Friday, April 24, 2009

why beer? ~ the ramblings of a cultured dork

Baseball. College football. Fishing. Books. Music. Animals. Tomboy. Star Trek. Star Wars. RPG Games. Internet. Technology. Home Theater. Sociology. Psychology. Anime. Manga. Japan. Sushi. History. Sake. Single-malts. Rum. Beer ambassador.

The list really could go on, and as I write them, I feel that even now I am forgetting some. This is, after all, my meager attempt at gathering all the fleeting moments and enduring memories that make up all my passions. From past to present, they keep me moving me toward my ever elusive future. For good and for bad, for better and for worse, all have helped make me into who I am today. As I strive to live in the now, when I look back upon my life’s last breath, it’ll be a gas.

Ok, maybe that’s just hopeful speculation wrapped up in lucid delusions, but I would like to think not. I shall think not of the mistakes I made and how my life might have been, but of what it is now and who I am now. To heck with the rest; that’s ancient history.

Live and let live.

I am here now to throw wide open the doors of shame others might try to force unto me through a blind eye and willfully ignorant mind.

I am a dork, a dork of many trades to be exact, if my list above wasn’t enough of a clue. I have come to the conclusion that a dork is also a free thinker. We are the ones who aren’t afraid to be different. We tend to also attract those of a similar open-mindedness. We tend to take the road less traveled. To take that leap into the unknown. To turn our noses up at spite and jealous opposition. To embrace diversity, character, and honesty. To be more environmentally conscious. To forgive transgressions. To offer a helping hand. To be fair and frank. To be ourselves.

Over the years, I have lived as a free spirit, struggling against opposition while building upon my inner acceptance, pride, and purpose. Of course, I made sure to have plenty of fun along the way, and I still am. This quest has culminated in the most intriguing and inspiring conclusion: Beer.

31 years of life and living have brought me to the fascinatingly diverse and universal language of beer. Crazy? I think not.

  • What is the oldest known beverage in human history dating back to 6000BC, and maybe even further: Beer
  • Why did humanity evolve from a nomadic race to an agricultural race: Beer
  • What did both Catherine II of Russia and Queen Mary of England like to sup on the most, one in particular with her breakfast: Beer
  • Why did the Mayflower land in Plymouth, PA and not New York: Beer
  • What beverage kept mankind from disease and famine and possible extinction during centuries of tainted water: Beer

If there ever were a more vibrant, tangible piece of living history and culture that is a proud product of the people who both brew and drink it, I don’t know what is. You don’t necessarily have to agree with me on all points, but at least try to keep a bit of an open mind while I entertain you with further insights.

So, why beer?

I have always believed in doing what I liked and liking what I am doing. That singular truth has held me fast throughout the years, both good and bad. Beer encompasses everything that I have come to enjoy and value.

Diversity, history, culture, people, creativity, craftsmanship, originality, sustainability, flexibility, passion, and pride. There are books, movies, documentaries, contests, magazines, clubs, and controlee designations. As much a beverage of grace and finesse as wine, if not more so, beer is the ultimate frontier, my true calling which found me after 31 years of playing and searching. Ok, maybe more playing than searching, but sometimes the greatest revelations in our lives are the ones we least expect.

(According to my parents I used to call soda pop “Beer” when I was but a wee lass. Go figure…)

The world is truly my oyster; it just happens to be sitting in a sea of beer. From just outside my back door to all over the world, wherever I go there will be beer halls, pubs, and restaurants offering the brews of their people, their culture, and their history. New and old don’t collide in an explosion of conflict, but instead merge in almost seamless harmony as honored traditions are toasted while paving the way for new brewing traditions. How much closer to peace would we be if we put down our guns and our bombs and our oppressive laws and instead tossed back a pint or two together. No matter how different we may be, as soon as we all join in communal beer pleasures, we are the same. We are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and lovers enjoying civil and jovial conversation of an equally unified beverage of diversity.

I propose a decadent Belgian Quad or fine old ale be served at the next G2 Summit, not water.

Besides the endless discovery of new beers, new tastes, and new flavors, there are the people who make each and every moment possible. It is their vivacity and audacity which sparks the fire under my wort and keeps me coming back time and again for more good brews and more good company. There is no way I can ever know and taste everything there is to be tasted, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Even if I can’t taste it all, I can study as much of it as possible at any given moment. School, books, magazines, essays, and documentaries are just some of the means to preserving and discovering the life and times of beer. From the very first Pilsner that was brewed in Plzen, Czechoslovakia to a born-again beer based on ingredients discovered Honduran pottery fragments dating back to around 1200BC, the discoveries are endless. Not too shabby for what is commonly yet mistakenly accredited as a simple backyard lawn-mower beverage that sparkles like seltzer water and pretty much tastes like it, too.

