I get a lot of strange looks when people ask me what my interests are. Sure, everything is fine as I run through lists of things I love but when I inevitably land on ‘beer’ as an interest, most people look at me with that look that is the perfect combination of confusion and judgement. I continue to explain that I make it, I drink a bunch of it, and I am passionate about it – and that look never really goes away, but people do get interested enough to ask me “Why beer?”
I’d like to take a stab at answering that question.
First, I must begin by addressing anyone who has a lingering concern about over-consumption or how craft beer as a hobby should somehow be inherently negative. Certainly if you follow me on Twitter (shameless plug: follow @colinkoop and @impossibrewbeer) or on Untappd (I’m colinkoop over there too, hint hint), I can see where that perception might stem from. However, I can confirm with 100% certainty that this is not the case. There is a massive difference between enthusiasm and abuse. I’ve never drank beer or used any other substance as a coping device. I’ve never relied on it to get me through tough times. In fact, the way I experience beer is completely the reverse of any of that.
I view beer as a celebratory thing. It’s the end of a long day, a reward for a job well done, or a blissful moment of time to cast your worries aside. It’s something you share with others, marking the coming together of friends and the meeting of new ones. It inspires conversations as a social lubricant and makes strangers clink glasses as if they had known each other for years. I dare you to go to a pub and not get your glass cheers-ed by a stranger at some point. It’s damn near impossible! There’s a reason we raise our effervescent pints high when we’re all together, and that’s because beer and friends and good times go hand in hand in hand and they have since the stuff was invented.
Speaking of when beer was invented, it’s also a historical link to the past. Everyone from every walk of life has enjoyed beer, from the great Czars of Russia to the slaves that built the Pyramid of Giza. From the top class to the bottom and throughout history we all have very little but beer in common. It’s the ultimate equalizer. Beer formed the basis for the first economies by being traded for other goods. It provided nourishment to Egyptian children and a sanitary source of hydration for Europeans during plague times. Truly, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, beer has been a massive part of human history. I don’t know about you but to me that is an amazing and wonderful thing.
Beer is fascinating. In it’s purest form, beer only contains only four ingredients: barley, hops, yeast, and water. Yet these four ingredients alone can be combined in varieties and ratios that produce countless styles and variations on styles – and that’s before we even get to talking about things like fruit, chocolate, coffee, candy sugar, and barrel aging to name a few. It is simultaneously simple and infinitely complex. From the characteristics added by different malts with different roastings to the esters and other qualities imparted by different yeast strains, the combinations are almost endless.
Perhaps above all these reasons though, I think the most important of all must be the craft beer community itself. Craft beer doesn’t exist because someone is trying to get rich – craft beer exists because of brewers who love to brew amazing beer and people who love to drink it. Craft beer exists so people can talk about it and gather around it. It’s a glue that brings like-minded people together that likely wouldn’t otherwise due to factors like geographic distance, profession, or social circle. In the last two years I have met some amazing people because of craft beer – most of whom that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise. I watch brewers across the world from each other collaborate to help one another and make new and interesting beers. It embodies the very essence of community because in most industries that’s something that just wouldn’t happen. There are no big brands trying to steal market share from one another and no companies trying to put each other out of business. There are no walls or lines or divisions because whether we’re brewers, workers, or just regular consumers: we’re all craft beer lovers.
So in summary: it’s good for the soul and it always has been. That’s why beer.