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A self imposed paradox

Today’s journey through introspection begins, as so many do, with a conversation. (The inevitable result of being my friend is that I will at some point exploit you for Content)

Andee, you see, is studying to become a Cicerone. This means she is essentially taking a correspondence class in Beer, except it’s also Independent Study because there isn’t a curriculum. So she’s reading and drinking and so on, and soon will know much more about beer than me and I will resent her for it.

We talked about it when we were working at Bidwells this past Saturday, in between rolls of the eyes at how incredibly lame I am. She said her goal was to drink a new beer every day. My first thought was that this was such a great idea! I generally try to drink a beer a day anyway, because I read one study that said this was healthy and have decided that this is objective Truth.

There are so many flavors to experience, you see. Not just breweries and debates between whether something is a pale ale or session IPA (surprise! you’re both right!), but broad swaths of styles and countries of origin. I’ve gone through phases: for a long time I was “way into”, as the kids say, Belgian style beers. I’ve had a brown ale/porter/stout phase, and recently I admit I have succumbed to the siren call of the hop.

You can’t hold it all in your mind: all the beer, all the styles. You tend to forget. That’s to say nothing of the new breweries and their distinctive takes on things: it’s a real Red Queen situation. You have to keep drinking just to stay in the same place, which now that I say it sounds like what would happen anyway.

So: always be trying something new, right? Well. Isn’t that what we do most of the time anyway? We’re too busy chasing the new hotness that we forget about what we know and love? Now I’ll drink a Chimay, or a PMX, or — if I remember to actually buy it this year — a Tumbler, and realize it’s almost like drinking it for the first time. In some ways I like this, since I get to experience it with fresh eyes. Or tongues. Whatever.

Which is to say, as I often do, the truth is I don’t know anything. The idea of forbidding myself from having a beer I’ve already have intrigues me, because it yanks me out of my comfort zone. I think what really appealed to me about the concept was the idea not of trying the unknown, but of trying something I otherwise wouldn’t. That style is too boring, or the brewery isn’t my favorite, or I’ve heard the beer is fine but not great. So? It’s beer!

I think a problem many of us have, and if you don’t I’m fine with making this a “me” thing instead of a “trend” one, is that we mentally divide beer into “great” and “crap”, and if it isn’t great then it’s mediocre. I suspect the truth is that quite nearly everything is rather more in the middle instead of at an extreme, and that’s fine. I love beer, obviously, but I sometimes act like it has to be some kind of revelatory experience. That’s happened, where I take a sip and cannot believe how good it tastes, but — as it should be — it doesn’t happen very often.

So: I want to try new things. I want to expand my horizons. And if things are merely fine along the way, that’s fine too.