And Some Thoughts on Nature
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Fall is beer season. Summer, winter, and spring are also beer season, but much less so. Ad copy for fall beers usually contains one or more of the following words: cool, crisp, earthy, and toasty. All words that BIG FALL wants you to associate with the season. More importantly, fall is harvest season. So too beer at its core is a harvest drink. There are theories out there that humans first developed agriculture in part so that they could have regular and reliable access to the supplies needed to make beer. Namely, various grains that could be fermented. Since its discovery, beer has always been intimately connected to harvest and fall.
I don’t want to tie the development of beer too closely to the development of plant domestication processes. They are intertwined, but there were certainly other factors that spurred the growth of agriculture than just the need to knock a few back with the boys after a long day. Certainly, those ties between beer and the harvest are largely lost today. You can get pretty much any type of beer whenever you want. Sure, pumpkin beers can be pretty seasonal, and things like Leinenkugel’s only get advertising during the summer, but you can find both of those beers year-round if you really look. No one is waiting for their wheat to ripen in October so that they can once again taste beer. Hell, most macro breweries use rice and just a modicum of the traditional grains. Beer has been divorced from its past.
Divorce is probably too hard of a word in any case. Things change as the years move on. That’s the nature of time. To make things different. Humanity’s wants and needs have mutated, as have our agricultural practices and level of technology. That necessarily leads to differences in consumption. You may have noticed that I’m trying to use words that don’t have positive or negative connotations here. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s impossible to judge these changes, and label them as good or bad. It is. Those evaluations will be tied up in your own personal, and cultural heritage, but they're still viable. Most importantly, they’re valuable, both for understanding how you see the world and as windows into current understandings of history. Some of the things that have led to us stripping away the connections between beer and harvest time are good, some are unequivocally bad.
If that last paragraph was stupid, I apologize. I’m just taking a very long walk to say something very short: drinking beer in the fall is good and right. More people should do it. Specifically, they should drink Afterburner from Metropolitan Brewing. Afterburner, marketed as an “Oktoberfest Lager beer” is fantastic. It’s everything a German-style lager should be – malty, crisp in a way that’s almost sweet but isn’t, and filling but not overly so, with a faint hint of spice. Wonderful. Metropolitan Brewing, who just happen to have a brewery within walking distance of my apartment, actually sells this as a “late summer” beer, providing the much-needed exception to my above statement about the loss of beer seasonality. I don’t have much else to say about Afterburner other than that it’s great. It has a nice deep amber color when poured in a glass, and it’s a chill 6.1% ABV, not really an easy drinker but also nowhere near a bomber. Pretty much a fantastic fall beer.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I’ve introduced a new term, “fall beer.” Allow me to explain. A fall beer is a beer that you want to drink outside, but not for too long. A spring or summer beer you’d be content to drink outside for a number of hours, eight or more. A fall beer is different. A fall beer is aware that it’s nice outside, but also a little chilly. A fall beer understands that changing leaves are beautiful and crunchy, but blankets and central heating are also comfortable. A fall beer knows that sitting by a fire pit in sweatpants and an overly large flannel is great, but so is the football game on TV. A fall beer is good for both making chili and drinking while eating chili.
I suppose I need to bring this back to the bigger point here. Something about how humanity has become divorced – there’s that word again – from its natural beginnings or whatever. I don’t think that’s true. Humanity has never been natural. Our defining feature is our separateness from nature, no matter what those weird homestead TikTok’ers believe. The author Jeff VanderMeer has a great quote about this in one of his Southern Reach books. I don’t have the exact wording, but it boils down to the idea that humans cannot leave nature untouched, even our very presence changes nature in countless obvious ways
Beer and other alcohol are just one example of this. Even the act of creating alcohol, and even more so the development of agriculture to support that, shows our separation from nature. No matter how “earthy,” or “malty,” a beer may taste, it is never the taste of nature. It is a taste derived from nature, but certainly not “natural” in any meaningful sense of the word. I’m not even sure that I would want a more natural taste. Everything I have ever eaten has been in some way processed. Even the tomatoes I get from the farmer’s market have been cultivated, picked, grown, and guarded by human hands. Hell, corn used to be small as all get out until humans got our hands on it. If there somehow exists an edible thing untouched by humanity, my guess is that it would not taste good, or just be so alien in nature as to make it disgusting to my palette. We are, after all, all prisoners of our own species, are we not?
This is all probably a bit much for a beer review. Sorry folks. I didn’t even mention the IBUs in Afterburner. Or what type of hops it uses – Hallertauer Mittelfrueh. I haven’t even said the name of the beer for like four paragraphs. Not great for SEO. Beer is more than just beer though. Beer is anthropology, beer is history, beer is anthropology. Beer is all those and a thousand other things. So, I won’t apologize for all this other stuff, skip it if you want. In any case, I’d suggest getting an Afterburner sometime this week and enjoying it outside. If you can’t get an Afterburner, go try to find another of Metropolitan Brewing’s beers. They’re all pretty good.
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