Beer: Don't Describe It, Drink It.
Most beer aficionados have a beer geek side that loves to break beers down, pull out the notes that create the liquid composition. You may hear such descriptions when beer tasting: Earthy, roasty, with a hint of citrus. However, the traditional tastings—like wine tastings—can deter the novice and experienced alike from enjoying the very essence of a pint: to connect with your friends and family.
I decided to forego traditions, invite some beer-loving friends in to my home and asked them, “Bring what you like to drink and don’t worry if you don’t know what kind of bittering hops were used.” The point was to get really cool people together to connect on a personal level, and beer was the conduit to do just that.
Beer is social glue that holds communities together. It is ubiquitous throughout history as the cornerstone of most communities and households. You had to drink it to survive most of the bleakest and darkest periods of human history. Drinking beer was essential not only because you were poor and had to work 20 back-breaking hours a day building a pyramid or growing food for a king, but because beer was safer to drink than water. Aside from providing safe hydration, it gave us communities too. For instance, the British gave us public houses or pubs as they are commonly known. These gathering places are the “third place” for community members to come for food, drink, and merriment. They were the social meeting places before we had Facebook. If you wanted to know what was going on in your town, politically or otherwise, you went to a pub to catch-up and interact intimately with your fellow citizen.
But what is more intimate that a pub? Your home. Inviting people to come in, stay, drink, and talk about whatever is on their mind, says volumes of what you think of your guests. My beer tasting was cleverly cloaked to appear as an event to celebrate and critique beer, but really it was a way to say, “You are special and we should drink and hang out.”
At times, we discussed some of the technical aspects of the various beers on the table, all of which were amazing, but mostly we discussed other things: traveling, music, relationships, and food. Our beer was the silent guest, prompting questions we were to discuss and answer throughout the night. Each food dish prompted more discussion: “How did you make that? What is in here that tastes so good?” Near the close of the evening, plans were being made to meet again; not only for more tastings, but to surf, play bocce ball, and to hang out. Shifting the focus of the tasting away from the technical to the experiential profited so much more than what kind of bittering hops were used to produce a beer’s flavor to what kind of person is sitting across from you.
So the next time you want to have a pint, call a friend or a few, and expect nothing but a good time.
All Photos © Laura Birshan
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