You can make a lot of friends on social networks if you’re into beer. You can do that quite adequately in bars as well. You buy a few elbow jockeys a round of canned goat urine and you might have friends for life, the kind who will push your car down an incline to jump start it or piss on your car door handle, figuring you’ll appreciate the joke or come unannounced to your barbecue. So, online is safer – no spilled Trippel on your Wal-mart comfort-fit jeans, no errant darts to the back of the head. I found out how many beer nuts are out there when I finally launched my novel BEER MYSTIC online in its present global pub crawl version. Buddy Kold, editor of Sensitive Skin offered to host several excerpts, including #13-14: and now the entire stouty story can be read online.
I found literally hundreds of people hunkered around the theme of beer in blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and websites. The scene is like a bunch of drunks hunched over the bar staring into a lit beer sign rhapsodizing about their Brut Bier tour they took through Brussels in 1996 or acting out the latest Bud Lite commercial they saw during the Super Bowl. You want friends then show you’re nuts about beer. Every craft brewer, every wannabe beer expert spouting the latest enthusiasm for some cranberry and jojoba infused brew, every brewer whose done his market research and has chosen intriguingly goofy-cool names for their enterprises and assortment – Flying Monkeys, Horse Piss, Great Sex, Dogfish Head and its Golden Shower pils now known as Golden Revolution, Big Sky Brewing’s Moose Drool has a significant hey-look-at-me presence.
This has led to some great quaffables but also some abominations on the level of a beer & passion fruit popsicle. Marketers have also created a kind of beer-label, hopsian haiku subgenre, with names that appeal to both the serious taste of DIY brewing and its po-mo ironic-quirky bad/good–repulsive/attractive marketing approach. The names are like liquid versions of punk band names or xerox punk zines from the 80s. Bonkered brewniks want the attention of wacky names and the esteem of good-tasting hopsian elixirs. Many of those who write about beer seriously rate and analyze their beerhunter prey as if the subtleties are all Consumer Reports crunchable, although some of them do manage some poetic quatrains dedicated to imminently quaffable pints. There are many serious zines but one of the best is Rate Beer. But I do wonder what the qualifications of most of these self-declared beer experts are: I guess lots of intense and hyper-conscious drinking and then converting their enthusiasms into words – and ratings with a drinker’s thesaurus on hand.
On Facebook and Twitter, I’m friends or following or followed by or stalked by or hit up for loose change by some great sudsly characters like Beer Guru Atlanta, Hopmonkey, BeerSnobBob, BeerPoet, and Dirtybeerguy. Others profile themselves as decadent advocates of louche lifestyles like SexCigarsBooze or Modern_Drunkard, while still others aim for the opposite, proposing that beer fits tastily into a healthy workout lifestyle marked by sensible quaffing like TheBeerRunner. There are thousands of breweries begging for your friendship. Here are just a few I have friended: Leelanau Brewing, Offbeat Brewery, Holy Brew, Brasserie Schoune Brewery, New Glarus Brewing Co. [because I went there while in Wisconsin], and BrooklynBrewery because I once lived in Brooklyn and BB was a pioneer of tasteful and not willfully outlandish brewing manners – with head on both shoulders and in the glass.
