(My round-up will be in two parts, due to length)
Listening to Garrett Oliver talk about many beer bloggers and journalists “missing the story behind beer” this weekend at the University of Kentuck Craft Writing Symposium makes me especially glad that I got such a great (and varied!) turn out for my turn hosting The Session. I was worried that the topic might be a little too avant garde, a little too Dogfish and not enough Sierra Nevada. I was worried it might annoy some people, or turn them off with it’s open endedness and unabashed rule breaking. But I got 31* responses ranging from silent movies to poems to stream of conciousness word art, and each and every post tickled the creative corners of my brain with feathery delight.
*(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 your self here, send me a link and I’ll add you. You may also be in part 2, coming tomorrow.)
With this Session, I wasn’t just trying to be silly. My goal was to get you thinking in a different way, a perpendicular way, perhaps even in a way that opened the door to something beyond the contents of the glass. Beer seems magical when you sink down into the scientific beauty of fermentation, but again, to paraphrase Mr. Oliver – “Beer isn’t chemicals; beer is people.” And people are stories. And poems. And films and songs and photos. The beer is only the surface of an ocean of lives lived in, with, on, around, and because of brewing.
I’ll start with those who used my second favorite medium next to words: photographs. Stan Hieronymus – partly responsible for starting this whole Session thing – presented 5 pictures, not necessarily beer related, with a beer name and a brief caption. The simplicity of his post let my brain wander and create stories for each, sort of sensory deperevation through images, I suppose. My favorite was the picture of the old, worn stone stairs. I imagined some drunk monk slipping down these after hitting the trippel a bit too hard.
Bryan D. Roth also chose the path most-photoed, getting cheeky (possibly even illegal in some states) with his “reviews.” It’s good to know I’m not the only one whose cat harasses them when they’re trying to peacefully sleep in the bathtub after some BCBS. Also, good to know Bryan has cornered the market on beer, potato chip, and pajama pairings.
John Abernathy wasn’t far behind with his excellent snowy #beertography of 10 Barrel Brewing’s “Wino” (that, as an aside, I think he should enter into an @beertography contest on Twitter) or as it’s now known, for anyone looking for it, “16 Barrels.”
Following closely were the moving photos, mesmerizing machinations that seemed as if thousands and thousands of still images had somehow been spliced together by some modern sorcery. David Bascombe’s 20’s era silent movie (slash mime) throw-back of him tasting a lambic had me laughing out loud in my cubicle, especially with that dastardly grin at the end (I take it he loves lambic). Boak and Bailey (Jessica and Ray, respectively) cobbled together a montage that felt like a perfect nod to art-deco, fruit, and keyboard synth music/drum machines. Oh, and yummy beer. I take it they quite liked Thornbridge Chiron (It’s a party!), and it was particularly citrusy. I will admit I was slightly disappointed they didn’t opt for the creative flower arrangement beer review. Maybe next time.
Deep down, I hoped one of our musically inclined brethren would cover a song for us, but several people went the audio route, either way. Looke of Likey Moose (yes, I read your about page) compiled an eclectic beery playlist (to review Potton Brewery’s Shambles) that opened with one of my favorite songs of all time: Beer by Reel Big Fish. The rest of the list was pretty stellar too. I mean it featured The Cure and Elbow, so it was clearly very awesome.
Simon Tucker did something I really hoped someone would, and reviewed a not-beer in the style of a beer. His beer-like review of The Fall’s album “Grotesque (After The Gramme)” was equally hilarious and poignant. Being an American neo-punk kid (Op Ivy and Tiger Army all day), I went and listened to this whole album, and I think Simon’s review of it was spot on (and it sounds like he has great headphones that really make the kazoo shine).
I had intentionally opened this Session up to all writers, hoping to coax a few non-beer people into our weird world, and apparently it worked! Cameron D. Garriepy penned a vivid piece of flash fiction that captured how intimate sharing a pint can be. Her story definitely made me want to get my hands on a bottle of Spinnaker from Rising Tide (and read more of her work).
Following suite, in less fictional ways, were our poets. Dan at Community Beer Works wove an impressive A-B-A scheme short poem that had me wondering where and why they were alone that night. I guess there’s no reason to keep up the fight. Thomas Cizauskas gave us a operatic ode (but he didn’t sing it), confessing his true love for cask ale, ah, sweet mystery of life it be. To round out the poets, I’ll include Sean Inman’s complex and fascinating stream of consciousness (not really poetry, but poetic none the less) that was either channeling my madness, his, or some combination thereof. Lance agonizing gashes under necktie in time as sentenced, indeed, my friend (since writing this, Sean commented, and I figured out his nonsense wasn’t nonsense at all, it was a brilliant first-letter = blog post concoction. Well played sir, well played).
In the only attempt at the literally dramatic, Glen Humphries gave us a short scene from a play that could have been ripped from the daily stage-direction of any beer geek’s life. Especially that part about conversations where hops are never brought up. Those still exist?
And now for what I can only label “miscellaneous;” those brilliant smatters of beer-fueled wisdom and tap-tuned wanderlust that I can only lump together because of their eccentricity. Fellow NAGBW winner Alan McCormick had me going for a bit as he blatantly insulted me for all the internet to see, until I realized his non-review was a delicate, clever jab at Stone, and their well-known (and reviled?) Arrogant Bastard. Fellow DC denizen Jacob Berg waxed scientific about Lactobacillus, entertaining and educating us about Westbrook’s Gose and yeast in one fell, sour swoop.
Alan McLeod, author of much internet-renown, was either actually confused, or feigned confused by the topic, and gave us a short blurb from his book “The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer” that in a meta-sort of way fulfilled the requirements of this Session. It’s deceptively on-point, and I thank him for his humor. Dave Ellis offered a two-pronged post, the prior half about his dislike for generic reviews (which in general, I share), and the latter half a theoretical situation of drinking Mornington Peninsula Imperial Stout on the side of a massive mountain as a way to capture the awe-inspiring flavor (all in the voice of John O’Hurley).
Liam at Drunken Speculation went all graeca antiqua on us, and while Aristophanes is my classical jam, his apt chosen passage about the taming of Bucephalus from Plutarch’s Life of Alexander was surprisingly relevant to Dogfish Head 90 minute. If you studied the classics. And have no problem connecting modern beer to ancient texts. Can we expect a drunken translation of Parallel Lives from Liam in the future?
Pivní Filosof got all deep and recursive on me, delving into the paradoxes of fate, and the delicious dual-identity crisis that is Black IPA. Without knowing, I think we tapped into each other’s Jungian collective unconscious, as his entry is thematically, deliciously, tangential to my own.
Paul Crickard’s interpretation of the topic was among my favorite, and his romantic, thoughtful nod to either his partner or his long time favorite, or both, hid deliciously behind the head of literary ambiguity. Jeremy Short’s heartfelt defense of Coors Extra Gold really cut through a lot of the craft beer bravado, and I think can be introduced nicely with the choice quote, “Beer is a social drink and Extra Gold comes in 30 packs.”
Rounding out the miscellaneous post was #beerchat friend Tom Bedell, who quite literally tried to drink the new flavor (abomination?) from Jelly Belly. His pictures went very much appreciated, and that last one of Tom slugging down a “glass” of Jelly Bean Beer made this ole’ softie smirk. I too long for the IPA, or perhaps hop flavored Jelly Belly.
Bravo to one and all. You exceeded whatever random expectations I had, by a long, long shot.
More to come tomorrow, with more excellent writing, in what I can only call “beer memoir!”
“Brewing is hard. Writing is really, really, really hard.” -Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery