Is There Anything Better for You Than Beer With a Friend?

Is There Anything Better for You Than Beer With a Friend?

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Name things that can lengthen your life – regular exercise, eating healthy, petting a dog (apparently a cat works too, but no one ever talks about that), not taunting a group of Hell’s Angels, and of course, having a beer with a friend.

There are numerous studies to support the assertion that moderate drinking in social situations is good for your health and can add years to your beers. One group of studies found that people who drink in pubs tend to socialize in smaller groups and this promotes friend making. In reciprocal fashion, those friends made during drinking have a very positive affect on men’s health according to an Oxford University study (I’m guessing it works with women too). Put them together, and it leads to the conclusion of a third study, friends who drink together are much more likely to remain life long friends.

Drinking with friends reduces stress, induces endorphin release, and reduces the likelihood of getting sick. In this scenario, it looks like alcohol is important in triggering the release of endorphins, which promote social bonding. Alcohol is good on its own, but you have to believe that society has reinforced drinking in groups for this very reason. It’s evolutionary – drinking helps make friends and friends make you live longer.

The Indiana City taproom is a great place for a beer and a conversation. image credit: Indiana City Brewing

In today’s society this is even more important. People get out into nature less than they used to, there is less physical labor to be done as we do more on computers and have more technical gadgets to reduce physical efforts – life expectancy in the United States has actually gone down in the last few years. People need more ways to increase their possible lifespan. Add to this a new Evite survey last week that concluded that the average American adult hasn’t made a new friend in the last five years, and clearly we need more drinking in public as a way to make friends and live longer.

If you take this past weekend as any indication, Walter and I could very well live forever. Four different encounters in taprooms and events gave us ample opportunity to interact with our friends over good beers and to make new friends as well. I knew that socializing over beers was fun, but it wasn’t until now that I learned that it was saving my life. We should get a break on our health and life insurance premiums based on how much drinking with friends we do.

Friday afternoon at Indiana City Brewing. Mike and I had a couple of beers in a relaxed and amiable taproom in downtown Indy and had a chance to catch up after a couple of weeks. Mike is a beer friend, we met over beers, we talk about beers and breweries, and we attend many of the same events. It gives us a basis for our friendship, but we talk about other things too. True, most of our common activities revolve around beer, but as we learned above, we’re just doing it for health reasons.

The beer at Indiana City are good conversations starters, including the wet hopped Sea Reaper which uses whole cone cascade and Copper. The flavors were distinct enough that we thought we could pick out the Copper since it used less often. We talked about where it might have come from and discussed Crazy Horse Hops since I know that were harvesting some Copper hops this year. The double dry hopped Gojira Siren Clash led us into a discussion about old movies and my love of Turner Classic Movies. I even ordered it as, “I’ll take the Kaiju beer,” to see if anyone there knew that Godzilla/Gojira is the most famous of the Kaiju (translated as giant, strange monsters).

image credit: Bier Brewery

We talked about breweries and who was moving around in the industry, we chatted about the upcoming events and things we might go to, but we also had a chance to talk about non-beer things too. We talked more about his days in the Navy (the Navy will play a big role in the article), his daughter in Chicago, and about his upcoming overseas trip. We talked about the VA, getting inoculations for his trip within their appointment scheduling system, and my days doing some of my research in the same building in which he used to have doctor’s appointments. Finally, we talked about common friends in beer and how some have become closer while others have grown apart. All the while, we were surrounded by other people having good conversations of their own, and an Indiana City staff that knew when to interact and when to leave us to our own devices.

Friday night at Bier Brewery. I had to leave Mike after a couple of hours so I could meet Walter at Bier to have a couple of beers with our neighbor Karen. Friday was the release of the Pumpkin Porter for the year, so it was likely that we would have stopped by anyway, but meeting Karen made the night better. Karen lives next door to us, but she is a writer too, so we are often off in our own little worlds and don’t see much of each other while working. We take these opportunities at Bier (our neighborhood brewery) to decompress and catch up on the doings in our lives and in the neighborhood.

We talk about her dogs – Karen ran the Iditarod three times and still has one of her sled dogs. She loves all dogs though, and has had several different breeds at one time or another. This is one of the reasons why Bier Brewery is such a great place to hang out, they welcome the dogs and everyone knows how to act around them. It’s nice to know that people who bring their dogs their understand that not every dog is suited to coming out in public, and they know to approach other dogs and owners with proper respect and questions. Dogs are just another way to make friends at Bier, and Walter and I get to partake without needing a dog of our own. If drinking with friends increases health and happiness and so do dogs, then drinking with friends and their dogs must be a magic longevity pill.

