Wednesday 19 September 2012

Beer culture

Beer culture? What is beer culture? Some might argue that it’s about the liquid in the glass and the approach that the brewer has taken and how the drinker conjoins with it. It’s perhaps about what the brewer has done within the cloisters of the workplace, the ideas that have created the beer; it’s the experiences, the memories, the everyday life, the homework and the rote learning all distilled into the brew; some brewers might be like inspired songwriters or clever wordsmiths such as Paul Heaton and others like session musicians who turn up day after day and play the same sequence of notes (not necessarily a bad thing as some of the best musicians in the world are sessioneers).

As for the drinker, is beer culture about how they approach the beer in their glass, how they have a relationship with it, how they treat the world when they think about it or drink it or place a plate of ribs in front of it or sit in an armchair closeted from the world, the glass to hand. Others might throw in the environment in which the beer is drank, the ambience of the place where the beer is enjoyed (or maybe isn’t enjoyed), the glare of the light that moonwalks across the stage of whatever drinking space in which the drinker happens to enjoy their beer.

Is it also about the words that are exchanged about the beer like tokens of affection? Or maybe, on the other hand, the words about the beer, whether in the hand or in someone else’s, are like missiles thrown at the police during an inner city riot. Beer’s like that, it encourages words to be tossed about, chucked up in the air, stamped on the floor, taken through the gutter and hung out to dry. Words soothed and smoothed like soft fur, fed on ripe corn, fattened up for slaughter and then they’re gone.

For others beer culture is the route beer takes to get from the people who make it, through the hands of the people who encourage people to try it, en route touching the hands of people who pay for the space in which the beer is made and the face that it shows to the world, before finally the beer laps into the glasses of the people who will pay for it — a journey perhaps with brightly coloured scraps and flags left at various stations along this passage calling out to people that this beer will make them more than they are.

And of course there’s the fury and the fire of the campaign, the broad bland outstretch palm smile of the evangelist and the educator, the sorter out of the wheat from the chaff, the ones that aim to bring order to the world of beer culture in the same way perhaps an art teacher would have loved to teach Picasso how to paint. There’s the time lord in search of what was lost and is found again, an arrow of time flying backwards and forwards. And finally there is the culture of beer culture, the historiography, the methodology, a place where beer culture is dissected like a frog in a school laboratory. 

So what is beer culture? 


  1. the time lord in search of what was lost and is found again, an arrow of time flying backwards and forwards

    I prefer to think of us as 'historians', but I love the image. I have been thinking I might suit a bow tie...

  2. "So what is beer culture?"

    Great question, indeed. Lately, I've been wondering if there is such thing as "beer culture", actually. I'm inclined to believe there is, but as something that mostly exists on the other side of the counter, or, perhaps, within the walls of the breweries. For us, consumers, beer is just another part (more or less important, depending on whom you ask) of a wider thing.