Yes, the America Standard Lager is a beer. One type of beer out of thousands, and today’s over-marketed example of brewing excellence which is so far removed from lager’s original glory that spoke of natural ingredients, quality, diversity, and rich taste. Now I love a good lager as much as the next person, good being the key word. Of course the interestingly vague origins of lagers and their eventual evolution from dark to amber to golden and vivacious to thin, watery, and overly-carbonated has been interesting to say the least, controversial to say the most. But I digress.

I grew up in a world of fire and light, stars and galaxies, oceans and shimmering sands, elves and sorcerers, demons and angels, and as far removed from reality as possible. After all, life sucked most of the time for many years on end thanks to the generosity of my fellow peers and their ignorant contempt. Hah! What did they know. I still stuck to my guns and followed my passions. To this day, right now as my fingers fly across my laptop keyboard, I hold fast to the spirit of my Self which allows me to always be true. Now all of that has culminated in my life’s new work in progress: Beer.

Beer came a-calling to my port and I boarded with nary a second thought, bound for whatever sudsy horizons await. Everything which had held me enthralled and made my heart race throughout my youth, teenhood, and adult years was to be found in this fermented beverage. A gift from the gods? Magic? How could this be? Well, however it could be, I certainly didn’t fight all that much. As a passionate advocate of enjoying the tangible and visceral wonders of life to the highest extent possible, beer was just the next destined step.

Life is living after all, and beer is as alive as you, me, and my pet kitty, Mr. D. It breathes, it speaks, it consoles, it woos, and it confronts all in the name of being eu de vie. Past, present, and future; at any given moment, I can sit down with a glass of living history.

  • The Paulaner Salvator, the very first doppel bock brewed by the Paulist monks in the late 1700s is still brewed to this day. It is no longer brewed on the Paulist Monastery grounds, but it is still brewed true to its original recipe.
  • The Trappist monks of Westmalle still brew their indomitable Tripel, the very first Belgian Tripel upon which all others owe their pedigree.
  • In a small town in Czechoslovakia known as Plzen, a revolutionist brewed using their soft water and herbal hops the very first crystal clear golden lager bursting with crisp flavor, herbaceous hops, and a thirst quenching palate unlike no other. We know this beer as Pilsner Urquell which translated means “original source”.
  • Beer wasn’t just for commoners. The legendary King Midas enjoyed a beer brewed with native ingredients such as Muscat Grapes, saffron, and honey along with all the other usual beer suspects (barley, water, yeast, and hops).
  • Transport yourself to Scotland of yore, 2000BC of yore to be exact, and sup on a beer brewed with heather for a hazy and floral supping delight. Today, Fraoch keeps that Scottish brewing tradition alive with their Fraoch Heather Ale brewed with heather and Scottish peat for a delicate revivalist brew of historical traditions.

On a side note, beer is a beverage fermented from grain which, sorry vinophiles, means sake falls under beer, not wine.

Not too shabby for the simple beverage scornfully referred to as “just beer”. Maybe the pale, lackluster, seltzer-esque versions are “just beer” but obviously that does not apply to everyone. I am not everyone; I am me. To everyone who is their own person, I raise my glass of glorious beer to you:

  • Leaning against the countertop in a London pub, a spot-on pint of fresh cask ale glimmering in the low light.
  • Making merry at a communal table as a feisty fraulein appears bearing a brimming glass of marzen to accompany your hearty plate sausage and sauerkraut.
  • Sunken low in a well-worn lounger at a small Belgian Abbey Restaurant, a distinguished gentleman sups his local Belgian ale while perusing the daily paper in quiet ambience.
  • Touring the innards of a local brewery as brewers work their magic to brew a beer so divine even the heavens would blush.
  • Relaxing in a new Japanese pub where the beers are all delightfully different, proudly boasting traditional Japanese flavors alongside traditional brewing flair.
  • Note-pad and pen in hand, reveling in the continuous onslaught of new beers as the tasting goes on into the wee hours of the night where laughter and revelry coincide with beery respect.

I would like to selfishly think that the veritable Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter and Whisky Chaser, would approve. With each hiss of the cap, with each pop of the cork, with each pour, and each last drop supped and savored I am creating a living moment of history while bringing to life each acute sensation as they are revealed to me. I am paying homage to the passionate and hard-working brewmasters who sweat blood, tears, and love to bring me to this moment.

To me. To life. To beer.

Salud. Prost. Kanpai.

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

1 comment:

  1. WOW Kristyn!! Were you always a poet or does your subject inspire you!!? So glad you put this link on the newsletter! All of it: the pic, history, data, "laughter and beery respect" and your unigue magical viewpoint on everything really give a positive lilt to your readers!! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your future postings and newletter. Maureen