The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing of all the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry (see link, posted to comments in due course). This month’s Session is by Douglas Smiley at Baltimore Bistros and Beer (bmorebistroandbeers.blogspot.co.uk) on the topic of how we drink. What compels us to drink? How would life be if beer no longer featured?
I don’t come from a family of big drinkers. My parents enjoy an occasional glass of wine; less occasionally they endure their youngest son wittering on about some beer or other, but you wouldn’t have them down as the drinking kind. My grandparents neither from what I recall: in fact, my maternal grandmother would make a point of warning me off beer when she saw me glugging back pints of water as a child. “Better that than beer” she would say. And so it follows quite logically that I’m not a big drinker myself. Never have been. I’ve never been one for over-indulging on alcohol, or at least, when I have, I’ve never enjoyed it.
So then, why do I drink?
You know, until now, I’ve never thought about it. Never had to. Never been asked. But it’s a damn fine question and should be honoured with a response.
Beer engages the senses. I love opening a beer. You know how the ‘steam’ rises out when you remove a crown? Puthers, more like; creeps out of the mouth and flops, hissingly, down the side of the bottle. I like that. Then there’s the pour. I like two fingers of head on my beer, and the sweep and swirl as the beer rolls into the glass like a cresting breaker smashing on the shore. I like that too. The settle entrances me. You don’t need nitrogen-flush canned beer to see the settle and stir of the beer as it calms down. It’s like staring at a supernova through a telescope. That’s magic – and no other drink does it for me in the same way. Beer is more than taste, it’s multi-dimensional.
Beer has a head. It staggers me that many people complain about the head on the beer (in the UK for sure) – as if the head is added from somewhere else and isn’t part of the drink itself. Anything more than a whisper is too often treated with derision. My view is the opposite. Beer isn’t beer without a decent head. It’s not just part of the beer, it’s the crown. It’s visual appealing of course, but so much more than that, it’s an uplifting moment of joy as you drink through the wafty, creamy bubbles to the liquid below; breathing in the aroma, wiping the false moustache away.
Beer has hops. Hops have grown on me. I remember in my early drinking days preferring malty, biscuity beers more, shying away from those heavily Kent hopped beers more typical in southern England. But then I drank Directors; Spitfire; Broadside and my education began. Then I went to America and drank new-fangled craft ales. Then I went to Czechoslovakia and tasted the crisp, flowery bouquet of the Saaz hop or to Bavaria where I experienced Hallertau Mittlefrüh. And just the other week, an English Saison with Nelson Sauvin. How could I live now without the beguiling complexity of the hop cone?
Beer is fascinating. How did it come about? Rather like the chicken or the egg, we ponder, ‘What came first, the beer or the bread?’. And beer isn’t just fermented – it can happen spontaneously in a cobweb encrusted lambic loft space, or in a planned way in a pristine lager brewery. Beer can be aged in a wooden cask and enjoy flavours emparted from bacteria or lactic acids, or appley sourness from malic fermentations. It can be brewed in a farmhouse, a tower or hibernate in the sleep of cold, down in a lagering cellar. Some modern Belgian beer styles go through remuage and dégorgement, like champagne and enjoy a fine mouse and bead of tiny bubbles just the same. Beer can be brewed from umpteen types of malt and other cereals too – rye, corn grists, emmer, spelt. Those same malts can be smoked to give a taste of salami. It’s a gift that never stops giving.
But most of all,
Beer is honest. “I think beer is something for ordinary people…for the common man. It’s something that ordinary people can drink moderately. Talk about politics, work…somehow it goes with democracy. People are often hesitant to talk about wine. They worry they might not pronounce it properly or something. But with beer, you don’t worry about that. Beer belongs to everyone. And I like that”. Fritz Maytag
© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2014