22 May 2010

Drunkeness and Beer Geekery

Mark at Pencil and Spoon writes

Here’s a question for everyone and it’s inspired by something Andy wrote in a post earlier this week. He said: “to put it bluntly I was bolloxed.” It’s not surprising given the list of beers he was drinking during the day, but the question is this: from a writer’s and a reader’s perspective, should we talk about being drunk in blogs?

Traditional beer journalism has worked hard to make beer a serious beverage up there with wine and whisky, breaking away from the binge-drinking statistics, so by getting completely hammered and then telling everyone about it, are we in fact doing more harm to beer than good? Or, is that just a side of beer drinking which now gets a chance to be written about honestly thanks to the diary format of beer blogs?

Beer has an image problem, to be sure -- the most common idea of a "beer-drinker" in the public eye is probably either someone living in a trailer drinking cheap swill straight from a can or college kids getting rowdy at a kegger. And neither of these images are exactly untrue, so far as they go, although neither of them encapsulates the sum total (or even the majority) of those consuming alcohol either in the trailer park or in the college setting. So it makes sense for those of us interested in the better stuff to consider our image when we speak, to think about how we come across to those not acquainted with the beer consumption of the beer geek.

On that level, sure, talking too loudly about getting totally wasted isn't exactly the best thing to be doing. A blog focusing* on the travails of a drunk getting wasted on beer, even good beer, would definitely not be helpful to the cause. (Imagine a version of Tucker Max with Biere de Gardes and Russian Imperial Stouts, for instance.) But what was really going on in the post Mark linked above? It's the story of a bunch of beer enthusiasts sitting in a pub and enjoying some fine beer delicacies, not a series of debaucheries following a bunch of guys getting wasted and making public nuisances of themselves.

I mean, seriously, we're all adults here, and to pretend that this is something that's unique to beer is just silly. If the omnipresence of sorority girls chugging fruity mixed drinks doesn't have anything to do with the conversation among those enjoying fine spirits, and the mere existence of Franzia doesn't make people question the pure motives of serious oenophiles**, why would even the most awful depictions of beer being abused really make a difference to us?

To be honest, are we even going to claim this isn't something happening in those fields, as well? I know that serious wine tasters are wont to spit out their drinks at events devoted to the purpose, but I doubt that those same tasters are doing the same when spending time in more social environments devoted to their interest. I certainly doubt the average consumer buying a twenty-dollar bottle of wine even considers spitting the contents so as to better enjoy the ambrosial flavor of their beverage. Even more so for those enjoying spirits -- are we really going to pretend that the writers of Malt Advocate believe that the effects of alcohol are some unfortunate side effect of the purer pleasures of flavor and texture?

How about those devoted to a great cup of coffee? You can talk all you want about the pleasures of Arabica beans or whatever, but don't pretend that you don't also enjoy the caffeine buzz.

It's just silly, and I hope that more posts like Andy's will keep the beer community from getting too stuffy about their drink. Instead of shoving a stick up our collective asses and pretending we don't enjoy that good old C2H5OH, I'd rather see the wine lovers and spirit enthusiasts of the world start to imitate our side of the aisle. Used responsibly and maturely by adults, there's nothing in the world wrong with alcohol, and even getting a bit toshed now and again shouldn't be the shameful end of the world.

*Does anyone else have an issue spelling that word? I always want to follow standard spelling rules regarding adding the -ing ending to a word ending in a vowel and a consonant and add two "s's", as in how "stop" becomes "stopping." "Focussing" just seems like a more logical spelling, but I can see how it looks a little unwieldy. Any etymologists out there have any references to whether the original spelling at two s's or one, and when the change might have occurred? Thanks.

**Spelled that one right on the first try. Go me.

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