Does our relationship with beer, and obsessing over beer, and writing about beer, go through ups and downs? Oh yes. Is it different now to in 2005? Definitely.
This month Session host Oliver Gray asks:
Do you find it hard to muster the same zeal for beer as you did a few years ago? Are you suffering through a beer-life crisis like I am? If so, how do you deal with it?
When we first started to take an interest in beer, we were like those wide-eyed kids walking through the doors into Willie Wonka’s factory for the first time: ‘Come with me/ And you’ll see/ A world of pure imagination…’
That Michael Jackson coffee table book that was our guide told us about beers, breweries, entire types of beer, that we’d never heard of and that needed hunting down. If we wanted to taste, say, a particular American IPA, we needed intel, a full day off, and probably at least two forms of public transport. Every weekend brought us a new experience, and every holiday abroad was an opportunity to learn something new.
Then a time came when we’d done all the easy stuff, the obvious stuff, and even the slightly less easy and obvious stuff, and we had what we’ve always called A WOBBLE. Nothing seemed fresh or exciting, even though lots of exciting things were clearly going on, because we’d become jaded.
We were on the verge of giving up blogging (not beer — we didn’t go completely insane) but somehow weathered the wobble — kept the interest ticking over — and found ourselves emerging from the other side more obsessed than ever, in a different, dare we say deeper way. We took the toy apart and began to fiddle with its workings and realised that we weren’t done.
And these are your options, really, neither less worthy than the other:
- Leave the learning and exploring phase and enter steady state, drinking what you like where you like with a decent bedrock of knowledge to help you make informed decisions, but enough mental energy and time to enjoy things other than beer on the side. (Wine, for example.)
- Embrace the mania fully: become a social-outcast-nerd, or a scholar if you’re flattering yourself. Someone who says things like, ‘Oh, that’s a rather interesting example of a Burton ale, judging by the sugar additions specified in the recipe.’ The beer equivalent of a train-spotter, the non-league football fan, the 78 collector, or the expired military ration-taster.
Except that in a sense we’ve chosen both. Last weekend in Bristol, we comprehensively failed to take part in a brewery trail, didn’t visit any new bars or pubs, and the only exciting new draught beer we tasted was… Sam Smith’s India Pale Ale. We switched off and concentrated on seeing friends and family, chose where to drink based on what worked in that context, and chose what to drink based on… what we wanted to drink.