The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community where, on the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin.
This month’s Session topic comes from John at Homebrew Manual, who asks about the relationship between being a brewer and a drinker, and how making beer changes one’s perception of the beers that they consume.
Making beer is an art form, essentially the same as cooking or painting or creating music. And, like most works of art, beer doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of it’s creation process for it’s audience to truly appreciate it. But having that knowledge does let you approach it differently.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Winslow Homer exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, a collection of Homer’s landscape paintings of the coast of southern Maine. Homer is an excellent painter, but as a fellow artist, there is one thing that stands out to me in his work: his depictions of water. I’ve tried my hand at oil painting a number of times (never to any success), so I have a basic grasp of the kind of skill it takes to create something of that caliber, and lemme tell ya, capturing the violent movement of the sea is something that Homer did better than most. His paintings evoke a fear of the power of nature in a way that a lot of landscape painters cannot, a very specific skill that Homer absolutely mastered. Anyone can appreciate his work, but anyone who’s ever painted water, successfully or unsuccessfully, is capable of a different sort of appreciation altogether.
When you look at a beer as a brewer, your mind starts to get into the same type of appreciation. From the way the hops and malts delicately balance each other, all the way down to the label on the bottle or the look of the taphandle, the brewer has made an enormous amount of tiny decisions resulting in the final product you have in your hand. And just like seeing the crashing waves of Homer’s paintings, you don’t have to know what all of these tiny decisions are in order to appreciate their result.
At the end of the day, viewing a painting and drinking a beer are both simple sensory acts from which pleasure can be derived without any prior knowledge at all. Having that knowledge really just changes how long you spend thinking about it.