64. An Altbier Saved My Life Tonight
Returning to reality with a classic German beer; plus NAGBW awards, NYC's Blocktoberfest, and tarot for a conflict hangover.
Am I Allowed to Bring My Emotional Support Altbier?
Last issue, I hadn’t been sure if I would be able to write another issue in time for the following week or not, and hoo boy was it the latter. A long weekend in Vegas for the glorious Elvis impersonator-officiated nuptials of one of my best friends proved a lot less chill than I’d anticipated. I know nothing sounds “chill” about a Vegas trip, let alone a Vegas wedding trip, but my friends are not of the party-animal variety. I’ve written here before how much I love Vegas, and bristle at all the “that’s too long to stay in Vegas!” comments I get when people find out I’m going for four or five days, because I only sprinkle a touch of the Strip into leisurely days of brewery-hopping, vintage-shopping, and mountain drives. But there were a few other friends we hadn’t met before along on this trip, and let’s just say I have now experienced the Vegas people are thinking of when they say anything longer than 24 hours is too long. I had a wonderful time with some dear friends and loved the shit out of seeing two of them get married, but I also feel like I’ve survived something I’m maybe not even ready to talk about?
A funny thing happens when I’ve experienced a trip like this or just have any sort of wild ride or trying experience. I become…disconnected from my reality, if that makes sense? As a writer, I should be able to articulate this better, but the best I can do is that it feels like my life and career and people and habits and general world are hurdling forward on a space shuttle with me very much on board, but then I have to go take care of something so I put on my moon suit and, woops, something gets disconnected and I start floating away into nothingness. (I know fuck-all about space so work with me here—basically I’m thinking of “Gravity,” I guess, but I’ve never seen it because I can’t think of anything more terrifying.) Suddenly all the good and the bad when it comes to the stuff of life feel equally necessary, like I would happily put up with something frustrating just to feel it, because the emails and the compulsory promoting my work on Instagram and the hauling groceries up the stairs and the deadlines and the invoices all feel like comforting patches on the whole quilt of life—that I suddenly can’t remember. They feel foreign, and my senses feel dulled.
It’s probably exhaustion—physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Because that’s usually the most immediate reflex. I’ll think of something like a cause I want to write about and donate to and champion and the infuriating, devastating problem behind it and my brain just gives out, like I can’t remember what it feels like to do any of those things and don’t see how I will ever be able to again. And that feels hopeless. I suppose if I were to dig a silver lining out of all of this, it would be that it makes me realize I do love a lot of my life. I have notes, trust, but most of it is Good Stuff. I don’t like routine in the sense that I like each day to be a little different and fluid, but when something really rocks my entire life off of its tracks and the reality I know gets muffled and distant, I feel untethered, like someone Olivia Colman would play in a film. And so I begin to look for some kind of North Star. I reach for something familiar that will act as the cord to yank me back inside the space shuttle (again, that most likely makes zero sense).
This time, my North Star was an altbier. A good altbier at a good beer bar with a good chat. As I swallowed the first sip of that Uerige, I felt like I had just been yanked from underwater, gasping for those first few gulps of life-giving air. I know that sounds very dramatic but a, it’s true; b, I do love altbier a whole lot; and c, if you don’t fancy a little ~theatre~ with your beer missives then perhaps this newsletter is not for you!
Our first day in Vegas, as we waited for others’ flights to get in and such, was one centered around fancy cocktails enjoyed at some favorite spots in the slow, easy-going calm before the storm. No complaints. Then the days of the actual wedding festivities were a blur of prosecco (usually no complaints, but then I’ve never seen this much of it in one place), White Claws (complaints), hard Mountain Dews the last Airbnb guests had left behind (not good but probably more complaints from my friends because this prompted me to start telling everyone about beverage alcohol mergers and acquisitions)…what I’m saying is, it makes sense that a classic, perfect Uerige altbier was like this familiar sign of home and my own kind of normalcy after an upside-down week. It’s that thing I’ve also talked about here, where for the first time in days, I remembered to slow down, savor every sip, and really think about what I was smelling, tasting, and loving.
