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Monday, April 12, 2010

Does Beer Matter?

Always fashionably late to a party, I arrive at this international fête fully ten days after the fact. Nevertheless, it's a timeless topic, and therefore one requiring no punctuality. The topic of the party was posed by the dyspeptic Beer Nut who asks, does beer matter? And then answers no:
Beer is a luxury commodity, an enjoyable way to dispose of my disposable income. It's fun, it's frivolous, it's entertaining, it's a social nucleation point. But it doesn't matter. If it wasn't beer it'd be something else. Indeed for most people it is something else.

From here the Nut goes on a pretty extensive rant about how people who line up for special releases are kidding themselves, that the breweries who put out special releases are scamming the rubes, and how the whole affair smacks of elitism we proles despise among the effete oenophiles. Thereafter, Alan and Stephen and Pivni Filosof behave like bad guests and dispatch the argument in short order.

We would have to take this to a tiresome level of etymological analysis to resolve matters (pun intended), but I'll just add the only kind of comment a late arrival can--an obvious one. Beer provides a small but significant group with a respectably textured form of diversion--less than the one engaged in by monastic priests, but more than that of fans of American Idol. If it didn't matter, why would we still be debating the point?

Which reminds me--on Tuesday I get to taste that prickly-pear braggot the Widmers are just about to release. Limited quantities, so be sure to race out and get your bottle soon!


  1. I think you're suffering from delusions of significance there, Jeff. What makes our group significant, other than the fact that we ourselves are members of it? Would it look significant to someone outside it?

    When I make a highly-prized one-day-release beer it will most definitely be called "Rube Scammer".

  2. I believe that in the great order of things beer doesn't really matter. It matters to the people who make a living out of it, of course and it matters to the few of us that take it somewhat too seriously, but if beer was eradicated from the world, we would sure find something else to drink and enjoy and possibly rant about...

  3. It depends on what your definition of 'matter' is. Food, Clothing, Shelter. Beyond that, does anything REALLY matter? Does baseball matter? Does wine? Do cell phones matter? Does your mother or father matter? Your child? Your friends? Your job? What do you mean by 'matter'?

  4. Beer Nut,

    Well, in the US, at least, the people buying those crazy beers you identify amount to a fairly large group. I suffer from sample bias, because I live in a city where tens of thousands of people are borderline fanatics. By "significant" I meant in number. Perhaps it's different elsewhere.

  5. Jeff,

    The group might be fairly large, but I'm sure they're still a minority compared to those who buy any other kinds of beer, and as you say, it might be different elsewhere. Here in CZ something like that would never happen.

    Anyway, though I agree the TBN on the passage you quoted, I fail to understand why some people fret so much about these so called crazy beers. As I say in my post (thanks for linking, BTW) if a brewery sees them as good business why shouldn't they sell them? It's their thing, I don't have to buy them. If someone feels they MUST have them at all cost, even if that means queuing for hours and paying through the nose for something that may or may not be worth it, it's their time and money. And if to those people the possession of that beer makes them feel in some way special, superior to others, as sad as that may be, it's still their lives and I don't have to hang out with them.

  6. I read thie original post, and I don't think BN comments really distinguish between beer and hype beer, which is a huge gulf. Say what you want about hype beer, we have a pretty good system where you decide to buy it or not, litterally. but to apply the same thought to beer itself is saddly mistaken. Beer is important and has deep social and cultural roots, spanning from the earliest days of agriculture to empires and revolutionaries. To say everyone would start playing ping pong or something, if beer wasn't available, is ludicris. Especially from someone called the beer nut. In the long term, expensive/exclusive beers, brands, trends don't really matter, but see the forest through the trees.

  7. You can't get drunk on ping pong. But, as I'm sure your studies of early agriculture will have shown you, where the ingredients of beer don't grow people drink wine, or cider, or chew coca leaves, or distill firewater.

  8. at BN: Maybe I'm playing ping pong wrong. Anyway, I didn't know you ment any other form of alcohol or intoxicant. People did do those things and still do them, but with a beer in their hand. Ever heard the saying 'it takes a lot of beer to make wine'? Atleast with wine there isn't the same type of CRAZY hype like with beer. I don't see any point in trying to reverse engineer this one. your article was about hype beer. not beer.

  9. Huh? Wine has massive amounts of hype attached to it, and all the high prices and boring snobbery that comes with it.