23 Jul Raising a Toast to the Same-Old Same-Old
Luck comes to us a couple of ways. The first is the sort of luck is that big-break jackpot everyone notices: the winning lottery ticket or crawling out of your car moments before the huge maple limb snaps free and crushes the driver’s seat. Most of the time, however, luck strikes us more subtly, often passing by our faces so blithely we don’t even take a moment to notice it. I’ve certainly benefited from the former type. Winning over my fiancée’s heart, avoiding chemotherapy and radiation, landing a writing gig with cool craft-beer website stand as exhibits A, B, and C. Those are life-points I think about all the time. But that other kind of luck…? I don’t think about it that much. I should think about it, however.
You see, I’m a high school English teacher, and half my classes are populated with the kids of college professors: smart, intuitive, perceptive, articulate, sometimes smug, too often pretentious, but always one hell of a lot of fun. Even though I am a very lucky individual, it’s good fortune I usually ignore. Instead I groan when the bells ring every hour (I hate those bells). I moan when I try to navigate some education-based website at the behest of my bosses (they are digital labyrinths of educratic stupidity). I sigh when I grab my blue pen (I don’t grade in red) and start fixing every, single, goddamn comma-splice. And I hyperventilate when “office drama” and puzzling, arbitrary administrative edicts send my colleagues into verbal hysterics.
This work environment doesn’t send me to my favorite brew pub, bar, or tap house every day of the week. I haven’t quite reached “Norm and Cliff” stage. But by the end of that week I’m certainly ready to tie one off. When I reach that point, I’m not in the mood to experiment.
My preferred beer of choice is a “strong pale.” I like a neutral yeast, so spare me the English, German, Brazillian, Belgian, Northeast American Samoan, Easter-Islandish Pacific plum-nugget types. When I’m in that mood, I can put all of those away and enjoy them, too. Four years ago, I was in that mood all time. Today, however, I’m less interested in trying something new.
I like hops, too. Actually I love them. But I want to drive home, so I’ll trade off a bit in order to dial-down the ABU from that crazy 8% number. I might down one, but you can leave the rest for people suited to handle it, like the guests at that ancient Viking wedding party. A good 5-6% pale with a smidge of bite ends a long week for me perfectly. Think Zombie Dust or Osiris…that’s me. Then, when winter arrives, when the snows dance across the paneled glass of the pub’s drop down garage doors, I will occasionally switch to one of those porters or browns (think Bad Elmer’s or Dirty Helen) which got me hooked on craft all those years before.
Sometimes, if my gal is with me, I will be willing to experiment, and I’ll order a flight. Other times I’ll travel toward the Circle City for the express purpose of being bold, and I’ll wait in line for the four-pack that tastes like Oreo cookies.
I’m not saying brewers should stop concocting bold, creative batches. Far from that. Make them. Make a lot of them.
I am saying, however, that brewers should keep that “same-old, same-old” steadily flowing.
It’s a small thing…a petty thing I’ll admit. But when I belly-up that Friday afternoon for my favorite beer, I want it to be the mixture my palate has lusted for since lunchtime. When it’s not available—or worse yet, when the “name” is still there but something in the recipe has changed—my mood has soured. I’ll smile. I’ll nod. I’ll keep up the small-talk with the gal drawing from the tap-handles. But make no mistake: under that façade of apparent casual joy, I am actually thoroughly pissed off.
And it’s worth repeating that I am a craft beer guy. I have tried them all, and disliked only a few of them. My friends who hang out with me on Fridays, however, are another part of this story.
Take Boyd for example: He’s big—a linebacker as a kid sporting the kind of nose that once stopped a train. He chews on iron ore and spits out galvanized deck nails. But he loathes hoppy beers. He would rather settle for his Coors light, but if he’s at the brew pub he can go with sweet tasting brown or a dialed-back stout.
And then there’s Steve: He’s tried and tried and tried and tried every craft beer we’ve put in front him. He wants to be a craft beer guy, but he’s not. He’s never going to be. In a pub setting, he can survive the afternoon on a thin pilsner or a weak blonde, but that’s it. Any plans to grow his palate toward that triple-hopped IPA have “failure” written all over them.
These are my friends, and I want to hang out with them. But if you don’t have the beers they want, they will go to elsewhere. If I want to enjoy time with those friends, I will follow them elsewhere.
So yeah, if your goal is to strike that magic deal with Monarch, distribute that distinct 10% super IPA which tastes like Tang on the front end and a Christmas tree on the finish…? I think that’s cool. You should go for it, and if you strike pay dirt and hit it big, then I will be all the more happy for you.
But you don’t need that kind of “Powerball” luck. Not really. Routine luck of the “scratch-off” variety is already sitting in front of you in form of me, Steve, and Boyd. Boyd, by the way wants that sweet brown, and he’s calmly leveling his gaze located just above that nose.
So just give us our same-old, same-old, and we’ll entertain you with stories from our crazy week at work.