Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life Can Be Defined In Hops, Barley and Fermentation.

The other day a good looking woman reminded me (if you get the choice of who reminds you of things, go with the good looking woman) of a Hunter S. Thompson quote. That quote was "Good people drink good beer". I dig this, even if it's not 100 percent accurate. Some of the best people I know drink absolutely horrible beer. But that's not the direction I want to take this post. Instead of listing all the good people I know and their beer of choice, I'm going to focus more on the beer itself, and maybe a little bit of the romance surrounding it.
First things first I have to tell you all that I am indeed from Wisconsin. This will be important later on trust me. Okay now that's out of the way let me start actually speaking about something. Beer is great, it's old, it's traditional, some of it tastes good, some of it tastes great, some of it tastes horrible. The images surrounding beer though are what I find truly amazing. I remember hearing a story once that J.R.R. Tolkien decided to write The Lord Of The Rings while drinking in a pub with a few other writer friends. Whether that's true or not doesn't really matter, it's that image of creative people gathered with one another sharing ideas and bouncing new schemes and plans off each other while sharing a beer. In fact it's been reported that a good number of famous authors partook in the drinking of beer with their colleagues. Is it possible to be creative with others without beer? Sure it is, but I'd like to think that it's not quite as fun.
I can speak from experience here that it's not always easy to share one's creativity with others, sometimes you just need that social lubricant.
Don't get me wrong though, I don't think that drinking beer with intellectuals is the only time to drink beer. I enjoy sports. I'm not a fanatic like a couple of my friends are, but I do enjoy watching a baseball game, a football game, a soccer match, and from time to time a basketball game. Now I prefer to watch these live in the stadiums. To me it's the ultimate sport viewing experience. You're surrounded by people who are there for the same reason you are. You're watching the modern day gladiators put on a show for you, you're screaming and hollering and you have a beer in your hands. To me that's American. I know that that sounds ridiculous and that it's just dripping with blind patriotic goodness but I like it.
But sometimes you're not surrounded by friends, there's no game on that night and your mind is completely blank of any sort of creative idea. This does not mean that you can't enjoy a beer. In fact, one of my favorite times to drink beer is when I'm by myself, in an empty house. Some guidance counselors will try and tell you that this is a sign of alcoholism, but I disagree. Some of my most cherished moments are the moments when I can tune out from all the thoughts that plague me during the day, throw on some good music, put my feet up and sip a strong bitter beer. There's something about the rhythm of bringing the bottle, glass, can up to your lips, letting the liquid flow in and then swallowing the brew down, that seems to lull me into a strange hypnotic state.
So, what is the point of me sharing with you all those images that I think of when I think of beer? Well, the point is is that beer is one of those rare things that can be enjoyed by people from all facets of life. Whether you're a contemplative poet, a real man's man, or a quiet loner. Beer is something that seems to transcend social class, status, occupation and hobby. It's taste is something that can be appreciated by most pallets. It's the great unifier.
Now, this is where I explain how I came to appreciate beer. Like I said earlier, I'm from Wisconsin, more specifically, I was born in Milwaukee. Milwaukee and Wisconsin in general are places with a ton to offer. But let's be honest here people, beer is typically one of the first things associated with the state and the city. But this isn't a bad thing. It's a part of every Wisconsinite's history and culture. This state was born in the holes of miners, but it thrived in the concoctions of brewmasters. I've always been a fan of history, so when I look back through the pages of Wisconsin lore, I find myself smiling at the role beer has in it all. So now, when I drink a beer, I get this feeling that in a small insignificant way, I'm reaching back and connecting with all those who sat by the banks of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, The Mississippi River, The Wisconsin River, The Black River, before me. All those who traveled down National Ave. I-94 and I-90 are my friends and drinking mates for just a few moments.
So, cheers to the contemplative poet, cheers to the man's man, cheers to the quiet loner, cheers to the long dead residents of Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Bayfield, Green Bay, and everywhere in between.

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