Session #142: Funeral Beer

Guinness.

This is our contribution to the final edition of the Session hosted by Stan Hieronymus: “Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.”

Funeral beer is whatever beer they have on at the pub near the crematorium, or the social club in town.

That usually means big brand lager or smoothflow bitter. Auntie Joan on the sherry, let’s raise a whisky in memory, it’s what they would have wanted.

Or Guinness.

And, let’s face it, Guinness fits a funeral best of all, permanently dressed in that old black suit.

It feels as if Ireland owns funeral drinking in some sense born of stereotypes and heavy literature, so even if you aren’t even slightly Irish on your mother’s side, Guinness fits.

It is dark, slow, bitter.

And these days, a little sad, too.

A monochrome beer for a monochrome mood, sitting on your stomach like a raincloud.

The Penultimate Session, #141: The Future of Beer Blogging

Ugh, blogging about blogging… But, then again, we’ve not indulged for a while, and the news that the Session is expiring seems like a good moment.

The Session started a month before we commenced our (calendar check) 11 year, 7 month beer blogging adventure, and has been a reassuring constant.

There have been times when, slightly lost and disengaged from blogging, the Session pulled us back – part creative writing prompt, part warm hug.

When it nearly died a few years ago we were forlorn, but then everyone seemed to rally and it was saved. Kind of.

Like one of those TV shows that comes back for a weird final season on some streaming platform or other, it never quite felt the same.

As Jay Brooks says in his call to arms for this month’s Session, fewer and fewer people took part, and hosts seemed hard to find.

So, as Jay and Stan sail off to the west in one of those elf boats, here we are for the second to last time, doing our duty: Jay wants to know what we think about the future of beer blogging, and we’re going to tell him.

First, we refuse to be gloomy. Every Saturday morning we find plenty of great posts that we think are worth sharing, and those pieces seems more adventurous, stylish, erudite and varied than much of what was around a decade ago.

More often these days, though, great blogs arrive, blossom, and then wither when their authors abandon them to go professional. Yes, it might feel as if all the magazines are closing but we reckon there are more paying outlets for beer writing in the UK now than a decade ago. That’s good for writers, but bad news if you’ve a preference for driven, ambitious blogging.

In general, we’d say the feeling of global community has diminished, but that’s not a whinge. It’s been replaced (probably for the best) by many active, more locally-focused sub-communities: the pub crawlers, the historians, the tasting note gang, the podcasters, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pisstakers, and so on.

That can be mildly disconcerting if you don’t want to pick a tribe, we suppose.

And broader community activity does continue, just not often in the form of laboriously interlinked blog posts. Instead, it centres around social media hashtags, sometimes gently commercially driven: check out #BeerBods, #CraftBeerHour and #LetsBeerPositive for a few examples.

These are light in tone, easy to engage with, and don’t require anybody to set aside an hour under the anglepoise with a jug of coffee and a thesaurus. You can respond from the sofa, in front of the telly with a can of pastry stout, or while you’re at the pub.

So, on balance, we see the future of blogging as being much like its past – sometimes supportive, sometimes bad-tempered, over-emotional, churning like primordial soup as blogs are born in fits of tipsy enthusiasm and die of ennui – but also more fractured, more varied, and less cosy.

And less about blogs.

The Session #139: The Good Life

For this month’s edition of the Session Bill Vanderburgh at Craft Beer in San Diego asks us to think about ‘Beer and the Good Life’.

There’s no doubt in our minds that beer is one of the good things in our lives, and probably all the more so since it has settled into a quiet kind of obsession.

Back when we were eager fives it probably did more harm than good.

We wasted a bit too much time chasing novelties and rarities, spending entire days on holiday hunting obscure beers purely because they were obscure beers. (But even this gave our wandering purpose and took us to interesting parts of strange towns.)

There were times when sometimes online arguments about beer rolled and replayed in our heads when we wanted to be asleep. (But those arguments informed two books and more than a decade of blogging so silver linings and all that.)

Hitchcock style poster: OBSESSION.

And we had some bad hangovers which cut weekends in half and ruined entire days.

These days, though, beer is a fun thing we enjoy together, and with family and friends. We’re both more fussy (we know what we like with ever greater precision) and less — the choice of beer is definitely now less important than people and pubs.

Stopping for a beer on the way home helps break the routine, forces us to take a moment for ourselves between work and domestic business. There’s a sweet spot about halfway down drink number one where we lighten and sigh.

Beer is conversation — not only a loosener but in its own right a pleasingly unimportant thing to have absorbing, pointless conversations about.

It’s a hobby, too, but these days one that is more about admiring pubs and reading than it is actually drinking — a far cry from those decade-ago evenings spent pairing beer and cheese, or earnestly tasting bottles of American IPA.

If beer disappeared from our lives tomorrow, would we cope? Yes, probably. Between knitting and architecture and music and films and exploring we’d have plenty to occupy ourselves, and tea ain’t so bad as drinks go either.

But we’d certainly miss it and, if it’s all the same to you, we’re happier with it in our lives.