by Paul Kavulak | May 1, 2008 8:05 am
This column will be an exploration of beer and brewing. To be clear, soon we’ll begin to dive more deeply into various beer styles but for now, we need to establish a baseline.
For those of you who might not know me, I’m not the type of guy to give you a sermon about what’s good or bad – I want to guide you to your own decisions. I laugh as I say this – in this article, we’re going to take some time to explore our feelings. If you’re a guy like me, as soon as we hear these words we’re already late for our next social engagement, hard labor, the corner bar, a phone call to fictitious long lost friends – anything but a direct discussion about our feelings.
But hang on a second. We’re talking about beer here remember? So how the heck do feelings get to see the light of day in this type of discussion? Well, I’m the first to state that every beer has its place, so let me explain. Some beers have their place at special events, some during certain seasons, some with certain foods – and for some beers, their place is way the heck away from me. But that’s just how I feel. Beginning to get the picture? Will you agree with the points I make in this article? Maybe, but frankly I hope I create some mental anguish – some social conflict that begins within your mind. My goal is to get you to re-think some of the things you thought you already knew, toss out some beer norms and create some new ones – based upon your own feelings…
So let’s get to it. If you could reach for a beer right now – any beer in the universe of beers on the market – which beer would it be? Go ahead and make a mental selection and then we’re going to examine it for a bit.
Ok, now I’m sort of betting that the little grocery aisle in your mind isn’t all that long. Oh sure, there are some of you that just went through the mental equivalent of a Wal-Mart but, for most of us, we probably opened the cooler door of a single solitary container of the stuff that we’ve known for years. The brands that call out to you from every street corner, every TV commercial, and from countless cardboard cut-outs decorated with cute little bikini-clad girls that make you believe there are only a handful of choices in life.
Therein lies our problem, and the basis for our discussion. Believe it or not – and I know this is where the conflict begins – when we reach for a beer, it should be an exploration – not simply a purchase that satisfies a minority line item in some larger list of evening goals. We’ll expand upon this later, but first, that beer you selected is getting warm.
Now that your beer is the center of attention in your mind’s eye, ask yourself “Why?”. This is the moment of truth. It could be that this one word could be your awakening. Why? You’ve made your beer selection but I’m here to tell ya – it shouldn’t have been that easy.
The complexities of what you believe to be a simple beer are actually quite deep. From an ingredients perspective we’re really only dealing with four basic items. Sure, there can be others but let’s make it easy. Water, malted barley, yeast, and hops. That’s it. If we remain at this basic level we’re right in line with what may have just made that mental selection so easy. I guess in so many ways, it all comes down to marketing. Rocky Mountain streams, Clydesdales, cold filtering, and remember those little guys that never really existed? The Artesans? Anyway – you’ve done what the marketers had hoped. You went with the masses and believed what they wanted you to believe. That’s sad, people.
Let’s try a familiar tangent. When selecting a wine – a fine wine, we take the time to understand the vineyard, the vintner, and for some unknown reason we tend to pay attention to price – as if the pricetag was also an indicator of quality. Buried deep beneath the hype of bikini-clad girls there exists a direct parallel from wine that should be applied to beer when it comes to quality, selection, flavor and inherent value. And why? Because, even though the girls failed to mention it, there is tremendous and wonderful diversity in beer.
Its true folks. Like wine, beer also has terroir. Like wine, beer also requires a deep understanding of climate, chemistry, yeasts, and aging – and what seems to be an infinite array of combinations when it comes to working with the variations within each of those four basic ingredients. And now, quite possibly, the ultimate revelation – that beer has incredibly wide ranging, deep and thought provoking flavors that can probably never be fully explored in a single lifetime. And just like an excellent wine, we usually don’t find this depth in the mass market varieties. We must seek them out.
Think back to the beginning of this article. I mentioned a few items that need closure (Guys, I know I’m using words that strike fear in you but please, hang with me).
Exploration. I’m going to give you a mission. The next time you’re in the store, explore your options and take the time to understand that those shelves are literally filled with flavors and brands that you’ve never experienced before. It’s ok to actually stop and stare. Besides, who the heck is going to notice, let alone pay attention to a guy caught dead in his tracks, drooling in the beer aisle? I swear, if you take five minutes instead of mere seconds to select something that you’ve never had before you’ll feel good inside. Can I guarantee that you’ll like what you’ve chosen? Nope – but I can guarantee that you’ll have lived more broadly than you have in the past – and that’s truly the point.
Feelings. So here we are. We’ve been conditioned in life to think that this word goes hand in hand with something painful but hopefully you’ve learned at this stage that we’re going to use this word in a new context. Explorations lead to observations and on to feelings that we’ll ultimately carry forward in life. We store these for use in shaping our future decisions and moving on to greater moments.
So to recap, we’ve established that beer has depth, diversity, and incredible flavors that are within easy reach. Additionally, we’ve intertwined and dealt with a sometimes scary subject – and embraced it – and lived.
So go over to your significant other, new beers in hand, look passionately into their eyes, and tell this person that it’s time to talk about your feelings. Trust me. This works on so many levels…
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