Boak and Bailey have invited us all to consider the quantity as well as the quality today and write a longer post. Lots of people have written clever things today about history and stuff like that but, me, I have been thinking about me. Or at least that bit of me that shows up around here. This is my 2,967th post on this blog. That is insane. There have been almost 13,000 comments left here, too. That is really insane. What is there to talk about with this beer and beer culture stuff that creates that much content? Well, beer obviously - but what is it about beer that has kept me interested long enough to spent from before my 40th birthday to now after my 50th thinking up something to say on the subject day after day, week after week?
First - and please take this as it is intended - beer is not that important. By which I mean it is part of pop culture, a light entertainment, a hobby about a mild intoxicant and a thing few spend much time at all thinking about - let alone writing for a decade or more. As a result, it is not something that triggers too much controversy. See, I have other jobs. I work as a lawyer and we have been foster parents. Serious things full of secrets. Which means I can't write openly about these fairly private, confidential things. I also have kids in school so can't be dedicating large sums and time to my own quirky loner interests. As a result, I don't get involved with historic anachronism societies or travel the world going to comic book conventions. I don't collect sports cars. Beer and the brewing trade, however, are so light weight as topics and relatively cheap on the wallet that no one really furrows a brow. It goes along with my life pretty easily.
Yet it is pervasive. As you saw recently, I was able to fit beer quite easily into our family's holiday in New England by finding good spots to have a local brew with a meal. Cheap and cheery. You walk around most places in the world placing beer on the route ahead as liquid milestones. You see ads for beer and places to buy beer on a daily basis. It's in your shops. It provides jobs and money and also triggers trade, taxation and economic development on a surprising scale. It is woven into our history serving as an early model of industrial production at scale. Given all that, there are very few topics for discussion where you can't find a beery angle, a story to tell on any given day. As a subject matter, it keeps giving.
And then you multiply that by the interest each beer writer brings to the topic. While there were just a few beer blogging when I started in 2003, the handful became a club then a brigade to now a mass of beer nerds on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and any number of applications most of whom I have never come across at all. There are too many for that. Just as the number of breweries and beers are such now that no one truly has experienced it all, so too the number of people writing about beer. Not all do it well and most don't stick around that long. After all, you have to be fairly committed to the writing itself. Which is another thing beer gives me, a vehicle by which I can write on a regular basis.
But of those hundreds if not thousands who have created content, who have put their thoughts about beer into the public forum, well, there are more than a few who provide example and encouragement. There has to be a point to all this and the writing of those who put things more neatly and see things more clearly provides a key point for me - finding a way to do this better. I am not interested in repeating my experience day after day. I want to explore and expand my understanding, when I was just a few years into my writing, Lew Bryson was my unknowing mentor. His first state guides to New York and Pennsylvania organized and contextualized beer and brewing. He introduced me to beer as a travel planning tool. Sadly, Lew has just announced that he will be writing for the public less widely due to his new job.
Others are missed. I realized that I had gotten into this stuff, whatever it is, when I realized the comings and goings of people affected me even when I had never met them. The era of Stonch, the lawyer who became a beer blogger... then a force of nature and then a pub owner who left the forum. He was a key player for me between 2007 until a couple of years ago. He partnered with on the photo contest, on hitting folk up for advertising when ads were still placed on beer blogs and on taking up topics which seemed not never get raised. It was the time of crankiness against the status quo. A brief era that isn't really now around much anymore in that the playing field seems to have more than two end zones now.
And loses can be more fundamental than just packing in your blog. In November 2012 I asked "Is There Anyone More Interesting Than Simon H Johnson?" Simon was the Reluctant Scooper. He died in the middle of May. His passing was a very sad one for me. He had a joyful yet critical voice. He also passes at a time when I was already dealing with loss as my parents each had passed within the year, my mother a few weeks before. But it was not just the pile on effect. Simon had become a regular voice in my head. He was a favourite comment maker whenever he took the time to write something on this blog. I followed him on twitter daily and missed him when he had earlier taken a break from writing, too. I will likely think of him whenever I see a bottle of Orval.
I have a lot of these sorts of connections now. Echoes and shadows as well as lights ahead. Over the course of the trip, there was time at a ball game with Andy Crouch as well as breakfast with Craig in Albany. Craig and I just launched a dedicated website for the Albany Ale Project. Things are taking off there. There might be a book deal. Or is it a movie deal? We did submit an article and got the reply that it was great but make it four articles. There is a lot of stuff in there. Another reason beer writing keeps tripping and trickling off my finger tips.
Books. That is something I hadn't really anticipated. Since January, Max and I have been writing something that has reached 42,500 words now. It may be like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Or was it The Illiad? That's it. The Illiad. It is such a weird bit of writing that I really don't know what to make of it. The first draft is almost done so we'll have a sense of what it is once a few quietly approached colleagues have a read. We want it to be out in time for Christmas and hope it is met with confusion, discussion and accusation. Stand by your Kindle.
I did write "books" didn't I. Because my third but nearest co-author, Jordan, and I are working on the history of brewing in Ontario. Flattered by the cold call from The History Press, we have been working on the story for a few months now. The first beer in what is now Ontario may well have been tied to a murder. Never knew that before. It's due out next June. Funny. Having a contract with a deadline in it. Never saw that coming.
All of which sets out something of a pattern. For the supposedly solo role played by the citizen blogger, I certainly have had the benefit of a lot of other people. Unexpectedly, I have fallen in with a pack of like minded questioning and curious beery people along the way. People who shy from both the gimmick and the compromise. And there have been many others along the way. Maybe even you. People more than brewers, writers, vendors or drinkers. Sure they brew, write, sell or drink but when they are good people you forget the role and start wondering what you might come up with if you put your mind to it. Maybe a movie deal after all? Why not?
Which brings me back to the question up top. What is it I do exactly when I write about beer? I think I write about anything pretty much and find the beer within it. I was lucky to be asked to contribute a chapter a few years ago to a collection titled Beer & Philosophy published in 2007. I say lucky because I was asked when someone else dropped out. My chapter was based on my LLM thesis and the way the regulation of beer in Canada indicated what our culture thinks about beer - and what our culture thinks about the people who populate it. It starts with a couple of sentences I borrowed from Pete Brown's second book Three Sheets to the Wind:
More than climate or genetics or anything else, drinking behaviour is governed by culture. And that culture is created by the laws that govern it.
I still like that. Pete probably thought of it over a decade ago but it still rings true. It is also likely reversible and transposable, too. Culture and beer create law in a way as well. There is a great interconnectedness about these things and oddly, almost silently beer has wheedled its way into much of it. Sitting in the corner as other things come and go. Filling the glass in hand as discussions are held and decisions made. Watching.
Which is what I am doing, I suppose. This 2,967th post and these 1600 or more words are not that much different than the other posts that came before. Daydreams and idle wonderings set down for others to idly wonder about. And along the way learning about economics, history, law and science. That's what I am doing.