This post was written as part of The Sessions Project, a collaborative effort of beer bloggers to tackle a designated subject on the first Friday of every month. This installment of the session is organized by Pete Brown, and I enjoyed tackling the topic, “the beer moment,” in a style different from the rest of Beer of Tomorrow. I look forward to hearing any comments you might have!
Be in the Beer Moment
To a fan of beer, nearly every moment can be improved with beer. But will any beer improve any moment? Would the perfect afternoon playing frisbee on the beach be made more perfect with a snifter of barley wine? For some beer drinkers this could undoubtedly be the perfect combination, for me that sounds like a mismatch. When I want barleywine I also want a jacket and hat and a cigar and a provocative conversation with a good friend. Sometimes you can manufacture a beer moment that elevates the beer your drinking and reminds you how you fell in love with beer in the first place. Some beer moments are so perfect that you will remember them you whole life. I still recall the metallic tinge of the first beer (a Fosters) that i ever shared with my father. It was the summer before leaving for college, and we were on a father-son camping trip in the high desert. He cracked that strangely large can and without words poured half into my camp mug. Needless to say, Fosters has never tasted that good again.
That’s the trouble with the perfect beer moment. It is fleeting and impossible to predict. They can strike you with a devastating and unanticipated force. I shared a six-pack of MGD and a Dominos pizza in my dorm-room with friends just before we all left to return to our old homes for the summer. The skunky twang of that MGD stuck with me for weeks that summer as I struggled with my feelings of uncertainty over my life. Fifteen years later I can’t so much as see Miller Genuine Draft without thinking of that moment.
The perfect beer moment isn’t always a monumental memory tied to change or loss or coming of age. Usually, in fact, they are so much smaller and simpler (but no less powerful.) Perhaps it catches you for just a moment, like a glint in the sun. A simple pale ale with an al fresco lunch on a spring day when you forget, even if for just a heartbeat, the worries of the world around you in the hops and the malt. Those moments are perfect, but would they be different, would they be less perfect with any other beer?
Michael Jackson espoused that there was a beer for every moment, and modern craft beer culture is built around this idea. We strive to sample beers from many different breweries, in as many different styles and varieties, that we can. Not so that we can claim to find the best or to discover our favorite, but instead to build a catalog of experiences in our memory in the hope that when we reach for a beer or call for a pint we will pick the option most likely to provide that fleeting, satisfying, moment of perfection. A craft beer geek will attempt to pair a beer with a situation the way they pair a beer with a cheese. And why not? It is an enjoyable aspect to drinking beer. Making a choice that fits just right with your surroundings and activities is one of those simple victories in life that are just so satisfying. But it is all too easy to get so caught-up in the engineering of these perfect moments that we miss them. They flow on by and leave us thirsty.
Beer might be magic. It might be spiritual, and delicious, and nourishing, but the beer isn’t the most important part of that perfect beer moment. The most important aspect of that perfect moment is your own acknowledgement of the moment. If you recognize that the present moment, and every one that follows, is a gift then every moment with a beer can be that perfect beer moment.
Next time you sit down with a glass of beer, be it a superlative craft brew or a simple can of lager, be mindful of the moment. Take a deep breath and smell the hops, exhale and envision the sun shining on fields of barley and rows of hop bines. Peer at the beer as your raise the glass and imagine all the hands that the beer has passed through, all the labor and engineering it took to get into your glass. Experience the first sip fully. Feel the liquid flow across your tongue and palate. For one sip think of all the twists and turns that you life has taken leading up to that moment. As you swallow the beer, marvel at everything that has colluded to bring you to this moment. How does that taste?