This was all done at a bar I love a whole lot, too, The Silver Stamp. It was during the few hours we had between the last of our friends heading for the airport and when we had to, so it was like this break between the chaos and the return to regular life. The lovely bartender was the first person I’d spoken to in days who wasn’t with our party, which in and of itself was a huge reminder that there was indeed still a whole world out there spinning away. The chat couldn’t have been more casual, but dotted around things like the parts of Vegas tourists never check out and beer, beer bars, and beer writing, so in just a few minutes, I began to remember life as I know it. The Uerige Classic Altbier became a sort of meditation. I went all in, letting every sip pull all my attention. And doing so, each of the sips made me feel more and more alive, and more and more myself. Now I keep thinking about it, and how magic a little thing like an altbier can be.
Awards Definitely Aren’t Everything, But Sure Are Nice
The North American Guild of Beer Writers announced their 2022 beer journalism award winners this past Sunday. I actually didn’t get to tune into the livestreamed announcement because my pug thinks she is an acrobat and misjudged a leap and fell hard on her leg, so we had to cut a family visit short and spend Sunday traveling home so she could see the vet Monday. So it was a lovely surprise to catch up and find out I’d won a second-place award for my Thrillist piece from last fall, “How Native American Breweries Are Reclaiming Their Identities Through Beer.”
First of all, because I kind of want to get the embarrassing, navel-gaze-y part of all of this out of the way, I’m torn but leaning toward allowing myself to be really excited about this recognition. I try to sort of keep blinders on when it comes to things like awards because, frankly, I don’t tend to win much and if I got too wrapped up in all that, it might form yet another channel of crippling self-doubt I just don’t need in my career or life—I’ve got plenty of those channels already! And truly, I don’t believe awards in any industry are ever some end all, be all declaration of a job well done—or a job not well done. I read tons of stories, watch tons of movies, listen to tons of albums, and so on, that are unforgettably and incredibly good and yet fly under the award radar. Who knows, you know? But what I like about the NAGBW awards is that they don’t feel overly serious or pretentiously important: they’re a wholesome, simply nice way of peers appreciating each other’s work. They’re an example other endeavors in other industries should look to when it comes to being diverse and inclusive, with growing representation that itself represents expanding diversity within beer writing, as Jeff Alworth writes.
The fact is, looking at the list of NAGBW winners over the years is a great way to get to know the beer writing world and find writers to discover. The thing about my own win this year is that I just feel so over-the-moon honored to be included among names I admire so damn much, whose work means so much to me. To be honest, it’s here that I’m working really hard to keep a lid on the ol’ impostor syndrome—am I really worthy to be counted among these writers? Idk, I’m going to try my best to trust the judges, and wonder if this means I can finally meet a maybe cringe goal of mine, which is to sneak the adjective “award-winning” into a future bio. Can I do that with a second-place win? Maybe doing so is the confidence knock my stubborn impostor syndrome needs.
I’d love if you went and read the Thrillist piece I won for! Because getting to write it meant the world to me. I am grateful to Bow & Arrow, Skydance Brewing, 7 Clans Brewing, and Rincon Reservation Road Brewing for sharing their stories with me—honestly the biggest honor part came just in writing the story. But this is a nice reminder to revisit it, so I’ll take that opportunity.
Biggest ever “congratulations” to all the winners this year. To say these wins were well-deserved is an understatement. I said this on Twitter and I’ll say it again here: I don’t know how the judges do it with the quality of beer writing today. I saw so many of my favorite pieces from the past year among these awards, but can think of so many more beyond that. What a time to be alive and writing and reading about beer!
See You at Blocktoberfest?
