My whole writing career has been based on the notion that there’s something about beer that is greater than the sum of the parts. There are other ways of relaxing, other alcoholic drinks, other special moments to share with friends. But my belief, after going across the world talking to beer drinkers and sharing a glass with them, is that there’s more to it.
That’s what I wanted to use my turn to host the session to explore. It’s been a fascinating experience. I deliberately wanted to set a topic that was as open and inclusive as possible (like beer itself), something unpretentious that anyone felt they could make a contribution to. And this has been borne out by the comments/contributions. I’m not sure how the 54 comments on the original post compares with other sessions, but it’s a great response. And more importantly, at least three of those commenters were contributing to The Session for the first time. Hopefully it won’t be the last, guys – you did good.
Of course, set a bunch of beer bloggers an open-ended, loosely defined topic, and the more analytical end of the spectrum will wonder, “What does he mean by that? What does he want from us? What’s his agenda? What is the technical definition of the beer moment?”
While most found my brief simple and motivating, others felt I was being obscurantist, and accused my announcement post of ‘impenetrable prose’.
Honestly, I had no agenda – other than to encourage wide participation and to focus the session on the emotions around beer rather than the definitional politics of craft beer, of which I’ve grown heartily bored. (But if you find them fascinating, then that’s OK. We don’t need to argue about it.)
So, on with the round-up.
There are a lot of comments, and I need to fit them all in, in as readable a way as I can. I’m going to mix up mentions and links if that’s OK. HUGE apologies if I miss anyone out – it wasn’t intentional.
It was a varied bag. Some people read ‘the Beer Moment’ as the need to pick just one, singular moment from a lifetime of loving beer.
THE ONE, PERFECT LIFETIME BEER MOMENT
For Professor Pie Tin (comment on original post), this moment was a bar in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, a “Whaddya havin’?” and the beginning of a 30 year love affair. For Jordan, it was a different beer, same resonance.
BEER MOMENTS: THE COLLECTIONOther felt that there were many such ‘Beer Moments’, and didn’t want to choose just one, giving a wide array of examples. Tiffany put these in pictures, David muses on walking in the Lakeland fells and meeting old school friends, and Jorge lists many moments in few words, succeeding in making himself (and me) thirsty.
Beer for the Weekend (a first time sessioneer) offers a trio of stand-out life beer moments, and Landells (another Session virgin) lists many classic moments before plumping for that common moment when “you’ve got so caught up in something that for a few minutes you’ve actually forgotten that your beer even exists but then you slowly turn to the side and your beer is sitting there, you smile, nod your head approvingly and then reach out your hand.” Derrick offers five examples, some happy, some sad, and asks us, “Could any other beverage create such a diversity of universal moments?"
THE BEER MOMENT: MANY MOMENTS, COMMON CHARACTERISTICS
Moving on from that, for most people it wasn’t about specific moments per se, it was about lots of moments that had common characteristics – and even here, those characteristics could vary.
Beer Nut rumbled my mission to open things up and thinks he resisted my attempt to move away from geekery, by saying his moment was finding a beer he hadn’t ticked off before, even if that beer wasn't great.
Thing is BN, you’re still talking about how that moment makes you feel, so I win. And you were funny too, not just geeky. And you’re not alone. For Tudorguy, Sean, and others, the Beer Moment is also when you encounter a beer for the first time, and you love it. These are the moments you feel alive. And it's very similar with cider too.
Or it may simply be, like Wyreman (comment on original post), Nate Dawg and others, the moment is the feeling of anticipation when you order a beer, new or old, the moment before it touches your lips. Daniel made a video in which he talks about the moment the beer is poured (and also about our current moment in the evolution of beer brewing appreciation – this moment, right now – as a significant beer moment.)
For Reluctant Scoop, it's one moment later, as the first gulp slides down, expressed to perfection in this iconic film scene:
For people like Matt, Gary and Paul (comment on original post) it’s when the drink is right, but that’s not enough – the people and the atmosphere have to be right too. It’s about the context in which you drink your beer the respite and communion with like-minded people. Jayelde, a first time contributor to the Session, believes these moments are about common ground, about beer bringing people together. Sam agrees – it’s about simple satisfaction, but also bonding, and for John, it’s about excitement and sociability.
These moments may be planned or unplanned, says Bob, but the unplanned ones are often the best. Over in San Diego at the Craft Brewer’s Conference, it seems the majority would agree. Stan took a poll there, the results of which suggest any time could be the time for the perfect beer moment.
