Friday, 6 May 2016

The Session #111: Beer midlife crisis?

I'm about the right age for a midlife crises, if such a thing exists, but our host, Oliver, wants us to focus on the idea of a beer midlife crises, something that I can probably relate to in one sense or another.

If this blog, and the (in)frequency of posts over the past few years is anything to go by, it would sure look like I lost the zeal for good beer. But for many, and I would include myself in those ranks, blogging is just an aspect of a hobby, a means to engage with a broader, international community of beer lovers. For others, it is a means to establish a brand, to launch into something closer to a job in the industry, as many of the new, glossy-looking German blogs seem to be, riding on the wave of a new German beer (sub) culture.

Truth be told, I had more pressing things to be doing, renovating a house, taking care of my family, and fitting into the new social dynamics of a small German village. But I will admit that over this period, while my core love of beer smoldered away inside, I was quite content, in the main, to buy beers I liked by the crate-load, and simply enjoying them without analysing. My home brewing was taking a hit, too, with a low point in 2012 of brewing only once in the entire year! And apart from the highlights of attending a festival or two each year, I had neither the time nor the money to be investing in what can be an expensive hobby. At least when trying to keep up with the new, usually dearer, specialty brews from new and old breweries here, while there were pretty decent "normal" beers to be had at very reasonable prices. So my broader explorations slowed, and I had to become more selective.

This period also saw a boom in what I suppose can be described the craft beer movement here in Germany. With my lack of time and money, to a degree it felt like watching from the outside, as the choices for lovers of interesting beer expanded, and the idea of craft finally came to Germany. However, observing an apparent swell of "me too" breweries, or often just brands opening up in the trendy parts of Germany, as well as large breweries co-opting the "movement", I think I probably reached, well, not a crises, but a kind of cynicism that is not really the way I like to see the world.

And that is probably as close to a crises that I will get in my beer life. The pleasure of experiencing a new beer, for brewing, for sharing and for actually being part of a community with a common interest, well, that never went away.

In the past 14 months, since moving into our house, my home brewing has increased pace again, and brew days have become more like a social occasion, as people usually pop around for a bite to eat and some beer tasting. I'm also planning on giving the home brewery a more permanent home in the barn, one of the many projects on my endless to-do list. Last August I completed a dedicated beer cellar, and plan to start cellaring certain beers properly, with a view to having vertical tastings in a few years, so the way I see it, beer has been incorporated into the very fabric of our home.

The social aspects of beer are also too important to forget. For me, beer has been like an "in", as a foreigner in a small village. Stammtisch people now introduce me as "the Irish brewer", if someone new pops in, giving two topics to immediately talk about. But more recently, my passion for all things beery has been re-awoken due to being around more people with similar interests, either home brewers, professional brewers, or simply neighbours of all ages just happy to objectively taste something new. Beer is ultimately a social thing, and it needs people to make it any way interesting at all.

I won't promise that this blog will suddenly be seeing more regular posting, nor am I ready to close its eyes and draw a blanket over it, as TheBeerNut put it. I will continue to occasionally post about things that grab my fancy, or that I feel need a bit of thought and exploration (purely for my own sake), or simply giving readers a view into what is happening in the German beer scene. But my personal interest in beer? That won't lessen any time soon. It's simply too much fun!


Unknown said...

Great post Barry, I'm 29 and I used to drink interesting beers, like you feature on this blog, all the time. I have gut-problems and I started to become adverse to the effects beer was having on my stomach the same and next day, more than 2 pints seemed to cause pain that outweighed the deliciousness, so I stopped almost entirely.

Your post has renewed my interest in trying beers again, I think this time though I'll go for a smaller volume, third/half and instead increase the variety.

p.s - Your Chimay Blue Grand Reserve 2008 reminded me of the time I tried to conquer one of these [] with only 1 other person, I dont remember the outcome...

Barry M said...

Thanks Ben. I sometimes wonder if I have a hop allergy, but seem to struggle through :) But if you are consistently feeling bad soon after drinking a beer, you should probably get tested, to see what it might be. Gluten maybe? It's not worth suffering just for beer. Switch to cider, maybe? :)

My stash of large bottles grows often, as I cannot justify drinking 750ml of Imperial Stout alone. Even sharing with one person would be enough :D