Back in January I decided on a whim to enter a writing contest (with the topic of ‘Why Beer Matters’) for the possible prize of a trip to the Budvar Brewery via Pete Brown’s Beer Blog. Since the winner was recently announced and it was not me, I see no need to keep the piece hidden away on my computer any longer.
Since I like to keep my writing a bit light and humorous when possible, I basically wrote this as an extended version of one of my random thoughts and was pretty pleased with how it turned out. In fact, the entry below will be just the start of this new page where I might add a new piece of writing on the subject now and again.
If any of you out there have thoughts on the topic of this essay to pass along, I encourage you to do so and I will post them along with my ramblings.
Without further delay . . .
Immediately my goal in trying to justify my opinion of ‘Why Beer Matters’ was to summarize my thoughts with a simple statement. I mean, if someone asked me that as a question as we were drinking beer at a pub, I am sure that a short, succinct response would be desired. However, no matter which way I looked to approach the subject, it seemed that I could not capture the importance of beer in that aforementioned, much-attempted simple statement.
Let me start by going through some of the arguments I could have gone with, but did not.
Like so many others have written, I considered:
- Talking about how beer is as old (or older) than the civilized world and how it just might be responsible for it too.
- Going with the argument that beer was the (nutrient rich) drinking water for the masses at a time when potable water was a luxury at best and it helped countless numbers of people survive throughout those years.
- Building my argument around the fact that even today it is a beverage that is brewed and enjoyed in almost every country in the world.
In my opinion, none of those arguments on its own was enough to show proper respect to beer.
This whole piece easily could have centered around how beer provides a common ground for people. It is a beverage that can be made in a back yard by a few good friends or in a dedicated facility by dozens of trained professionals. Beer can be brewed in batches of five gallons or thousands of gallons at a time. Regardless of who makes the beer, it is always something that brings a smile to the recipient and is often a good way to make a friend. It is a conversation starter if nothing else.
Perhaps this article should have been one to depict giving a beer to someone as a universal gesture of friendship.
I could have made an argument that even with the long and significant history that beer has had, it is bigger today than ever before. There are so many styles out there and ingredients being used to make beer that there is a choice for every palate and every occasion. Ancient and/or extinct styles of beer are even finding their ways back into the glasses of today’s beer drinkers.
It also occurred to me to talk about the growth of beer in recent history and how it isn’t just something for backyard BBQs anymore. It is present in good times and bad; from birthdays to weddings to a hole-in-one on the golf course and when people are mourning a loss by their favorite team or have been dumped by the girls of their dreams. Sure, champagne may be the accepted libation for joyous occasions, but I have yet to meet a person who drowns his or her sorrows with bubbly. Beer is the universal beverage.
Beer is used for vitamin-rich, skin-soothing baths in exclusive spas around the world. Almost every kitchen now has beer stashed somewhere; it is an ingredient used in everything from chili to cake and is often used for marinating — both the meat and the cook.
Gardeners even use beer in their work to help get rid of slugs. We cannot blame the little things for loving beer, but they prove that it is probably not a good idea to swim in it.
Even the byproducts of the beer brewing process are affecting the lives of beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike. Scientists are looking at spent grains from brewing as a possible source for energy generation. There are farms where spent grains not only feed livestock, but add nutrients to the substrate used to grow organic mushrooms. Even man’s best friend can benefit from beer, as the grains can be used for delicious dog biscuits.
I hope my dogs do not realize that I have been tossing out the spent grains from my batches of home brew.
So maybe it just took this task for me to realize that I cannot summarize exactly why beer matters or how important it has been — and is — to society by using only one stand-alone example. I am, however, certain that if it were to not exist, a good number of us would not either, and that may be a good enough explanation.
Beer has filled a role in society that no other food or beverage could have done. Since in the end it appears that I cannot find a way to state the significance of beer any better, I will defer to and close with someone who already put it perfectly.
In the everlasting words of Homer Simpson, who wraps up my entire train of thought: “Beer: The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”