There are beer valhallas like Bierkoning in Amsterdam, but also beer cash & carry joints, personal beer trainers, lager activists, pils perverts, mega-FB-pages like Beer and sites with snob appeal [beer is the new wine]. But, besides beer drinkers and those debating obscure spontaneous fermented brews made in barrels from driftwood taken from the shipwrecked Good Ship Lollipop, which gives it extra mystique, we also have beer babes, a category now fully exploited by… beer babes, because there’s nothing sexier to the average 90% of scruffy, male beer nuts than a gal who out-guys the guys, can lick the foam from her upper lip in a certain suggestive manner and can, local legend has it, grip a stemmed tulip glass in her cleavage – at least in the deepest thoughts of our privacy settings anyway: Beerchick, Classy Beer Broad, BeerFoxTM, Hopsdiva, LaFemme de Beer, The_Beer_Bitch, SudsyMaggie, BeerZenGirl, Beer_Goddess, Beerwhich, Girlbeergeek, BeerGeekAmy, RealBeerGal, Brewstress, AGirlandHerBeer, Julie PubQuest Wartell, Drink With The Wench, The Beer Wench…
But the weirdest beer-related Internet presence is no doubt Beer Buckle. Just the name “Beer Buckle” rhyming with knuckle as in head as in novelty, as in actual belt buckle collectibles, some of which are as elaborate as a wall mural, with an assortment of messages from Freudian to brand-loyalty and running as large as those belts worn by boxing or big-time wrestling champs, makes your head reel. The beer belt buckles may be one of the single strangest “inventions” of humankind – somehow weirder than a pet rock or a yodeling pickle – combining the utilitarian belt with the billboard – most beer buckles advertise one or another bland, heavily branded beer like Coors – or, in our case here, Olympia – and may very well serve as a bullet-proof or punch-proof accoutrement that may come in handy in the event of a barroom brawl.
And then suddenly I remembered my friend Brad-Lay who I’ve known for over 30 years. We used to work at the same mid-Manhattan photo lab where we egged each other on to truly and creatively despise our bosses. I may have called the old boss an asswipe in a tone as clean and sinister as William Burroughs or something more colorful and true – he may remember. This is likely how me and Brad-Lay became friends. That he may be the funniest human this side of George Carlin has probably done him more harm than good although it probably has also helped save some aspect of his remaining sanity although it just as likely has gotten him fired from countless jobs over the years. That he is basically unemployable [not totally true] makes him an utterly noble guy and that he takes the world’s hypocrisies to hear, which probably has led him to sharpen his wit so that not a note of mendacity or injustice can ever slip by him – the burden of awareness….
He has lived in the middle of nowhere – lots of flowers and really pungent cheeses – between EuroDisney and Paris for what seems like 20 years. That Disney employed him at all is probably a sign that miracles exist. He was eventually fired, although not before he played an evil Pirates of the Caribbean guy in tights. Another job sent him wandering the Disney grounds, serenading the public with real [NY Jew] folk and cowboy songs dressed as a cowpoke. Out of boredom he would sometimes fudge the lyrics to cowboy standards to suit the situation; he once serenaded a group of German tourists, altering the lyrics to “Ghost Riders in the Sky” to sing about how “they” had killed off all his people, the Jews. His revenge was finding a temporary respite from total boredom and the fact that the tourists cheered and clapped enthusiastically when he’d finished.
During a visit to EuroDisney for my 6-year-old-at-the-time daughter, partner Nina took a picture of the 3 of us standing on Main Street USA, posed in front of Dapper Dan’s Hair Cuts – and just before Nina took the pic, Brad undid his pants and let them sink to his ankles and there we stood with Brad in his underwear, pants at his ankles, with that sly smirk that made it seem to the thousands of tourists passing by that it was all just part of the magical Disney experience.
Well anyway, his dad died some years back and he had to fly back to the US, rent a car and head upstate to the Kingston, NY area. Disagreements with hospital staff as his dad lay dying got him tossed from the premises and ultimately – was this his dad’s way of getting back at him? – Brad inherited his gun collection, something he has absolutely NO use for, in fact, he did not even want to touch them or dignify their existence by selling them to gun nuts on eBay. He even investigated the option of shipping them off to some peace organization that melts guns down and makes peace symbols out of them. But the costs were prohibitive.
Me: Tell me more about that beer belt buckle you gave me from your dad’s collection. What does this buckle say about humans, about your dad? Maybe we’ll never know exactly why people collect what they do; I’m sure someone out there collects dried dog truffles, for instance. Why did he collect belt buckles.
