It is Tuesday night in my neighborhood and a chance to procrastinate penning this piece. My neighbor Peter has hosted darts in his garage for the last 15 years, featuring a rotating cast of characters. The place is cool, everyone brings his own beers, good music, people don’t take themselves too seriously, my dog is welcome, and occasionally a hand-rolled cigarette is shared.
Tuesday night darts has more to do with my life in beer than anything else. As an avid homebrewer, I always took a keg of my latest wares for all to sample. As a beer writer, the darts gang are not only a good sounding board but also some of the inspiration for articles. As a beer importer, they are my guinea pigs when I bring samples. Peter’s Garage, to quote the British, “is my local.”
The Czechs have the most beautiful statement when it comes to beer that I have read: “Pivo si tě najde všude.” In English this means, “Beer will find you everywhere,” but this statement is really just the beginning. Whether it is a Tuesday night at my neighbor’s garage, a brewpub patio among the vineyards and avocado trees in California or an oasis of Belgian beer in the middle of the desert of Chianti in Tuscany, beer has made me friends and changed my life.
Most of my writing has been for a left-wing/tree hugging/entertainment weekly magazine in Calgary, FFWD. Seeing as it is mostly a music magazine, I always found it a bit annoying that people think of music and moods but don’t think of beer in the same light. Beer has the same power to affect people as music. A sweet stout has the same sexy tones as Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music crooning, just as a brash in-your-face Double India Pale Ale drives on senses like an early Black Flag song. There’s also a fantastic symmetry in the way the craft-beer revolution embraces the same do-it-yourself attitude and values as the punk rock movement did.
Another aspect of the beer world that has always amazed me, both as a writer and as an importer, is the six degrees of separation from a perfect stranger. When visiting the Taproom at Firestone Walker Brewery in California, we wound up sitting at the bar beside two men. It turned out that one of them, Tom, supplied the used bourbon barrels for the brewery’s barrel-aged beers. It also turned out that he had just been in Montreal for Mondial de la Bière and proceeded to show us pictures of our friends and business associates whom he had just met in Quebec. This chance meeting led to an impromptu dinner invite at his friend’s ranch a few miles down the road from the brewery.
Through a love of beer, similar stories have happened to us in all our travels. Even if we don’t know any of the same people, the essence of art in the glass is the first runnings of what is sure to be like-minded conversation.
Early in my journey into beer, the local Samuel Smith’s rep was giving the education portion one evening at our beer club. He told the audience that salespeople don’t sell beer—it is you sharing it with your friends and those you are about to be friends with — that sells beer. This has become my 11th Commandment ever since. I have stood on soapboxes, taught classes and written articles spreading the gospel of beer but stop short of knocking on doors to gain converts, although the boys at darts may disagree.
Beer will find you everywhere, though sometimes you’ll find the beer first. In the karmic world of beer, trust me, the returns are tenfold. Love beer and the beer world will love you back.