(Same note as yesterday: If I missed anyone, it was not intentional, I just didn’t see your link on Twitter or in the comments of the announcement. If you don’t see yourself here, send me a link and I’ll add you.)
I broke my round-up in half, right down the perforated line on the edge of the blog, partly because of length, but partly because a full third of the entries seemed to follow the same motif. In a style I like to call “beer memoir” (memboir? Bemoir?), lots of intrepid writers dug down into their memory banks to lift out their favorite beer-splashed stories.
I enjoy this nonfiction format because it gives me more context about why beer is important to a person, their family, and their history. It fizzes in all those otherwise fuzzy details about their identity as human beings, not just as drinkers, and lets me connect to them on a personal level that is missing in a generic review. A beer memoir is a microcosm of what I think all beer writing should be, the heart of why beer matters, so bravo to all of you took exit 6B for Memoirtown.
I’ll start with our next Session host, Doug Smiley, who showed us through a touching homage to his home and family, that beer isn’t always about the fanciest ingredients. It’s more about who you share it with, and the memories you build around it. His Iron City is my Boddingtons; a single beer, that despite objectively better options, somehow sends out taste buds longing. I think we all have one of those, a generally “meh” beer made better by that adjunct we often overlook: nostalgia.
Ryan Mould wrote similarly, regaling us with tales of Maine, and summers, and cats named after brewing essentials. It’s very awesome to see where a beer enthusiast got his start, and in Ryan’s story we are taken on a quick literary tour of where he first learned what wort was, which I assume, cascaded into a life-long love affair. I feel like I know Ryan a tiny bit better now, and would love to pick his brain about the Shipyard brews he downed in those lost Atlantic days.
There are some stories that are so well written, so spot-on, that they stir up all the dust in the room spontaneously, and make my eyes water (which is totally different than crying). Derrick Peterman (or as I’d like to call him, Brew Dad of the year, 2014) gave us an incredibly insightful and thoughtful comparison of his infected batch of otherwise amazing homebrew, and his autistic son, Brandon. The comparison was no only apt, but so well articulated that I can’t help but want to read more of Derrick’s work. This was the only homebrew related post in the Session, and I think his metaphor could go even further, if applied to all the tribulations we face and try to brew our way through. He closes with a quote surely spawned from the purest corners of a compassionate heart: “If you’ve ever brewed a flawed beer and still loved it anyway, I think you’ll understand.”
Natasha (aka Tasha) captured the very essence of memoir, possibly infused with blackberry and spiked with raspberry, if we’ll allow such delicious abstractions. Her darting reminiscence and wishes for the future, all intertwined around BCBS Bramble Rye, left me with tart tastes on the tongue of my mind. I seriously felt like I could taste the bursting fruit of this blog post. I also find it interesting that BCBS Bramble Rye is now retired. A perfect conclusion to three perfect days that can never be recreated, except in Tasha’s memory.
A lot of us complain about seasonal creep in beer, all those pumpkin beer hitting the shelves in August, all those light, refreshing spring beers popping up while a lot of us are still cowering under the snowy hug of grumpy-ass winter. But Keith Mathais said “damn the man!” (partly due to no other options) and embraced the seasonal creep by drinking Christmas beer on Halloween. I think he touched on a deeper idea that we should just enjoy the beer for what is is when it is, but also about how our holidays, based on how and who we spend them with, are in his perfect word, “congruent.”
Vincent Speranza gave us what feels and read like a drunken night out in SoHo, circa 2000, longing for tacos, drinking beer from buckets. This flash back is similar to a lot of my own; lots of speculation about what actually happened, who I challenged to a foot race or a fight, just how exactly I wound up where, and the ever present, seething, burning desire to find something good to eat. If Vincent’s goal was to capture a 14 year-old blur on the page, mission accomplished, and I love him for it.
The next post could have easily been included with yesterday’s miscellaneous section, but Bill Kostkas was the only person (aside from Alan at Growler Fills) to raise his hand and say, “no, sir, you are silly. I am a beer reviewer and to not review a beer is insufferable nonsense!” But after stating that, also played along, and gave us a third party memoir, from the infamous (and famous?) Clifford Calvin. All I can say is, Cheers!
The Beer Nut (whose real name I could not find for the life of me) took us arid, deep into the lagery depths of The Grand Hotel Tazi, in Marrakesh, Morocco. This was one of the only posts to go international without already being international (if that makes sense) and Nut’s vivid capture of Morocco’s beer scene stood in perfect juxtaposition to the vivdlessness of the beer itself. If the pictures betray anything, all beer in Marrakesh, regardless of brand, looks exactly the same. Nut get +1000 bonus points here for claiming the Session was “under my aegis.” Swoon.
In the post that I think most explicitly aligned with the sentiment I was going for, Jon Jefferson pointed out that “Our emotions tied to memory are our strongest” and that “you can claim you are analytically tasting and all that but the reality is, our flavor and emotional memories are the guiding principles that we use when judging anything.” These two quotes sum up this Session for me: we’re nothing without our memories and experiences, and each and every one fuels what we see, taste, smell, hear, and touch. Objectivity does not exist when even a smidgen of subjectivity slips in, and I think Jon gets that. I’d be happy to try my hand at brewing Orangeboom, if Jon was interested, and a recipe could be unearthed.
To round-out this round-up, James’s post just, excuse my lapse in proper diction, fucking nails it. This is the kind of thing I want to read every day, that echoes the beauty of Good Beer Hunting’s recent treatise on Hill Farmstead Brewing. I get so much about Australia, James himself, and the myriad minutiae that bring him to write. It’s the kind of engaging word-smithery that I long for, and hope others will emulate going forward.
I’m so thankful to everyone who played along with my crazyness, and hope they pulled something from the detritus of an otherwise incoherent Session. Write on, sweet friends. Drink, and write on.