This thing, and other things

Bucketlamps, etc. (Golding's Free Dive, early 2017)
Vaguely-related things (a metaphor, and the design scheme at work)

Seven years ago, I first hit Publish on this thing. The frequency at which I’ve done so, since, has oscillated wildly1 ― as have my reasons for doing so.  After burning out a bit at university, writing about beer was originally a distraction from “more serious” topics ― but that only lasts as long as it takes you to notice how all your favourite “big things” in philosophy more-generally just show up in beer, anyway: the fact that bullshit2 and hypocrisy are everywhere, that most bright lines of classification fall apart on closer inspection, etc., etc.. The parallels are inevitable: our species has been making this stuff for thousands of years, so everything weird or wonderful or woeful about us is reflected in it, and vice versa.

But then, gradually, the world seems increasingly incomprehensible and writing about beer ― even when you’re trying to do it thoughtfully ― just seems so tragically trivial set against (for example) two madmen goading each other towards a missile-measuring contest and a brutally bleak general election here in New Zealand, where beating up on society’s most vulnerable and shameless lying may just have carried the day.3 My brain serves me up a buffet of nonsense even on the best of days — world-class procrastination, a weird kind of completionism that makes me want to turn every little observation into a grand theory of everything, and the standard-issue imposter-y feeling that creeps up on pretty much everyone who garners any kind of ‘recognition’4 — magnifying the demotivational effect of everything else.

I’ve never lost my love of the subject matter, though. I do have a mostly-deserved reputation of being a curmudgeonly bastard about the beer business — but it comes from the fact I’m a frequently-disappointed optimist,5 rather than someone who wallows in negativity. Criticism does stir me to write more-readily than cheerleading, and that’s fine. I’m comfortable with that being a fact about myself, and I honestly think some of my best work has come from that. But I am resolved to try to share, here, more of the unambiguously good, as well as the relatively-neutral stuff you notice from a peculiar vantage point on the industry such as mine.

This thing has been part of my life for nearly a fifth of its duration,6 and it’s a great hobby, outlet, and side-project for me. But — and this is me recommending my approach, presumptuously, to the rest of you — I also do have a (perhaps naïvely hopeful) notion that beer, as a little part of our lives that ties nicely into many other aspects of it, could do us good in unexpected ways. Thinking more clearly about it and acting more ethically where it is concerned might just give us practice for doing so with all the other things.

  1. As I noted last time I marked an anniversary, a global average of about once a week (370 posts total, as of this one) masks an early flurry and a later slowdown.
  2. I mean this, as usual, in the Harry Frankfurt sense.
  3. Though final results aren’t in yet, and our system basically requires a bit of negotiating among several nearly-winners, but it wasn’t the definitive progressive step forward I hoped for.
  4. As I did, five years ago. It was surreal then, and it still is. There’s a distinct drop-off in my posting frequency around, then, partially attributable to exactly that — but it also roughly coincides with an interesting job, Emma moving in, and other pleasant distractions.
  5. I probably got this very useful realisation from George Carlin, who said “if you scratch a cynic, you’ll find a disappointed idealist”. Thanks to Annika for the reminder.
  6. The actual-notebook Beer Diaries have been going — with a similar waxing and waning in their frequency of use as the blog — just over a third of my life, which is quietly mind-blowing.

Have at it: