Every other Thursday, Brewed for Thought and BetterBeerBlog are teaming up for a piece called Hopinions. We will alternate who picks the topic and trade emails on the subject, two apiece. This week my topic for this collaborative effort was inspired by Pete Brown and a contest he’s hosting which asks “Why Beer Matters.”
From Mario at Brewed For Thought:
Pete Brown is the best UK writer on the topic of beer, at least that’s what the British Guild of Beer Writers say. He’s also a generous guy and is giving away a trip to the Czech Republic to visit the Budvar brewery.
It’s simple. You need to write a thousand-word piece on the subject of ‘Why Beer Matters’, interpreted in whatever way you see fit. You need to send this to me at [email protected] by 29th January, remembering to include your real name, postal address and contact telephone number.
While neither of us are eligible for this contest as we’ve actually made it to print media, I think the topic is a great one. Why doe beer matter? I’m far too lazy to write 1,000 words when it isn’t required, but here are my thoughts.
Beer matters because of its history. Beer convinced nomadic peoples to start the first civilization. Beer built the Pyramids. Beer provided calories and a clean drinking supply that powered the Age of Exploration and the Industrial Revolution. Today, beer is roughly a $300 billion industry.
Beer matters because it fuels social interactions around the world. Yes, we don’t need alcohol to have a good time, but it sure as hell helps. Beer is an acceptable and fitting beverage in casual drinking settings. Think of the numerous situations where a beer provides the strength and sessionable qualities that are called for? Sometimes, drinking whiskey might just be a bit too much.
Lastly, beer matters because we say it does. As craft beer aficionados, we can wax poetic on the subject for days, but even to those who don’t care as much about beer as we do, the idea of taking away their beer could lead to serious social unrest. Beer is the beverage of the masses, and for that reason alone, it matters.
What do you think Pete?
From Peter at BetterBeerBlog:
In the evening of July 30, 2009, three men took a seat around your garden variety patio table. Passionate discussions were had, beer was consumed, and 40 minutes later each man went their separate ways.
This meeting was more than just a few friends having a spirited discussion about their favorite baseball teams or whose kid was doing better in school. This wasn’t your typical “guys night in” of poker, barbecue or beer. This was a meeting to discuss strong allegations of racism, misconduct and speaking before you know all the facts. You see, the three men seated at this table were Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Sgt. James Crowley and Barak Obama, President of the United States.
This “teachable moment”, known affectionately in some circles as the “beer summit”, was an opportunity to air out grievances and move forward with lessons learned in the spirit of humility, compassion and understanding.
Said Obama after the highly anticipated, 40-minute chat on the Rose Garden patio: “I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart.”
Unfortunately none of the men backtracked on what each had said earlier, opting instead to agree to disagree. Even more unfortunate was the choice of beer being served: Bud Light, Blue Moon and Sam Adams Light for the President, Crowley and Gates, respectively.
And this is why beer matters.
At a time when the election of our nation’s first black President seemed to signal the beginning of the end of racism, the beverage of choice at this casual yet serious meeting about racism was beer. It wasn’t wine, whiskey, champagne or Cognac. It was beer. The supposed beverage of the masses was being enjoyed by, arguably, the most powerful man in the free world. Had President Obama and company downed pints of Arrogant Bastard, Drakes 1500 or Westmalle Tripel, I think this meeting would’ve been an irrevocable success instead of being a “teachable moment”.
From Mario at Brewed For Thought:
I love it Pete! So Barrack Obama is saying beer is stronger than racism. I’m on board.
It’s funny that you bring up the idea of people sitting down with others whom they might find reprehensible. I know for a fact that I have sat down with people whom I cared very little for simply because beer was there.
I’m sure we’ve found ourselves sitting at a bar next to someone who falls into this category. Do we get up and move or leave all together? Probably not. We might continue ordering pints or possibly strike up a conversation (it may even be a pleasant one) with this person.
The old rule of thumb at the bar is no politics and no religion. It sounds like we’ve come to an agreement to set these petty issues aside in the name of something truly important: beer.
So Pete, aside from yours truly, who’s company have you suffered simply for the beer? Have you have a beer summit of your own?
From Peter at BetterBeerBlog:
“Barack Obama says, ‘Beer is Stronger than Racism!’”. Sounds like a t-shirt idea if there ever was one.
It’s funny that you should ask if I’ve ever suffered the slings and arrows of someone I dislike in order to enjoy a beer. The short answer is, “no” but the expanded answer would probably be that I was the reprehensible one. Early on during my blogging days, I though I was hot stuff. I thought I was knowledgeable, I thought I knew my shit about beer and I didn’t hesitate to share my knowledge with the people around me. Especially when I’m drunk. No one’s had to put me in my place but I learned very quickly I didn’t know diddly squat about diddly squat. Besides Sammy’s done a very fine job of putting me in my place already.
When I think about it, I don’t think I’ve had a “beer summit” of my own. I’ve drank with people who may not have acknowledged/ignored me but that’s not quite the same. I’ve drunk with people who disparage craft breweries but I forgive them for they know not what they do. Most of all, I just avoid the situation altogether.
Enjoying a beer goes far beyond simply drinking the beer. You have to take into account the atmosphere of the place. I could be drinking at a total dive but if the crowd is cool, then it’s all good. By extension you have to take into account the company you keep. There’s nothing like bad company to effectively ruin a good night. Bad company will ruin a night faster than a bar that smells like piss. Sure it’s not really conductive to beer enjoyment when you smell piss instead of hops but I can forgive that if the beer selection is good. Well, for a short time anyway.
Bringing it all back home, beer matters because it does, because we say it does. When we write about beer, we give it substance and context that extends beyond the pint glass. Beer matters because of the stories that are told while enjoying it. Beer matters because of the stories created while making it. Beer matters to all the people who contribute to its $300 billion worth. For many, beer pays the bills, puts food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.
Long after the pint glass is empty, the grain stores are bare and the hops withered away, beer will still continue to matter. It will continue to matter not because of what it has done for people but for what it can do. If beer can help squash the beef between a police officer, a professor and the POTUS, well then we just all might be onto something good. I’ll drink to that.