I’m a serial goal-setter. Most of my goals are professional – write x number of academic journal articles, apply for y dollars-worth of research grants – but I also set a bunch of personal goals. The weight-related ones are, amidst some minor sobbing, usually just copy-and-pasted from the previous year; but for the most part, the goals are fresh reflections of the person that I want to become over the next 12 months.
This year I biffed-down some beer-related goals that I thought I’d share with the group. Like always, the slightly-serious ones are not intended to be preachy – I really can’t ride a horse, let alone a high one.
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Resolution #1: I will drink more wheat beer.
I recently had the privilege of spending several weeks in Florence, Italy. Prior to the trip, I dutifully swatted-up on the local breweries so that I knew what to snaffle once I touched-down in Tuscany; so walking in to my local supermarket on Day 1 of the trip, I eagerly pounced for the chiller. I spied a bottle from one of my scribbled-down breweries: but reaching for it, a flash of yellow drew my eyes to the beer on its left shoulder.
It was unmistakably König Ludwig, a wheat beer that a German friend had introduced me to when I was a Lion Red-swigging undergrad. I had quickly fallen in love with the alien aroma and flavour, and for a period of several years thereafter I would snaffle-up whatever was on the shelf whenever I found it. The love ran so deep, that the same German friend and I once carried many (many) 500ml bottles on a 3-day canoe trip down the Whanganui river; our canoe was so overladen that it’s waist barely sat above water level. The multiple boat-sinking scares and constant plastic-bottle bilge-pumping were, without question, completely worth it.
I don’t know if I fell out of love with the distinctive taste of wheat beer – a case of too hard, too young, too fast – or if wheat beers fell out of commercial favour and became less common on our shelves; but for whatever reason, I haven’t had a wheat beer in aaaaages. König Ludwig, Schneider Weisse, Paulaner, Franziskaner – these were the drops that pushed me down the road toward better beer. Even Mac’s Great White was brilliant when it was on-form. So this year, I’m going to do my tiny bit to re-commercialise wheat beer – so please feel free to Tweet me your recommendations.
(To finish the Florence story: I ignored the local produce and spent three glorious weeks in Tuscany sipping König Ludwig and Franziskaner for One Euro a pop. I regret nothing.)
Resolution #2: I will brew less boozy things.
I thought I had this summer all-figured-out in terms of stocking-up on homebrew: starting in October, I began putting-down all the beers that I really wanted to share and drink over the summer break. My homebrew Saison is my summer go-to – it’s the one beer that I reckon I’ve nailed after several years of trying – so I put-down two batches over October and November. I then thought about what I’d like to offer around the table on Christmas day: something approaching Christmas-in-a-bottle, with lots of boozy raisins and malt sweetness. Using the same Saison yeast, I put down a scrummy Belgian Dark Strong (well, as close as I could get with a Saison yeast, anyway).
You’ve probably already spotted the problem: both of these styles of beer – Saison and Something Resembling A Belgian Dark Strong – both err on the sloppy side of the strength spectrum. The beers are great, and I’m really proud of them; but I also enjoy being awake past 6pm, as opposed to face-down on the couch while Kid A and Kid B throw pillows at me.
This year, I resolve to brew less boozy stuff – and I reckon that my best-bet in achieving this is to dive head-first into British beer. Them Brits know a thing or two about brewing low-ABV-but-surprisingly-delicious stuff: great quality malts, combined with a low-attenuating yeast that dumps plenty of fruity esters, seems to be the magic formula. I can’t wait to get stuck-in.
Resolution #3: I will spend the bulk of my beer money supporting my locally-owned breweries.
I pretty-much do this one already; but it’s worth remembering that it really does matter where we choose to spend our hard-earned dosh. I still stick to a $20-$30 limit on booze per week, so I need to be strategic with my purchases if I’m going to make those dollars stretch; but as tempting as it is to go for bulk-buys from the big boys (and girls), it’s much more satisfying and important to support the little fullas (and fulla-esses).
And it’s even more important to support the locally-owned breweries that are within cooee of my front door: if we all did that, then there’d be less need for those breweries to seek export orders to stay alive.
Resolution #4: I will be a better example to my children of what responsible drinking looks like.
It feels like six minutes ago that I was wiping poop from my first-born’s tush; however, this summer she celebrated her 9th birthday. As if a switch was flicked, since turning 9 she has decided that a) bedtimes are an unnecessary Draconian concept, and b) this newfound belief is worth defending with a screaming-match. Every night.
With Kid A growing up so fast – and Kid B not far behind – it’s a good time for me to remind myself that children are sponges: we may not realise it, but they are developing their understanding of social cues and practices by observing us, their parents. It really is a case of Monkey See, Monkey Do – and this extends to the way we talk about and engage in booze-related things (including drinking).
Make no mistake: our children are watching, even when we think they aren’t. They pay-attention to the little things: like how I just poured my 4th pint of the evening, or that my bedtime kiss stinks of booze. Or they might even overhear that conversation with my long-lost friend about how plastered we used to get on DB Bitter (12 for $12 = teenage carnage). Our kids soak this stuff up, and biff it into long-term memory: and when it comes time for them to start experimenting with alcohol, they’re going to turn back to those formative memories for cues on how to behave themselves. Monkey See, Monkey Do.
So this year I resolve to monitor my drinking through my children’s eyes: what do they see when they look at my behaviour? What conversations about booze are they overhearing, and what picture does this paint of how they should view alcohol?
In short: what habits am I normalising for them? And what can I do to install positive associations?
Resolution #5: I will wholeheartedly support my friends and whānau that want to step away from booze for a while – or permanently.
A good friend of mine has decided to take a year-off from alcohol. He’s only telling a few select people, and I was privileged to be one of them. He and I are Scotch and Stout buddies: we share a mutual appreciation of both, and approximately 90% of our conversations revolve around them. When he told me about his abstinence plan, I’m embarrassed to say that the first words that blurted out of my mouth were:
“Shit bro, that’s ages!”
This was quickly followed by “That’s fantastic!”, but the damage had already been done. My friend has clearly realised that for him the scales have tipped toward an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, to the extent where he feels he needs to take (relatively) drastic measures to address the imbalance. This behaviour needs to be applauded and supported, not ridiculed: so this year, I’m going to do everything I can to support him. I’ll abstain when we’re at his place for BBQs. I’ll stop sending him online Scotch reviews. I’ll even find out what his other interests are so we have something else to talk about.
If you have a mate (or family member) who wants to take a break from booze, then the absolute f*cking least that you can do is to normalise that decision as quickly possible. And after a bit of a false start, I resolve to do just that.
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