B: I don’t know why … Could be he started when he was going through what I call “Macho-pause.” Macho-pause strikes middle-aged men when they realize that they are NOT cowboys, or deep-sea fishermen, or coal miners, or any other really macho, manly profession. My father worked in an office most of his life. Some other symptoms of macho-pause are getting a motorcycle and trying to play a musical instrument, typically, the saxophone. My father also started wearing boots instead of shoes, and bought a 4×4.
Me: Isn’t it strange that most of the guys collecting and/or wearing these buckles would never be able to show them off because they’d be hidden behind their over-sized tee shirts covering their prominent beer bellies?
B: In spite of his being a bit overweight, he came from a generation that always tucked in their shirts, button-down shirts, often “western” cut and in bright colors, so the belt buckle was always visible.
Me: Didn’t you get this as part of the settlement of his estate along with his guns?
B: Yes, I got the belt buckles as part of my inheritance; I also got $1000 cash. He told me to take whatever tools I wanted from his workshop. The one thing that was interesting, and portable, was an electric wood chisel. I brought it back to France and donated it, with a 120-220 adapter to the local association where we do pottery. They promptly ignored the adapter, changed the plug and blew it up. The rifles and shotguns and the one pistol all belong to my [ex-cop] sister as does the house and all the rest of his and my mother’s possessions…
Me: Was your father a beer drinker? Did you ever hang out with him and share beers?
B: He did not drink. Once every couple of years he wou’d have a Fosters lager – at the time this was exotic in the States. Of course, at Passover, he would hardly touch the ceremonial glass of sickeningly sweet Kosher Mogen David Extra Heavy Malaga wine. You don’t want to know. At least my family did not follow the ritual to the letter, which calls for the drinking of 8 glasses of wine during the meal. If a Jewish friend ever invites you over for Passover, in the words of Nancy Reagan, just say “no.”
Me: Do the belt buckles have sentimental value as memento?
The belt buckles don’t mean anything to me. I’ve given a few away. I’m glad you like yours. I had one in the form of a circular Skillsaw, which I gave to the carpenter who redid our roof. He was really taken with it and wears it every day. There was another one with a pig on it, which I gave to one of our vets, who is especially partial to pigs; she went and bought a belt especially for it and thinks it’s great. I’ve offered them to musician friends who play bluegrass and country music, but for the most part, they declined. Big belt buckles scratch the backs of instruments. The rest are in a box under the bed, waiting to be stolen.
Some of my other so-called beer nut friends: Beer Aholix, Beer Anyone, Beer Bureau, Beer Commissioner, Beer IntheWorld, Cosmic Ales, Beer Obsessed, Beer-Stained Letter, BeerTrips Beer Tours, Bier Koning, Craft Beer, BadAttitude Beer, Boring Beer, Brew Dudes, InandOut BeerGuys, Brewski Bros, Brewclub Ny, Brewing Communities, Abby Brew, Brew Chatter, Craft Brew, Home Brewing, boozecolumnist, Tequilawife, DailyBeerNews, Alcademics, DeschutesBeer, MustLoveBeer, Whydrinkbeer, BeerAmericaTV, Beer47, Beermentv, PrettyBeer, DailyBeerNews, Drinkersworld,BeerClassifieds, Idrinkgoodbeer, Boozecolumnist, MikeLovesBeer, BeerCruiser, BonLarryBeer, Draftmag, Brewhiker, thefullpint, Beer Appetit, Beer Connoisseur Magazine, Beer Geek, Beer Pioneers, Beer To Buds, Beer and Whiskey Brothers, Beerpulse, Blog About Beer, BrewDog, Brewed Life, Brewers Publications, Craft Brew, CraftBeer.com, DRAFT Magazine, Drink Craft Beer, Drink Eat Travel, DrinkedIn BarFinder, Drinking Beer, Home Brewing, I need a BEER!!!, Ice Cold Beer, InandOut BeerGuys, Malt Advocate magazine, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Road Trips for Beer, Two Guys On Beer…