#TheSession – What is Normal, Anyway?

It’s been some time since I’ve written. Some of that is due to a lack of Fizz-able content. Some due to the fact that of the four beer trips planned, all have been cancelled. But truth be told, most of my reluctance to write is due to the fact that I am in a deep, existential, energy-sapping funk that’s cripplingly hard to escape.

It’s a selfish thing, whinging about not being able to write, given the circumstances. David and I are fortunate, in that he’s got a good stable career, can work from home easily, and we have a safe, and mostly finished home [we moved into the new place in a rush, days before Ireland shut everything down]. Both of us are healthy, and our immediate family are all abiding by social distancing rules, and blessedly, neither of us have any direct family or friends who have died from this dreaded thing. Beer deliveries from the likes of Craft Central and Beercloud.ie keep our fridge stocked with tasty Irish brews. We are fortunate to have a grocery store a block away, and weekly fruit and veg delivery from local farmers.

I have no fucking reason to be depressed or listless. I have no reason to feel like I lack purpose in life, and yet, I do. There’s something about being this alone with my thoughts that makes writing hard. And so I took it as a gentle slap from the universe when Chess suggested I contribute something for a reprise of Alistair Reece’s #TheSession, which is a thing that has apparently been kicking around long before I discovered beer.

The task was simple enough – Alistair asked us all the following question:

… in these unprecedented times, what has become your new drinking normal? Are you drinking more? Less? Have you raided the cellar regularly? Is there a particular brewery whose beer is keeping you company while you are confined to barracks? Has there been a beer revelation in these times?

While I can’t say that it will stick, I’ve been concentrating almost exclusively on local Irish Breweries (notably, @dot_brew, @whiplashbeer and @thewhitehag), and my own creations. It’s been a lot of hop-heavy (D)IPAs, lighter session ales, and a handful of stouts.

Given that we’ve been consigned to order everything in batches (our food runs are once every 10 days or so; our beer runs once every two weeks), I’ve opted for pallets of a few beers rather than one-offs as I was used to doing. Like meal planning, it’s meant that I’m forced to think ahead about a style I might want a week or two from now, and to kick myself when I realize that I really crave a Duvel and I was stupid and forgot to order it.

I now see how you can really develop an appreciation for a particular beer, when you’re forcing yourself to drink 6-10 cans of the stuff over different points in time. You start to pick up subtleties and get an opportunity to pair a beer that maybe didn’t hold up on its own at first taste, with some dish that perfectly taps into the flavor the brewer was really trying for. I found that to be the case with Whiplash beers in particular. By themselves, they were good, but not great. But paired with a spicy Indian dish, or a savory veggie dish on a warm day? A whole different story.

My new drinking normal also comes with a relaxed sense of when it’s appropriate to drink. I mean, does it even matter if you’re chugging a 12% stout at 10am anymore? When you’ve worn the same pair of yoga pants for 4 days straight, and haven’t left the house for a week, does anyone actually care what, or when you’re quaffing a beer?

Finally, I’ve been focused more on creation and exploration. I bottled my fourth beer a few weeks ago (a light Pilsner/Saaz SMaSH), and I’m almost ready to start on my fifth. In betweeen my brewing, I’ve been obsessively cultivating, killing, reanimating, and nurturing a sourdough starter, and trying to grow, bake, and nurture life out of every corner I can find. I’m not religious, but there’s an almost spiritual quality that one feels when you stop and realize that life is everywhere around you, always going. Yeast, unlike people, don’t seem to know boundaries, and it’s honestly a wonderful thing.

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