We talked about our neighbors (no gossip), including that weird guy who’s out chopping wood at 8am on most Sunday mornings (oh wait, that’s me). As with any neighborhood of older homes, we talk about what’s going wrong and who we’re getting to fix it. We swap fixes and repair names and reviews, and how much houses are selling for around us now. But all the while we’re having the beers that lubricate the conversation. Karen is less of a beer geek – she likes beer no doubt – but she doesn’t feel the need to discuss it in depth, and that’s fine with us. This particular evening we hit the pumpkin porter hard (Karen is a big dark beer fan), and then moved to the Daystarter IPA and the Farmgal saison. We talked about whether this batch of Farmgal tasted different – that’s something you can do when it’s your neighborhood brewery and you’re there as often as we are.

image credit: Brewers of Indiana Guild

Saturday afternoon at Broad Ripple Brew Fest. A big festival is a chance to see so many friends, both behind the tables and in front of them. It was our second weekend in a row at Opti-Park in Broad Ripple, with the Pumpkin, Cider, and Fall Beer Fest last week and the Brewers of Indiana Guild Broad Ripple Brew Fest this week. A large festival, with the friends that people bring with them and the friends they meet there are one of the happiest places on Earth – lots of friends and lots of beer. Add in adults in Halloween costumes and you go from happy to blissful. It was a fine day for a festival, not too hot and not too cold; the sun was out so everyone got their Vitamin D along with their endorphins.

We saw Carlos, Kevin and Kelsey, Kyle, and Kyle, and Kyle, and oh so many people whose names start with “J.” For those behind the tables, we talked about their beers, the kids, and what might be going on within the industry. Walter likes to ask what hops are in the beers, and I like to chat about what they were shooting for, how things turned out as compared to their plans, and what people are enjoying from them that day. Of course, I also try to get news and events from them so that I can tell you about it (nothing gets published unless they say it’s OK).

Ron Smith once again told me something about beer that I didn’t know; I’m pretty sure he could do that every hour on the hour from now until the end of time, and Lindsay Jo Whirley gave me the run down on the great success that was Harvest at Newfields. Courtney and Abby from Guggman Haus Brewing in their witches hats told me about their Halloween party coming up on the 25th. Apparently, the elder Guggman Haus generation is famous for their Halloween decoration prowess, and this year they are sharing it with the brewery patrons.

From in front of the brewery tables we had a good time catching up with many friends and made a couple of new ones. As the weather gets cooler, the discussion of why I wear shorts and T-shirts 365 days a year starts to ramp up – just wait until this year’s Frigid Digits Winter Beer Fest – it’s all we’ll get to talk about. We still talk about beer and breweries, but it mostly takes the form of what beers we tried that day that we liked and what everyone should be on the look out for. For me, the standouts of the day were the Barrel Aged Nutshell from Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, the Crushed Ice Imperial Berliner Weisse from 18th Street Brewery, and especially the Pumpkin Pie Sour Smoothie from Brian Pine and Brian Nentrup and Hoosier Brewing – that beer was both surprising and excellent. Look for it to come out in package from the brewery in the next few weeks.

image credit: Murphys at Flynn’s

Walter was a big fan of the Bourbon Barrel Aged Shadow Proof from Sun King Brewing and the Mashing Pumpkins pumpkin SMaSH beer from Metazoa Brewing. From friends we learned that Taxman Brewing had the Peach Brandy Exemption, so we headed straight over there, and Kyle let us know that MashCraft Brewing had the Homegrown, so we stopped by there too. All in all it was a great festival and it isn’t hard to see why it is one of the favorites of each year – kudos to Shanna, Athena and the Guild.

Saturday dinner at Murphys at Flynn’s. The last stop of the weekend was a reunion with family friends. Our kids were friends all through their schooling, and now they are finishing college so we try to get together when we can. We talk about the kids and what they are doing. We discussed our son’s new job designing simulators for F-18s with the Naval Air Systems Command at the same time that one of their daughters is finishing her last year at the Naval Academy. There was talk of their other daughters job and where our daughter will do her graduate work. And all of this was over several clinked glasses of Guinness, Daystarter from Bier, and a bunch of Miller Lites and Michelob Ultras.  Our friends are on low carb diets, so much of the craft beer available to them at Murphys at Flynn’s was our of their current wheelhouse.

The catching up was a main focus of the evening, but a close second was watching Navy beat up on Tulsa. This was the event of the weekend where beer played the smallest role, but still, it was drinks with friends, and we’re happy to say that we reaped all the karmic and health benefits of that activity. I’d like to think that the quality of the beer matters, but it might not. I don’t know that the endorphins are dependent on the care and innovation of the beers consumed – although I’m pretty sure that the benefits are cut in half if you’re drinking hard seltzers.

Please, for your health’s sake and for the sake of the people whom you befriend, get out and start enjoying craft beer in social settings. You can invite people over, meet them at a restaurant, go to the local pub or brewery, or attend a beer event near or far. It’s less about what you’re doing and more about who you’re with – like we said – there’s little better in life better than drinks with friends, and now you know why.

banner image credit: Walter




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