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Beer is Life

Eno Sarris, May 12, 2016 -   

This post is born only of a title and a picture. You've seen both, so you've been primed as I was today. 

The title may make you think of the beer life, which we've all hopped right into. Beer is Life for us because we drink it, we talk about it, we write about it, we read about it, many of us brew it, and we look forward to drinking it on the weekends when we're not drinking it on weekdays. Not in any sort of desperate way, but it's so interwoven with relaxation that it's The Life like a long sigh, feet up on the table, and a remote in your other hand. 

But then there's the picture. That does not look fun or relaxing. That looks like hard work.

That picture came from a fun post on WeAreBrewStuds called Baptism by Trub. You should go read it, it's entertaining and enlightening. Apparently, and I didn't know this, apparently brewers take a full face of freezing pre-beer of some sort or another at some point in their beer making lives. It's disgusting, but it's a badge of honor, and they seem to have fun with it. 

And this is the other, more complicated part of the title.

Beer is life because it is tangible. It's a foodstuff, so it requires rolled up sleeves, dirty work, and muscles. Not in any sort of chauvinistic way -- there are just big bags of grain to be moved, tubs to be turned over, kegs to be hauled. It's a physical, dirty job. 

That's part of the appeal. 

When I wrote about Clandestine Brewing's birth in San Jose, one of their founding members talked about the physicality of brewing and what it meant to a group of software engineers in the bay area. 

There's some synergy in Kelly's pragmatism and Conticello's optimism, and in other ways. "The four brewers are all software engineers and Kelly felt that they all, on some level, had a desire to "try to do something physical, feel something tangible" after typing on their computers all day.

Nothing more tangible than a face full of freezing beer foam. 

Where this gets complicated, of course, is when it becomes a force for marketing. If the physicality and tangibility are appealing, then you can tap into the blue collar, 'real life' aspect of beer. Of course, that's already happening, in simple ways like politicians using craft beer pubs as neutral meetup spots because of this blue collar appeal, but also in an ugly way that has Big Beer fighting Little Beer for the Quien Es Mas Real championship belt. 

And in fact, it pits some of the stuff we do here, and online, against what's happening in the brewery. Is this real life? Is this beer writing, and this beer research, and this beer tracking, anywhere as real as the hard work brewers do in the trenches? Are we the effete beer snobs that are depicted in the advertisements? 

The answer is no. Here's why.

In baseball, there's a correlary. Get your head out of the spreadsheets, say the fans that don't like numbers or don't want to hear about the minutia of the game. Quit writing from your mother's basement and... WATCH A GAME. 

It's an interesting call to arms, actually. The idea being that there is a class of people that loves this physical, intuitive game being played on the field but does not actually want to watch it is, of course, absurd, but in it you see that same Ivory Tower / In the Trenches dichotomy being flogged, for whatever gain. 

BUT! No matter what you think of the fact that there might be someone that only likes the numbers of baseball and doesn't watch, the absurdity of pushing that idea in beer has to be a no-go in any sane reflection. There is nobody here, reading this right now, that cares only about beer lists and beer numbers, and spends no time actually enjoying a beer with their feet up. That makes absolutely no sense. 

So, there's the beauty of that picture, paired with that title, and hopefully some of these words that followed. Beer is life, because it's where the head meets the hands meets the heart. At least here, we like to think about beer, we like to dream about beer, we like to brew beer, we like to get our hands dirty, and, most importantly, we love to taste and drink beer with good friends. 

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