By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter
Everything in is this life comes and goes, especially beer. Like a fine meal, each batch of craft beer is a perishable commodity, a transitory phenomenon like a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Enjoy them while you can, because they won’t last. Even if tomorrow’s sunset is “just like” today’s, it won’t be the same; there will be some subtle difference. Craft beer is like that.
No two beers can be exactly the same since the experience of enjoying a beer is so subjective. One’s mood, surroundings, companions — all these and many others play a large part in how we perceive and enjoy a beer.
Presentation is vital as well. It’s because we “drink with our eyes” that proper glassware is important for enjoying craft beer. However, even if you could make every external factor identical, between craft beers there would still be some differences.
While I know that all good brewers strive for consistency, I think this may be one of the things which turns me off when it comes to the BudMillerCoors macrobrews — their utter sameness, both amongst each other and from one batch to the next. Yes, I know it’s a triumph of the brewer’s art and modern technology, but for me, drinking the same beer over and over again would be as boring as eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No matter how well-made and tasty, after awhile I’m sure to be sick of it.
I prefer to take the risk of change, to enjoy the sunrise in the knowledge that the sunset must inevitably follow, to revel in the beer while realizing that in doing so I’m consuming the very thing I am enjoying, hastening its demise, even as I am conscious of the reality that there will never be another quite like it.
I had this driven home to me a few weeks ago when I stopped at St. Elias Brewing Co., planning to start my weekend with a goblet of their Eclipse Strong Ale. To make Eclipse, Brewer Zach Henry had mixed his potent Moose Juice Barleywine with his Vanilla Porter, and then left the blend to meld for several months in a whiskey cask. The final beer was strong, smooth, delicious and totally unique. After all, imagine how hard it would be to make two more brews exactly the same, and then replicate the exact blend and wood aging. Such a complex beer is impossible to reproduce exactly.
However, when I took my seat at the bar, a quick chat with Zach confirmed that it was all gone. Imagine my chagrin when Zach suggested that the rave review I’d written in my weekly blog had contributed to Eclipse’s swift demise! By voicing how much I’d enjoyed drinking it, I’d hastened the day that I could no longer do so.
So how would you handle this? If you discovered a great place to fish, would you tell all your fishing buddies or keep it your personal secret? If you found a wonderful hole-in-the-wall place to eat, would you tell everyone you know and hasten the day when it’s too crowded to get in? I’m reminded of the famous Yogi Berra quip: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”
So if St. Elias released three fabulous new seasonal brews for the summer, would you tell folks? After all, the more folks drinking their Marathon Mild Ale, their Island Girl Raspberry Ale, and their Sunfire Saison, the sooner those beers will be gone. How about Kenai River Brewing’s Saphir Single Hop IPA or their Russian River Razz Ale? Would you talk them up to all your friends, encouraging them to buy growlers, pigs and kegs? Or perhaps you saw on Facebook that Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop had just put a keg of their Double Wood IPA on. Would you e-mail all your friends or keep it to yourself until you could get a couple of growlers filled?
However you may decide, I’ve made my choice. I’m going to keep doing my best to shout to the hills about the great beers we have around here, even if it means I won’t be able to enjoy them as much or for as long as I would otherwise.
All of the beers listed above are excellent brews, well worth your time to seek out. Yes, the more people who do seek them out, the sooner they will be gone and the sooner they will be missed. But that’s no reason not to seek them out and share them with others.
For me, knowing that a particular experience, a particular joy is transitory makes it that much more special, that much more valuable. So savor the moments, folks. Because in the end, the moments are all we have.
Until next month, cheers.
Bill Howell is a home brewer, teaches a beer appreciation class at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus and was named Beerdrinker of the Year by Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. Drinking on the Kenai appears the first Wednesday of the month in the Redoubt Reporter.