My beer summit…with beer
According to the American Dialect Society, “tweet” was the word of the year in 2009. It beat other luminaries, such as “botox,” “shovel-ready” and “hike the Appalachian Trail,” for the top spot in the list of most important words and phrases to become prominent or notable during the year.
To my disappointment tweet beat the phrase that was my own particular choice. For me, “beer summit” was the standout. Politics aside, the most powerful man in the world inviting two other guys to his house to settle a problem over beer said something about some of the finest qualities about beer.
While President Obama’s beer summit attracted all the headlines, beer summits had a special significance for me in 2009 for another reason. Last year I had my own beer summit that made a statement about the finest qualities of beer. My beer summit was with beer itself.
Last September I celebrated my 40th birthday with something that I had long looked forward to, a trip to Denver and the Great American Beer Festival. To me, the GABF was the center of the brewniverse. It was the place at which the most exciting and effervescent beer culture in the world came together to show off its best. I could go there and try the beers that I had heard so much about. I would meet the brewers—the assorted rockstars, the innovators, the gonzo alchemists—that I had read so much about, not to mention the American beer writers who had written about them, the people whose work I admire and who inspire me daily in what I do.
I was excited, very excited. I was traveling 8,000 miles and wanted to try everything, go everywhere and meet everyone.
Even now, the first day and a half is still a blur. I landed in Denver in the morning and didn’t stop. There were tastings, launches and gatherings to attend, breweries to visit and people to meet and, of course, the first session of the Festival. I was a hyperactive kid in a candy store and I neither noticed nor cared. I had a list that needed to be ticked or I had wasted my time in being there.
I didn’t stop to realize that I set myself a task similar to taking a drink from a fire hose; I was so focused on trying that I had no time for enjoying.
It took a baseball game to bring this realization home.
While ticking yet more beers off my list at Wynkoop Brewery, a group of Colorado Rockies fans enjoying a beer before the game heard my Australian accent and struck up a conversation. Beer people being good people, they surprised me by inviting me to join them at the baseball game.
As much as I enjoyed everything about my trip to Denver, the baseball game still remains the highlight. For three hours I sat enjoying good company and learning some of the finer points about the game of baseball and the culture of watching it. Of course, I enjoyed a number of beers (Fat Tire Amber Ale, from memory, I wasn’t taking notes), but for three hours beer wasn’t the focus.
My personal beer summit was more about realizing that with beer, discussing it isn’t to analyze, discuss and debate it. The point is to enjoy it. Barrel-aged, Brett-infused hop monsters that have spent three months in the hull of a North Sea ferry before being triple frozen and concentrated to 40 percent are exciting, but sometimes the best beer is simply just a just a good one thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes, the most memorable beer is the one that you barely notice as you enjoy the company of the people you are with or sit on the edge of your seat in the bottom of the ninth, with scores tied and two men on base.
All the same, I still have to get back to Denver one day to finish off the rest of my list….
Matt Kirkegaard is a freelance beer writer who edits the Australian Brew News and helps introduce Australians to craft beer and food through his Good Beer Lunches.