It’s not just for drinking, oh no, not for me. The word alone conjures up so many images from commercials (Bud-Wise-Er, the Rainer scooter, taste great/less filling) and an endless amount of SWAG that is out in the world. Beer companies sponsor sports and stadiums, teams and talents. To say that BEER RULES THE WORLD is really some sort of understatement. But, for me, it is pretty simple. Beer is a part of my life. Just like my friends and my family, beer is everywhere I turn. My clothing, my glasses, my fridge, my keychain, my social life, and now my top case. It is easy to see that beer is a thing for me.
But, it is also more than a beverage. Beer means I always have somewhere to go that is familiar, that makes sense, that I understand. A home of sorts, or a home away from home. The place that makes or serves the beer is a thing, but also the people who go there to enjoy the beverage. In most cases, the beer is at least drinkable. At most places, there are folks who are more than willing to strike up a conversation. Sure, the more you drink the more likely it is someone will start chatting. But, still, there is an openness to random conversations with strangers. In most cases, the staff are welcoming and, if they even touch the brewing process, they are more than happy to discuss it with you. Once they know that you know, the conversation can get really interesting and quickly bring together your shared passion. Brothers in arms and all.
This is most cases. Sure, there are places where the staff could give a shit that you are there, that will serve you pisswater beer or tout beer that is so off flavor it cannot even pass as some new creation. There will always be bad places. I am proud to say that, for the vast majority of breweries or tap rooms, this is not the case. The staff care, welcome you in, and are happy to chat about the beverage that they, too, love. If you are lucky, the brewer is one site or may even be serving you.
Beer is also about community. There are the home brew clubs, beer festivals with just beer, and beer festivals with something else like music or food. There are the stores that sell unique beer already made, the home brew supply stores for the home brewer, and the places that let you brew on site. The shared love of this beverage is a point of connection, a place of community, and a guarantee that someone will share you experience. In other words, there is generally someone to talk to and there is always something to talk about. Beer just makes a good place to start.
My random visit to Mazama Brewing is a good example. The staff person at the brewery I chose treated my like royalty (I wish I could afford to tip more) and she was more than happy to talk about the beer. I ended up meeting one of the owners and we got to chatting about the brewery and beer things. It was a series of great connections, conversation, AND they produce stellar beer. Bonus! I was held up in the corner attached to electricity working on computer stuff, so I was not really open to any other conversation. Had I bellied up to the bar, that may have proven different.
Days like that, like Mt. Olyimpus in Aberdeen, THAT is what it is all about. The love of the beverage and the willingness to connect. Whether it be a small tap room in some random out of the way location or a major brewery in a large metropolitan area, beer brings me home, brings me to a place that is familiar, and generally brings me community. I do not mind the after effects, but the alcohol does limit my ability to taste or hangout or imbibe. Unless, of course, I am walking or on the bicycle off the main road. Then I can let loose just a little bit more.
In the end, breweries and tap houses give me things I love – taste beer, talk about beer, smell beer, see beer. They also give me a place of connection and community, people with whom I can share this passion, this obsession, this part of my life. I may sound like an old drunk at a 12-step meeting, but I love beer!
All hail Beer!