is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|Remember the Alamo? Remember the Maine? Remember The Titans? Note please that’s a question mark, not an
exclamation point, after each one because we’re not talking about the mission in Texas, a ship sunk in Havana
Harbor, or a fair to middlin old movie. No, those are also names of proud little local bars that I’m starting to worry
about. I also worry about other bigger ones I frequent like the Northside, Hoover’s, The Tree Leaf, Big G’s Big Grill,
Lynch’s Lounge, and others. I worry that since they are all currently shut down by order of the government to combat
the spread of the Coronavirus they might not reopen. Ever.
No one, or at least non-spring break goers, argue about how closing bars will help fight the spread of the virus
though there are some who add that while they understand the need for social distancing the distance between a
closed and open bar is a heck of a lot farther than 6 feet.
Not only do I worry about the bars’ ultimate survival I also worry about the jobs of all the people who work there from
the bartender to the bus boy to the bar back to the manager. Understandably if the bars had stayed open these hard
workers would be at a higher risk than many other professions of catching the virus because of their close proximity
to customers. It was a lot easier in the past when their big worry was that they were dealing with a customer who
hadn’t had a shower in the last several months. This time it’s a bit more serious though certainly less smelly.
The international size and scope of this health crisis has proven to be especially damaging to drinking establishments
across the country. In an effort to stay afloat many have begun or increased delivery options, started curbside to-go
service, offered gift certificates, and other band-aid cures. One of the more unique approaches I’ve seen was
offering a free roll of toilet paper for every $10 spent on food takeout including beer/wine/liquor. Think of it this way,
the bigger your bill the less COSTCO and CVS receipts you’ll be using to wipe you know where. And for the record,
those are none too soft. As far as I can tell the only people smiling through this toilet paper shortage are investors
in bidet manufacturing companies.
I also really worry about we beer drinkers who often head out to a pub each day for a few pints. If you’re like me you
go not only for the beer but because it’s also a social experience. Now thanks to the state and local governments
ordering bar closures, social distancing and self-quarantine, isolation has replaced the communal camaraderie of the
pub. In fact, going to the pub is probably the most communal activity of all communal activities since it’s the only one
where someone can buy you a round or two.
With the new stay-at-home rules drinking beer may seem as much of a salve as making soup, binging on Netflix, or
shouting out the window “I hate Corona, the virus and the beer”. Now if you have a friend or relative join you in
opening a bottle I’m sure the alcohol police would not raise an eyebrow unless of course it was The Rock but he
would only raise one eyebrow. That begs the question, if you are totally alone,practicing the ultimate social
distancing, is it okay to knock down a few beers and if so how many? If you’re a regular reader of this column you
know that after “yes” I’m not going to say only one.
Obviously, the question of whether to drink when alone isn’t too important in the scheme of what’s happening now. In
the words of Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca: “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the
problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” By the way if you’ve never seen the
film do so now, immediately, post haste, tout de suite, straightaway, and pronto (who often enjoyed a beer at the town
saloon with the Lone Ranger). Still, it’s a question more than a few people might eventually ask themselves if this
crisis lingers on and their beer supply becomes dangerously diminished.
I’m afraid that there’s a chance some might chastise themselves with a far too serious thought of swearing off beer
until their favorite pub opens again. From the moment we start to learn about beer, we are taught that drinking
responsibly means doing it usually in a social context and it's admittedly true that many a mediocre beer I’ve drank
alone has tasted much better to me at a barbecue or a ball game. The fun, the joy, the sense of discovery in craft
beer seems elevated when it is enjoyed in a collective environment. Discussing the beer in your hand with others is
part of the craft adventure. Besides when opening a 750 ml bottle of a Russian Imperial Stout at 14% you’ll feel a lot
better in the morning if someone is sharing it with you.
It’s easy to find many online “experts” who say that drinking alone is considered a sign of a serious problem that
could lead to psychological issues like wishing you could live your life over again. If I had to live my life over, I'd live
over a saloon but that’s grist for a future article. Those naysayers are usually teetotalers or serious Bud Light
Seltzers drinkers. Then again some of the greatest minds in the world have lamented the tearful results of solo
drinking. Who could forget Loretta Lynn’s stern warning Don’t Come Home A Drinkin, Luke Bryan’s Drinking Beer Is
The Devil’s Work, Dylan’s Moonshiner (home brewer to us) Madness, and Johnny Russell’s plaintive, heart breaking
rendition of 'Only Rednecks With White Socks Drink Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer Alone'.
Critics claim that drinking alone makes it more likely you’ll drink a 4 or 6 pack in one sitting. They fail to understand
that’s because you are, well, alone. They say that drinking beer by yourself is never a solution to a problem. In that
they are clearly wrong since beer is technically a solution. They even suggest that the whole point of drinking alone is
self-medication. My bartender might agree since he once told me he’s a pharmacist but with a limited inventory.
As I see it, you can be comfortable drinking beer alone simply because it tastes good. It can elevate the food you’re
eating to the point where stale potato chips seem like a gourmet meal at a Michelin Star restaurant (that will however
take a lot of beer). Having a beer alone will also allow you to think, to contemplate, to meditate about things. I don’t
know what things, just things.
For the record I don’t personally seek out isolation but I have had some wonderful times with several glasses of beer
by myself. When you drink alone you can laugh at your own jokes, you don’t have to cough to cover up passing gas,
you can crank up your favorite bagpipe torch song, and even put Triple IPA on your morning Cheerios rather than
the politically correct Guinness. If self quarantine has you feeling sad, lonely and depressed I guarantee beer will
help you turn it around so you'll be depressed, lonely, and sad.
Be advised that in some areas getting beer may be as difficult as finding Lysol wipes, Clorox bleach, toilet paper,
bottled water, thermometers, canned food, hand sanitizers, 5 pound bags of pear pits, and retro reproductions of
Beanie Babies. I'm almost at the point where I wish I hadn't poured my last batch of undrinkable home brew down the
drain. Almost. .
These are hard times and we’re all doing what’s necessary to protect the health of family, friends and ourselves. If
that means closed bars, restaurants, movie theaters and more so be it. Sacrificing a few pleasures is not asking too
much. However one thing that no one is asking you to do is give up beer. Need proof? In all the different states that
have closed "non-essential retail businesses" until further notice they all have agreed that breweries and beer stores
can remain open.
Beer you see really is essential to life.
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