If you’re in New York and love craft beer, fall just isn’t fall until the annual Blocktoberfest hits. This is a true celebration of New York City breweries and the wonderful beer they make, and of the local beer community as a whole. (And, it’s an intentionally and meaningfully safe space.) From the event page, just take a gander at the breweries scheduled to pour (some changes may occur):
18th Ward, Alewife, Big aLICe, Bridge and Tunnel, Bronx Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery, Circa Brewing, Coney Island, DaleView, Dyke Beer, Ebbs, Endless Life, Evil Twin, Fifth Hammer, Finback, Five Boroughs, Flagship, Greenpoint, Grimm, Gun Hill, Interboro, Keg & Lantern, Kills Boro, KCBC, LIC Beer Project, Other Half, Randolph, Rockaway, Singlecut, Sixpoint, Strong Rope, TaLea, Threes, Torch & Crown, Transmitter, Wild East.
Wowzers! If you haven’t gotten tickets yet, whaddya waitin’ for? Grab ‘em here, and let’s do this (even in the rain!).
This week, I pulled the Five of Swords.
Swords is the suit of intellect and decisions, and specifically, the Five of Swords speaks to conflict, competition, and putting it all on the line to win or dealing with/worrying about defeat. Often, this card comes up when you’re having a conflict hangover. Maybe you had a fight with a family member, friend, or partner, and it’s now causing you real emotional distress. Maybe you clashed with someone at work and now it’s affecting your job or the environment for you there. Maybe you got sucked into a stupid Twitter argument and now you just feel weird for a variety of reasons. Essentially, you butted heads with someone somewhere—maybe it’s even an inner conflict with yourself—and it’s giving you grief in some way now.
And that can be whether you “won” or “lost.” If you’re somehow the victor in whatever conflict we’re talking about, maybe you gave up too much to get there, or hurt someone or yourself in order to win. Or maybe you don’t feel good about that turnout now. Or maybe it hasn’t worked out the way you thought it would in the aftermath. And if you were somehow defeated, maybe you’re suffering the consequences of that—losing out on work, disconnected from a loved one, out the $40 you bet, suspended from Twitter (this might be a win).
What the Five of Swords encourages you to do is think about how you can repair the situation, make amends, or grow from this. Can you apologize? Can you do something nice for the person you fought with? Can you own up to something? Can you learn from something you missed? Can you realize a relationship or job isn’t worth this fight and move on to something that is—or realize that you do want to fight for it and figure out how? Think about the ways you can turn this frown (conflict) upside down (something positive). And a big takeaway from the Five of Swords, no matter what your particular conflict has been, is to move forward in life really choosing your battles. Not every single thing is worth risking your happiness or a relationship or opportunity or just your sanity. Always ask yourself what you will get or lose from a conflict before wading in, and play the whole thing through in your head. How does it look on the other side? It might be easier than you think to determine the battles worth fighting versus the ones that aren’t.
For guidance, turn to the Battle Priest, a wild ale from 3 Floyds. Battle Priest has got to know what’s up when it comes to battling, right? On second thought, maybe drinking any alcohol while deciding whether to engage in a fight is not the best idea…this metaphor is abandoning me. Anyway, this beer looks cool!
This Week’s Boozy Media Rec
I really enjoyed Dave Infante’s most recent (at time of writing) issue of his Fingers newsletter, “The ‘early-bird drinker’ dilemma,” because comparing Americans’ attitudes toward alcohol to Europeans’ attitudes toward alcohol and feeling disgusted about the stubborn cloud of moral panic that hangs over America are unfortunately two big interests of mine. This issue is a thought-provoking look at the trend of people drinking (and dining and doing lots of other things) earlier and earlier in the day, some possible reasons behind that, and some possible results. This issue is for paying subscribers, by the way, but you should subscribe if you haven’t yet!
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
The Ichthyosaur Icky IPA from Great Basin Brewing Co. was a perfectly dank and resiny delight—similar to the aforementioned altbier, it was just what the doctor ordered after days of hard seltzer and the like. And since so much of what makes a beer enjoyable is the setting, this one stands out from the last two weeks because I had it at Rebar, a really fun spot I love in the Arts District of Vegas. The bar is filled with secondhand knick-knacks, all for sale, and good drinks plus thrifting is a dream combo for me.
Until next week, here’s Darby wondering what’s for her at Leland Eating & Drinking House.