The Beer Moment might be the moment of understanding between harassed bar staff and a regular customer late at night, or if you're a brewer, it might be the labour and the chance to taste the results.
It can also be a solo thing – not for everyone, but for some. It’s that reward at the end of a long, shitty day – not especially shitty, just every day shitty, and special mention must go to Beerbecue (and his adorable daughter) for bringing that to life in a short film that says more than words can. Craig talks about the perfect combination of beer, sunshine and grill – but the final ingredient to his mise-en-place is more revealing and resonant.
Uncle Puble also talks about that transition, that me-time at the end of the working day
While Ghostdrinker explore similar territory before moving onto moments that are more special and specific, and Tale of Ale sums up such ‘first beer of the day’ moments as those times when “everything falls into place and life is always good and not much else does that in the world”.
Leigh takes us into more poignant territory – the beer helping create a moment of reflection on hearing the new that a much-loved musical hero has died.
Phil argues that the surroundings and context make the beer – which in turn enhances those surroundings. And this combination could mean a familiar, favourite beer might taste even better when the context is special.
Steve Lamond takes a more emotive stab at similar territory, reminding us that beer is timeless, that in the beer moment “we are transported back to… a time before any of the cares of the modern world and allow ourselves to relax.”
As well as relaxation, there’s inspiration – just ask Broadford Brewer, who expresses it thus:
Joe thinks this happens because the reward and relaxation, sparked by the sensations coming through taste receptors that have had this experience before, link the current beer moment to previous ones, to fond memories and associations.
DOES THE MOMENT MAKE THE BEER AND/OR DOES THE BEER MAKE THE MOMENT? AND DO DIFFERENT BEER HAVE DIFFERENT MOMENTS?
All contributors, being beer bloggers, are craft beer drinkers who would always rate tasty, crafted beers over insipid mainstream lagers. But the beer moment is not exclusive to craft beer. That doesn’t mean the beer moment equals ‘not caring about what you drink’ (see below) it just means the moment can be bigger than the beer. Ask John, whose first ever beer shared with his father was a can of Foster’s. Crap beer, still a very special moment.
Jeremy agrees – a love of craft beer doesn’t preclude special moments with ordinary beers – if the moment is right.
Having said that, I bet few people would disagree with RSB (another session first-timer) who argues that in general, there’s a correlation between the best moments and the best beers.
THE BEER MOMENT: NOT THE ‘DRINK’ MOMENT
But could any (alcoholic) drink do this?
Looke doesn’t think so, arguing that “the one moment that is purely of pleasure” is a “little spark that goes off inside which doesn’t happen with a glass of wine or a G&T”.
Jay – who came up with this whole ‘Session’ idea – points out that it is beer that links all the most special moments in life, and has done throughout history, across a broader range, far more than any other drink. These are truly the moments that matter most.
THE BEER MOMENT: A LOAD OF CYNICAL BOLLOCKS?
Of course, this is beer. And in beer there’s always someone who wants to dispute and over-analyze, and bring joy crashing back down to earth. According to Alan, the very idea of a beer moment is “just silly”, which must mean everyone mentioned above is deluded and utterly mistaken.
“Beer does not change the moment even when it is present within it. Any number of other things could be there instead,” he argues, suggesting that a cup of tea or a cigarette could just as easily have created the moments everyone has described so passionately. He actually seems to take offence at the very notion of discussing the beer moment, and decries the whole thing as a marketing construct, which is strange given that few of the scenarios above have ever appeared in beer marketing (although some obviously have).
“Don’t let the admen fool you,” he warns, meaning, presumably, me. (I’m not an adman anymore.)
If advertising were as powerful as Alan thinks it is, every last one of you would now be drinking Budweiser and Stella Artois, and nothing else. And you wouldn’t be as happy with beer as you obviously are. Talking about the context, the emotions and the companionship, does NOT mean you don’t care about what you drink - as many commenters have pointed out. It simply means that beer is one part of a healthy, joyful life – unless you’re someone who would just rather sit and analyze and deconstruct beer instead.
If you are one of those people (and Alan has never, before now, struck me as someone who is) I think the point of this Session is that you should get out more – you could be enjoying your beer even more than you are now.
Thanks to everyone for taking part!
Thanks to everyone for taking part!