Tuesday, March 31, 2009

taking time to stop and taste the beer

We all know the saying “to stop and smell the roses”, but just what does that mean? Should I literally stop when I find a rose and smell it? What will I find, other than an itchy nose and aggravated allergies? The phrase itself is an idea, or ideal depending on how you want to look at it. It is prophetic as well as cautionary. Personally, I feel it also relates to the theology “life is short”, and we all know my motto: Life is short. Drink good beer. We exist encapsulated in a very small bubble of time in comparison to the whole picture. I want to try as hard as I can each day to stop and smell the roses, or in my case, to stop and taste the beer.

It is far too easy to get trapped in the high-paced life of commercialism, consumerism, materialism, technology, science, and greed (to name a few). Wanting beyond the means of your true desire sends one spiraling into the trap of wanting for the misguided reason of wanting. As we enter into an era of harder economic times, I feel that what may appear to be our worst obstacle shall instead prove to be our greatest triumph. As the pendulum of necessity starts to take a swing for the other-side of extreme modernism, hopefully adversity will turn into a better balance between luxury and necessity. There is nothing wrong with wanting things; goodness knows I have plenty, too much actually. As I come into the next stage of my life, I find endless invigoration in the growing Zen for balance between who I have been for the last 31 years of my life, where I am now, and who I am growing into.

So what does that have to do with taking time to stop and taste the beer?

It is about stopping to really enjoy, to really savor, to really be in the moment and in life each and every beer at a time. To use all my senses for what they are worth. To spark that long dormant desire for learning, exploring, and tasting of the frothy cup of life.

How can I not when beer lives on as the oldest known beverage of mankind. Having slaked our thirsts for hundreds of reasons dating back as far as around 9000BC, each glass I sup is not just a living work of art; it is a living piece of history. The boring, mass-produced, and practically flavorless fizzy yellow swill that almost threatened to destroy the rich heritage of beer is also a piece of history, but a rather one-sided glimpse at that with the personality of a cold dictator. My whole body was born to heighten my senses which in turn allow me to enjoy as much of what I see, touch, smell, hear, feel, speak, and think. These very words I write are living proof.

Of course, enjoying all that life has to offer isn’t just about beer, but in my not so humble opinion, nothing better encapsulates all that life has to offer than beer. Beer is a living product of evolution, society, government, culture, war, peace, rebellion, creativity, desire, technology, craftsmanship, and daring; to name a few. Each bottle I open is a brand new journey unto itself. Who made it? What beer style is it? What story and history lies behind its creation and survival? Is it a rare limited release? A once in a lifetime experience? Were fresh, natural ingredients used, or did the brewery take the lesser road and use cheap adjuncts and chemicals, earning my disdain and my scorn? Will my first sip be a moment of wonder and revelation, a personal beervana? Who can I share this wonder with as I discover further the mysteries, joys, and pleasures of life?

The world is infinitely larger and vaster than the tiny little suburbia that we see outside our equally tiny window as we wallow in our close-minded one-sightedness that chooses to ignore all things outside our comfort zone. Ignorance isn't bliss; ignorance is simply ignorance. But that can't be because we are right, and they are wrong, right?


We are the world and the world is us. We are but a microscopic fraction of the factors that play into how the world we live in works. To our benefit, we can only do so much within what we are capable of at anytime. There will always be an encompassing picture in which we have little to no say, sometimes despite our best efforts otherwise. It is when we have the ability to widen our horizons, open our minds, take the slightly harder path, but choose not to that we truly lose. Just as people are diverse, so is beer. Unfortunately, beer is currently defined by one commonly known style based not on the beer itself but instead on the ruthless skill and bullish tactics of mass commercialism, propaganda, campaigning, and so forth.

I could accept the easy path of not thinking about what I am drinking, and just do what the scantily clad lady holding her overly cold frosty mug on some tropical beach somewhere tells me to do. Or I can decide for myself what I like to taste in beer, and that is diversity of flavor. That is what our tastebuds and a free thinking mind rich with curiosity is for, after all.

That mass-produced fizzy yellow product of marketing would be the 'standard lager'. The pale lager has only been only around for a couple hundred years, whereas the wild worldly status of beer, in various forms has been around as far back as around 9000BC. The pale lager has nothing on beer in terms of sheer diversity, history, culture, intrigue, and enjoyment. Even if you cannot make that coveted trip to Belgium this year, in America alone we can and do enjoy the largest localized selection of quality beer in the world. To leave America, I would and will visit dozens of countries to experience their people and their culture through their living history; beer. All those hundreds of varieties of beers available globally I can enjoy here, in America. Of course, there is magic to be found in drinking a Saison DuPont in its home country of Belgium, but for now, we are inarguably in a rather enviable state of beeriness where quality and diversity reign.

No, I am not waxing poetic or blowing a whole bunch of hooey. For myself, and hundreds of thousands of others, beer is where it is at. They too understand and embrace the philosophy of taking time to stop and taste the beer. It is that moment of clarity where we demand better for ourselves. When all is said and done, the stuff we have is only as good as the worth we attach to it and what we do about it. Demanding change. Demanding responsibility. Demanding diversity and the freedom that comes with choice. Choosing an open mind, an open heart, and understanding over ignorance and dogged dogma. Everywhere in the world we are all united in our battle to taking time to taste the beer and hopefully to preserve that for future generations.

Maybe it is old age, maybe it is life experiences, maybe it is really just about the beer, but I am going to do my best to make time to stop and taste the beer, each and every one. Where I have been, where I am now, and where I will be going in the future; it will always be the same. I don’t want to ever take the back seat to my life anymore. I may stumble, and I may fall, but I will get back up again, and waiting for me will be the simple joy of enjoying a beer I have never tried before, or being reunited with a tried and true friend who has been through thick and thin with me. In no way am I advocating irresponsibility or excess; I have seen first-hand what addiction does to people. Instead, what I am advocating and living is the philosophy, the idea or ideal, behind taking time to stop and taste the beer. No frills, no fuss, no BS, just simple pleasures for a hopefully simpler life.

Life is short. Drink good beer.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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