As I said in my announcement for session #94, the question of my role in beer was provoked by a quick tweet exchange where @andrewinski1 suggested that rather than dropping pretty much completely out of the beer scene (as I think that I have), that I have simply moved to another place in said ‘scene’. I thought it was an interesting observation and question, and in turn thought it would make a good topic for session #94.
Contrary to popular belief I never really saw myself as having any kind of role in the beer scene for the longest time, and it was only an accident that changed those circumstances. Prior to me coming to America I was just I guy that drank good beer, took an interest in it, and usually made some notes on the beers that I drank. I would regularly try new beers but never ‘hunted’ them, nor was I ever involved with any beery social interaction other that chatting to the guy at the other end of the bar if we happened to catch one another’s eye. Of course, the lack of social interaction was partly due to the fact that all of what I am talking about was long, long before the Internet and social media, but at the same time I never once felt inclined to engage people about beer very much.
When I arrived in America two things changed; beeradvocate.com being the first one. This inadvertently plunged me into a whole beery social world that had never existed before. Secondly, within the context of that web site, it was clear to me that there was a gross lack of knowledge about all things beer. I should add, that was not anyone’s fault per se, but most people on that site had not been exposed to much beer culture of any description, so they were learning. However, any fault aside, it did have the accidental effect of making me somewhat of an ‘expert’. I use the term loosely, and with no bias or self-proclaimed title, but there is no doubt that I had a level of of expertise, and especially a level of experience, that was well beyond a lot of folk there. The result of all of this was that I was somewhat thrust into the fray as an educator (part of my real job anyway) and although I never coveted such a role, I will freely admit that I also did not shun it.
As many reading this will know, in that role I took a couple of issues to heart, namely session beer and cask ale. Oddly, prior to my arrival in America, although both had always been close to my heart at home, I had previously never felt particularly defensive of either. Of course I had never NEEDED to feel defensive about them prior to arriving here, since in the UK people knew what they were, and what they were talking about. When I got to the US it became immediately obviously that lots of (in fact most) people were utterly clueless about theses things, and as a result I became incredibly sensitive to their abuse and subsequently I made them each my cause célèbres.
At first, and for a short time, this advocate/defender role was fun, but if I am honest it all went sour pretty quickly. It took me far too long to realize that people really wanted to stay ignorant, and to this day, the general abuse of session beer and cask ale is rampant in the USA. When the penny finally dropped for me that people had no interest in what was right, but rather that they wanted the selfish, millennial’s view of ‘anything goes’ and ‘screw tradition’, I essentially dropped out of the beer scene completely.
Session beer and cask ale were not the only issues that caused me to drop out, either. I found that the insanity surrounding beer hype and beer hysteria drove me away at an alarmingly accelerated pace, as beer went all trendy and hip(ster) and the combination just about sent me over the edge, largely since it was so far away from what I consider to be what beer culture is all about.
So, to answer my own question and to address the purpose of session #94, I went from a simple (but discerning) consumer who loved beer and pubs, to an educator, to an advocate and defender, to being almost totally absent from the scene these days with no role to play. (I’ve also been a beer blogger of course, but that’s just a safety valve for me that I have written about before).
Pretty much all of those various roles were chosen by the circumstances surrounding me at any given time, and if I’m honest, where I find myself I now is really the preferable position as long as I can ignore the ignorance about session beer & cask ale, and turn a blind eye to the dumb behavior surrounding beer special releases and the like. Unfortunately, since I find it so difficult to divorce myself from the ignorance surrounding session beer and cask ale, most of my beer life and interaction remains clouded in unhappiness, dissatisfaction, frustration, and at least a little anger.
I thought for a while that people might be interested in my role as a resident curmudgeon, but unfortunately America does not want any part of that particular element either, as it much prefers a Pollyanna, constant, agonizingly optimistic outlook over the truth. In that respect it’s still for the best, since it’s been proven that America isn’t interested in my perspective, now matter how accurate it might be.