Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How To Drink Beer And Not Influence People

I'm sitting at the bar of a crowded brewpub facing off a spread of samplers of beer with an attitude of open mindedness. Halfway through the four ounce tasters laid out before me from light to dark with the specialties set aside, I'm taking in the environment and checking out the brewing equipment behind plate glass windows beside me, trying to see if any brewing action is taking place. It's at this moment that I notice in the reflection of that same plate glass the image of a full table of patrons seated over my right shoulder, one pointing in my direction. One has her hand over her mouth stifling a horsey laugh while another holds his pint glass up to the light in mock admiration. All were unaware that they were being observed and the mocking only lasted a few seconds but it lasted long enough to deflect my attention.


The Pinky Extend

It came as a snapshot of embarrassment for me, and a moment of recognition. Like a postcard held at arms length, it revealed to me what must have appeared an aberrant specter in an otherwise normal setting. Here I am sitting alone with my line up of beers paying tribute to an absent brewer and pretending I'm doing something important when in fact I'm simply squinting through the side of a glass. Those around me don't know what I'm staring at, they may suspect I've discovered the image of the virgin of Guadalupe looking back at me from the depths of the amber liquid.  I'm filled with a momentary flash of shame that feels like I just got caught in a lie. But if this shame is false, I reason, then I can push it away and finish what I started here, put it out of my mind and go back to evaluating beer. Still, it makes me want to think of solutions, which is where my mind goes when I'm not sure of the truth.

As my desire to experience commercial beer grows with my passion for homebrewing, so grows my aberrant behavior. I don't want to come off as a pretentious beer snob, but I do want to fully appreciate the beer I'm drinking, and in order to do that I need to pay attention and use techniques that fully utilize my senses. Sometimes this behavior can appear to be suspect and so a bit of discretion needs to be applied. Below, I have identified the type of  negative tendencies which I do that can cause ordinary patrons to point and laugh. These tendencies can be eliminated or modified to reduce the amount of shameful beer based feelings in the future.

Things I will and won't do at the bar anymore while tasting beer.
  • Don't fill out a paper score sheet ranking the beers on a scale for aroma, appearance, flavor
  • Do quietly speak into a small hidden microphone clipped to the shirt collar and connected through a thin wire to a digital recorder concealed in a pocket
  • Don't raise the glass towards the window to use the sun for checking the color and clarity
  • Do bring a mini-mag flashlight to shine through the glass to capture the ruby highlights, additionally this can be hidden from the public in a cloak of darkness by pulling a jacket up over my head
  • Don't smell too long, cupping hands over the glass while swirling the beer vigorously to create foam
  • Don't breath in deeply with flair nostrils causing whistling sounds
  • Don't exclaim righteous approval with exaggerated bodily gestures like high fives to the air
  • Do express approval with subtle quivers, stifled belch, slow motion head nod, raised eyebrow (left or right but never both at the same time), smile on the inside, etc.
  • Do feel free to take another taste to confirm the initial thought and then repeat
  • Don't describe the subtleties that go unnoticed out loud to no one in particular
  • Do use the previously mentioned hidden recorder to quietly describe subtleties, or just use the voice in your head, the one that has conversations with itself 
  • Don't put an arm around the nearest person and confide "You know what I mean don't you?"
  • Do consider putting your arm around the nearest person, then don't
  • Don't cross arms in adamant confidence and make proclamations to the wait staff, subtle and quiet at first then gaining volume with each insistent declaration
  • Do express appreciation to bartender or wait staff, in the form of a tip 
I've found that enjoying a beer to it's fullest is possible while immersed in the general population but discretion is key to being accepted as normal. I shall continue to expand on the list but with what I have so far, I believe the next time I'm sampling beers, with this list in hand I can refer to it and be confident that I'll exhibit prudent action.

Is that what I really want?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John Taylor December 7 at 9:06pm Report

Are you writing a book? I think you should seriously consider it if you're not. I just read two of your articles "How to drink beer and not influence people" and the article from BYO.
Your writing style is articulate and flows smoothly while reading through tears of laughter induced by your dry sarcastic sense of humor.
I really felt your embarrassment when you explained the reflection of your mockers.
I'm going to start paying more attention to your blog, not because I'm a brewer but, because its fun to read.
Thanks.

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