If you haven't heard, today is National Beer Day in the U.S. Apparently it's a nod to the passage of the Cullen-Harrison Act in 1933. That piece of legislation relaxed some of the rules around low-alcohol beverages, primarily beer, and paved the way for the end of Prohibition later that same year.
So today is a good opportunity to reflect on what beer means to me. I've been drinking non-macro beer for around fifteen years, and have been home brewing off and on for about ten. Beer is more than a beverage, however, and has had a lasting impact on my life beyond the glass.
First and foremost, the people I have been able to meet, know, and spend time with because of our shared interest in beer is remarkable. Early on I developed friendships with fellow home brewers. We shared tips and tricks and sampled each other's brews. Brewing is a social sport, and friendships that develop over boiling wort are some of the best.
Jesse Core from Core Brewing Co. once said he wanted his pubs to be the decompression zone between the workplace and home. That is exactly what our state's breweries, taprooms, and pubs have become. I often meet friends at our neighborhood taproom for a couple of pints so that we can relax and reconnect. My wife and I usually start or end date night at a brewery or beer-centric establishment.
These places have become a part of the state's social fabric, and in many ways operate as later-in-the-day extensions of the neighborhood coffee shop. I dare say craft beer fosters face-to-face dialogue between people--which is sorely lacking in this age of online interaction.
The brewers and brewery employees themselves are wonderful to know. Small local breweries are naturally set up for brewer-patron exchanges. I have absolutely loved getting to spend time talking with them about their histories, recipes, future plans, etc. Of course writing about beer for the Fayetteville Flyer over the last few years has given me more access to them than the average Joe, but I can't imagine Rebel Kettle's John Lee (who is one of the most personable and friendly brewers in the state) being any less hospitable to a first-time visitor than he is to me. Beer people are some of the best people around, and getting to know the men and women of the state's beer industry is an awesome experience.
On a different note, beer has changed the way I travel. My wife and I have spent the last several years visiting beer cities, including both Portlands (Maine and Oregon) and San Diego. We spent my 40th birthday in Copenhagen, Denmark and of course spent time at WarPigs and Mikkeller during our stay. Later this fall we are going to the Arkansas-Colorado State game in Fort Collins with our neighbors and what will I'm sure be a throng of Hog fans. We are excited to explore New Belgium and Odell Brewing Co. while we are there. Even when we visit cities that aren't known as beer destinations, we seek out whatever beer-centric establishments are around. For us there is no better way to get a sense of the local culture. It all seems to coalesce around beer.
Of course there's more to beer than what I've mentioned here. There is a huge economic impact for our state. Jobs, taxes, and tourism benefit everyone, not just people who enjoy beer. For me the impact is more personal. My interest in craft beer has led to a hobby, stronger relationships, and a new perspective on travel and culture. And of course it was a big part of me finding my voice as a writer. Without craft beer I don't know that I would have discovered the creative outlet I so desperately needed.
How about you? Has beer had a positive influence on your life?
Happy National Beer Day!