Think back to the last beer you had… Not just the aroma, the the taste, or the style that beer was, but more importantly, where you were? Where did you enjoy your last beer? If I had to bet, though given it could have been in your dining room or your bedroom watching TV, I would bet the last local beer you enjoyed was drank with someone else. Possibly even a couple of someone else's. Chances are, you didn't just enjoy it alone.
Each of us is very capable of enjoying a beer by ourselves, and some of us even enjoy the quiet solitude of deconstructing a beer through its color or scent, even the way it feels as it rolls of our taste buds and, of course, the way it taste. Beer by proxy, especially craft beer, is a beverage best enjoyed with others; it is an experience that's meant to be shared.
In the craft beer world today, there are no shortages of styles or flavors. You, yourself, are constantly pushing the bar to new heights. What's new? What's intriguing? We can't stop talking about it. From beer snobs and aficionados, to style purists, to your casual everyday bar conversation we all have an opinion and something to discuss when it comes to this amazing beverage. Often, people forget that beer is food. Much like food, we can discuss our favorite attributes how we love the aroma for the way that it taste, the aesthetically pleasing colors, how everything forms together on a plate to make an enjoyable experience that this is all so very much how you would describe beer. Though dinner alone can be an enjoyable experience, nothing can surpass that experience when it is shared with friends, family, and peoples whose opinions and taste matter to the individual.
Let's start with the vessel, shall we? When glass first became affordable to the middle class, beer, echoing our taste became more clear. Every individual could not wait to show off their new glassware, and what a better way than through beer? Especially a clear delicious one. If you look now, you will find many of these same bottles, vibrantly colored with elaborate calligraphy. Some are actually served in boxes with tissue paper, or even in a basket with a bottle covered in dust. Many bottles not only have a cap that requires prying off, so you can hear that effervescent “hisss” of a new bottle being opened, but many are even corked, meant to stand the test of time. It requires effort, and even showmanship, to open and enjoy the deliciousness within. Pouring this living, breathing, food into a glass can be an amazing experience all in itself. From nitrogen-infused stouts that cascade from the bottom to the top of the glass, to rainbow colored sours or spontaneously fermented lambic beers, to the white tight bubbly head that looks like champagne, down to the hazy juice looking liquid that's poured into a glass port in the right glassware, watching the bubbles rush in and burst at the top releasing a fireworks display of a aroma ranging from everything to piney and resiny, to fruit filled forest, dank musty barns, fields of wheat on the sunset, dark ripe or aged fruits, chocolate and coffee... there really is no end, and we are all often surprised by the nostalgia that those very aromas awaken. So who wouldn't want to share that experience with someone? Oh yeah, let's not leave out taste; just smelling a beer gives you a sense of what it tastes like already. That's just half of the experience. A well constructed beer can even sneak up with a sucker punch and hit you from an angle that you never expected. Truly astounding your nose and your eyes, leaving you feeling betrayed that they may have deceived you. Yet, leaving you pleasantly surprised and fulfilled.
Since fermented beverages were first discovered, it is seems like magic to us how this living liquid to change into something as enjoyable as it is intoxicating. Since the dawn of brewing, people have wanted to discuss and exchange recipes, and learn how to do the alchemical concoctions and techniques. They have wanted to revel in the inventions and creations of fellow yeast wranglers. All the way up until 1980, it was illegal to brew beer in America; but elsewhere, in the world clubs and guilds that were well-established, they had already been doing it for a very long time. If you would have looked to Europe, their monastic organizations have been brewing longer than some countries have even been in existence. We, as a people, have always been enthralled by the art of brewing. And we, as a people, have always discussed it and craved new or different information.
The American scene has changed the entire dynamic, which systematically changes the scene itself. It dictates what is new and upcoming in craft beer. As more and more young ambitious craft brewers follow in the shoes of Ken Grossman, Sam Calagione, or Vinnie Cilurzo and aspire to reach the heights set down by such amazing giants of the industry, we all benefit and change the very course and future of what this beverage becomes. When craft brew first came around and started eating up profits from the macro industry, there were so many that said it was a fad that it would die out and we could all just wait it out, but I believed the community was too strong, that there would be a resurgence of people who drink at “their” local pub or brewery. It will be what pushes craft-beer ahead, how many people talk about what their grandfather drank, “Well, he always drank *insert macro beer here* so I'm going to drink *insert macro beer here*.” If you go back far enough, it was a local pubs that were doing the brewing, local pubs where everyone met up to talk about their day, to exchange gossip, to unwind. And the beer was brewed there, the beer was brewed through the hard effort, passion, and love of the craft. So chances are, your great great grandfather, actually drank at the local pub and not watered down rice and corn adjunct mainstream lager. Walk into any craft brewery, and you will find a plethora of people holding up their glasses, bathing in the aroma of their beverage, and discussing what's on their palate. Beer has changed our very communities many times, even some of the smallest have at least one microbrewery, many have several. And the sole reason they exist is for the people in the community. They have driven it, and the community has allowed them to flourish to grow into the taverns of old; the true Town Halls where more people meet and gather to discuss and celebrate, all over an amazing beverage brewed by one of their own.
That neighbor you shared a beer with in the garage, who may also be that neighbor you brewed a beer with in the garage, could very well be that neighbor brewing barrels of beer at your favorite local brewery. Both the community and the breweries they have helped flourish owe a BIG thanks to one another. It is a symbiotic relationship that has helped shape the brewing world all over.
So if you have a local brewery you love, support your neighbor. Promote them. Give them actual honest feedback about their brews and establishment. Lift them up as they are actually your neighbor. Organize bottle shares with your neighbors and friends. This is a great way to not only share the experience of an amazing “Whale” (hard to find rare beers) beers you have been stowing away, open up amazing dialogs you would've never had, get to know all of them, try brews you may have never discovered, but you will reap the benefits of knowing that this is how the beverage was meant to be drank: Locally, shared with friends and neighbors. And in the process you will enrich your community in the process. Cheers!