of the moments in our lives — something on the order of 39,420,000 minutes for the average person — those that involve sharing a beer, those “beer moments,” are infinitely more enjoyable, more memorable and will be the ones that we remember on our deathbed. In a sense, with a few notable exceptions, the beer moments are the ones that truly matter most.

That’s at least in part why I’m also so obsessed with holidays. They provide yet more reasons to celebrate, and celebration almost always means sharing a beer. Though in truth I believe even no reason at all is a perfectly fine reason to share a beer with a friend, and indeed two friends coming together is in and of itself reason enough, I’ve always enjoyed finding new reasons to celebrate life. And why not, I’ve only got — fingers crossed — a few decades left as a beer drinker, and there is much to celebrate, many more beers to share with friends and family. I want as many of the moments left to me as possible to be “beer moments.”

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I love this very appropriate artwork that a Lagunitas fan sent into them, and which they posted on their Facebook page.

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