The Fun Of Missing Out

The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide (photo by Em, 8 November 2015)
The Wheatsheaf — one of the nicest pubs to which I’ve never been

A version of this post originally appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of SOBA’s quarterly magazine Pursuit of Hoppiness. The idea came to me during a guest spot on the Ale Of A Time podcast — though I didn’t realise at the time that I could just reuse and rework the standard acronym — and I was recently reminded of the point while Em was on holiday last week and managed to visit the Wheatsheaf (in Adelaide) before me and without me.

The Fear Of Missing Out is an ancient impulse made ever-sharper and more problematic by modern communications technology bringing news of happenings that are too far-flung or ill-timed, or both, to personally enjoy. It crops up often in the beer world, often rendered as “FOMO”1 — both for brevity’s sake and to encompass the wider emotions of anxiety, sadness, and jealousy that also so-naturally accompany missing out. But let’s recalibrate our f-word, so to speak.

Start with the realisation that what you do experience will always be dwarfed, by orders of magnitude, by what you don’t. Accept, first, this inevitable Fact Of Missing Out. Then realise that this is true of and among all of us; I’ll only ever experience a tiny fraction of what you get to, and vice versa. Somewhere down this path, with practice, lies the Fun Of Missing Out. As well as “responsibly” and “in moderation”, you can enjoy beer vicariously. Which is handy, because everyone is missing out on something. And that’s fine.

This may sound a bit rich coming from someone in Wellington, a town that sometimes seems to get more than its share of the fun. What we have here is worth celebrating and/or visiting, and its (ongoing) creation took the sustained effort of a diverse group of people over a few decades of hard and risky work. But there’s nothing particularly freakish about this place, no secret ingredient blowing in on the wind. Great things are possible everywhere; indeed, they’re happening all over.

But keep in mind that local greatness is always unique. The things that make your place wonderful aren’t mandatory markers of success for somewhere else. Wellington is an amazing spot to drink beer, but we (mostly) lack the deep history you can find in towns further afield, we (mostly) lack the neighbourhood-anchoring brewpubs of Auckland and Christchurch, and more generally it’d be fair to say that our richness in bars masks a relative dearth of pubs ― if you know what I mean by the difference. So it’s always a thrill to hear about what’s going on elsewhere. It gives new perspective on what you do have, and it’s comforting to know that plenty of awesomeness awaits stumbling-upon when you next get a chance to travel the country, or indeed the world.

A rich ecosystem is characterised by diversity, and diversity all the way down is best.2 We don’t need to aspire to the same experience in each region, or festival, or neighbourhood, or even venue. Better to have a freaky fractal than a homogenous blob. Subtle little flows of inspiration, product, and personnel (in all directions) will keep things evolving and everywhere will benefit. But it entails a lot of Missing Out for us individual drinkers.

All we need to do is adjust our mindset. Just as we should all resist letting our beer-geeky enthusiasm mutate into snobbery (which is both needlessly cruel to non-geeks, and anyway counter productive in ‘spreading the gospel’, as it were), we should guard against letting our regional ‘patriotism’ slip into xenophobia. Let us all be more cosmopolitan in our cheerleading. There’s treasure everywhere. Find the stories of what’s happening near you, and tell them. Make me jealous that I’m missing out. I genuinely love it.

  1. Or perhaps “FOMOOB” — by adding “on beer” — if Luke (from the aforementioned Ale Of A Time) has his way.
  2. Which always reminds me of this excellent little video from Minute Earth, which links the ecology of forests with the economics of fermentables.

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