The date was not going well, at least not for the woman. That was the observation from my table at Cellar 3, the blending facility run by the Green Flash Brewing Co. in San Diego. With every new sip or sample, the man at the bar would check in the beer on his phone and then loudly talk about the virtual toasts his choice was getting. He was excited about the action inside his phone. His date was eyeing the physical exit.
While a tavern is still a gathering place in the electronic age, much of its charms have been lost. Conversations still take place in person, with a beer in one hand, phone in the other, to accommodate the rest of the world. People hunch over devices rather than soak in the ambiance and take time to be present in the moment. So much of our beer experience is personal, but so many are eager to immediately share, brag or solicit opinion that the immediate sensations are lost to pixels, likes and emojis.
When we slow down—and I include myself in this category—and allow an experience to happen naturally, organically, without worrying about the next social media moment, amazing things can happen. A deeper appreciation can blossom, happy memories can be aroused, new thoughts can develop.
I was reminded of this on a recent visit to the Cascade Brewing blending facility near Portland, Oregon. It was supposed to be a quick tour, but when head brewer Ron Gansberg greeted us, Jeff Alworth (you can read his story on how American brewers are evolving the IPA on Page 32), my companion for the day, smiled and happily muttered, “Oh, this will be fun.” Five hours later when we walked out filled with all manners of aged sours, there was no disagreeing with Alworth’s prediction.
Beer needs time in barrels. Yeast can work slowly and deliberately. Fresh fruit used to imbue, matures and reveals depth of flavor. When walking among the thousand-plus barrels in a largely silent space, it’s hard not to reflect and slow down. So, we did (it also helps that there’s absolutely zero cellular service in the warehouse). Gansberg, with each nail pulled from a barrel, talked lovingly of process, aging and inspiration. He talked of his career and soon opened his bottle cellar, inviting us to taste the brewery’s history. He called his co-workers over, and, for several hours on an ordinary Monday afternoon, with each new pop of a cork, he spoke happily, if not solemnly, of tradition, his eventual retirement and the mantle the younger brewers would one day take on.
“In five or six years, the beers we’re making now are going to taste this good or better,” he said, holding a glass of Cascade blackberry ale, poured from the last bottle of the first batch the brewery made in 2007. It was a thrilling moment to witness, and the staff was enthralled. “This, glorious beginning of why we do this,” he said. “I charge you to carry this on. Make it better and … and celebrate it always.”
In our previous issue, I talked about the need to take care of the body. For me the progress is continuing slowly, and I’m also trying to expand my mind as well. Less time in front of a screen in social settings, trying to be like yeast and absorb all around me.
We don’t always have to hit refresh and see what other people are doing. We should savor the personal and together moments, the ones we will long remember.
John is the editor of All About Beer Magazine and the author of three books, including The American Craft Beer Cookbook. Find him on Twitter @John_Holl.