It’s 3 a.m. and I’m awake at my rock and roll hotel in Portland. I know it sounds super cool and all at this point, but the truth is my sinuses are completely wacked out and sleep is near impossible. I had other plans, indeed, for the ‘pleasure’ component of my business trip, but this freaking cold is making enjoyment of this city’s night life (and day life, actually) quite a challenge. It doesn’t mean that I’m not doing my best and forcing it since I’m here, like a good little capricorn. It’s amazing what happens when you continue to drink coffee and alcohol through the onset of a head cold! I mean the opposite of the previous statement, including the punctuation. It might just be plain stupid, but I’m trying to embrace the fuck-it attitude that I so admire in a certain individual that is very close to me (you know who you are) when sickness could derail best-laid plans. Drink through it! If history is any guide, I won’t really remember the under-the-weather part, but I will recall the breakfasts (with coffee), lunches (with beer), afternoon coffees (that double as dessert), and dinners (with basically all of the above). This type of trip over the mountains to Portland has become an annual thing for me in early winter. I race the weather over the pass, make numerous beer deliveries to the shops that have supported my brewery since the beginning (thankyouthankyou), run all sorts of errands gathering equipment and ingredients, and get an event or two in for the PR department. All in all, it’s a few days of logistics, adventure, face time, and tasks that require a wide-ranging skill set…I’ve trained myself over the years to manage this stuff as an entrepreneur and lover of DIY, and I fully enjoy the challenge and rewards associated with it. I couldn’t do this all of the time, but boy was I bummed to come down with this cold. However, the trip must go on! I’d already committed to being part of a panel discussion about wild ales, dropping off ale club beer, hosting a bottle pour event, making 7 deliveries totaling 47 cases, picking up hops, picking up malt, picking up some (empty) magnums, dropping off beer for a competition, and picking up some (empty) kegs…all in 2 days. All of this is buffered and made manageable by the consumption of tasty things, which Portland really excels at. Head cold be damned! I do love myself some tasty things.
I do not love, however, the treatise I learned about on Sunday regarding farmhouse beer. I’ve been trying to understand why it has gotten under my skin so much, and there are a few reasons I can identify with. Shall I give you time to go read the shortened online version? Ok, then. I’m happy to wait. Click on the link. If it was any other time of day I’d go grab a coffee. Or a beer. Or something from that food truck pod even though I’m not hungry…
Alrighty. Let’s purge. Thank you for being here for me, for giving me your shoulder to cry silently upon. First of all, I’m sad to have these conflicting emotions about the brewery where this originated from. I’ve been inspired by their methods and beer since I learned about them on our trip to Chicago a few months back. This whole thing feels like a new friend you’re excited about dissing on your wife of 20 years (whom you still love and enjoy, just in case that needs to be stated). So, I know I’m just jumping right into this, but it’s the wee hours of the morning and I’ve got to get some rest before driving over the pass tomorrow. I mean today. I learned of this whole thing at the panel discussion on Sunday with some fellow brewers. It fired all of us up a bit, made us all a little sad. We all basically reacted in the same manner to it, and I think that’s saying something. I was with a few of the very best Oregon brewers, and I mean best in terms of all the things I admire about beer and brewers. Creativity in not just the beer they make, but in their business models. How they engage and interact with our shared customers. How they represent Oregon. So, for all of us to basically sigh and roll our eyes about this article is noteworthy to our industry. I hope to make a point (wait for it) and put this article behind me, because our shared reaction is, in my opinion, bad news for anyone who cares about beer culture. This article didn’t inspire us in any positive way. We didn’t jump into the joy of what farmhouse beer means to us or what makes it fun to brew. It didn’t encourage discussion about how we were complying or not complying to the dogmatic sentiment laid down therein. We just got annoyed and offended. We weren’t even discussing beer by that point, for crying out loud. I’m certain that wasn’t the intention of the author. I hope that wasn’t the intention? I’m all for setting boundaries for oneself, drawing lines in the sand to push you to creative and philosophical limits, but a draconian approach where one requires that others submit to their way of thinking (without discussion) is totalitarianism. I can barely write that word without wanting to barf. Our brewing industry is definitely changing. My brewery is doing the best we can to adapt to the spongy ground beneath our feet…it’s challenging and hard, but I am determined to keep the things that I love about our industry alive and well. I enjoy the culture of beer. I enjoy the people in the beer industry itself. I like beer. I do not enjoy, like, or celebrate Brett Kavanaugh, though. I respect the differences between breweries and the opportunity to help educate myself and our consumer. Most of all, this industry can be fun. It’s our job to make it fun. Even with all of the new challenges our industry faces, I will have fun, goddammit! The people I choose to associate with, the way we interact with our consumer and how we brew our beer is literally a choice I am able to make. It IS a free market, kinda. Isn’t it? How privileged and how fortunate! Celebration of this is interwoven into all of our actions and I’d be lying if I said this whole situation resembles a microcosm of a much larger and uglier issue our country is facing. Give me just a couple short paragraphs on this and we’ll get back to the laughing and giggling, ok? Well, I’ll at least get back to beer. Then I’ll end it.
Recently, I was in a group of friends and politics came up. I’ve learned that in order for the fun and enjoyment to continue for me after this subject is breeched, I should really just keep quiet. Which I did. But what I heard saddened me. This gathering of friends consisted of left-leaning, college-educated parents of my own age. I’ve known these people for more than half of my life and love them like family. So, yeah, politics came up so I shut my mouth and was waiting for the storm to pass when my friend said, “I just don’t see why we can’t all just progress.” While I understood the sentiment (and the sadness), this statement totally sums up the problem I see the ‘open-minded progressives’ have in their way of thinking. Thinking that there is a single solution for everybody. Thinking that they perhaps believe they know the solution, that they are ‘right’ and others are ‘wrong’. This is what creates opposing sides and prevents discourse and debate. I mean, we have to have ideals and values, but we can’t expect everyone to have the same exact ones. It’s in some ways akin to the belief that the Bible is fact, right? This is just the other side of the coin. I’m right, you’re wrong. It is self-righteous, entitled, and depressing. This farmhouse beer article reminded me very much of this behavior, and it depressed me.
Reflecting on all of this, the idea of freedom appears to be a very centrist sort of idea, doesn’t it? Evidently, being a centrist is pretty dang hard in practice. In order to celebrate our opportunities, take chances, to grow and to learn, we need to allow the people around us to do the same in their own way, different as it may be from our approach. In my past, one phrase often comes alive when things get too serious. Show Don’t Tell. Actions are louder than words and far more effective. I was SO stoked on this brewery before they started telling everybody what to do. Their actions had been inspirational…I felt them from the other side of the country! And now…well shit. Pardon the watery eyeballs, but I’m lamenting the missed opportunity they had to excite people and celebrate our tiny industry. What is farmhouse beer to me? How does my brewery integrate with small American farms that celebrate our shared agricultural spirit and culture?
I guess I’ll wait until someone asks me.