Most of the confessions that I’ve made I can claim shamelessly. I rarely try to justify or dodge the darker, more embarrassing aspects of my life. I’ll wear my Irish sunglasses with pride. I’ll take my bumps and bruises in stride. There is one thing that I will deny and will hang my head in shame if it’s accused: I have been called a hipster more times than I can count. Yes, I’ll dress and look trendy, but I don’t fall for every new trend, and I’m pretty set on the things I want and do. But I don’t think my way of being in the world should be the same for everyone else. I’m not going to judge anyone for being basic. It actually makes me sick when I see people prescribe a way of dressing, or acting, or believing. But what does this have to do with beer? There’s a new trend in the beer world that is particularly nauseous in all these ways: the drain pour.
If you search for the hashtag #drainpour on Instagram, you’ll see photos of people pouring their beers into drains. The beers are usually nicer, more expensive beers, that in the eyes of the drinker are so flawed that they need to be poured down the drain, and shame brought to the brewer who would produce such a terrible product. This aggravates me, in most cases, to no end. I want to punch everyone of these pretzel-necklace-wearing, beard-growing, man-baby beer nerds in the face, then push them into a locker or give them a swirly in shitty domestic light beer until they say “uncle.”
The defense of a #drainpour is that no one should waste time drinking bad beer because there is so much good beer out there. But, I don’t think this is what it’s about. It’s a lot of things, but the biggest thing is ignorance. Oftentimes, these are people who have no idea what they’re talking about, and they are advocating pouring out perfectly good beer. I’ve seen people claim that a Crooked Stave beer was “infected,” but guess what? All their beers are infected! I’ve seen people pour out really really big beers, beers in the +15 percent ABV range that people thought were too boozy or too sweet. But hey people, when you brew beer that big, it’ll be boozy! If it were liquor, it would be 30 proof! And it’s not been distilled, so of course you can anticipate the sugars. People are opening 3- to 5-year-old bottles of beer and being surprised by signs of oxidation or infection. Unlike wine, beer isn’t dosed with sulphides, which will fight off infection for the life of the bottle. Not all beer is supposed to hold up in a cellar because even minute, teeny, tiny amounts of dissolved oxygen will drastically reduce the taste of freshness in a beer, where as some wines are even supposed to taste oxidized.
So now that the school-time learning is over for the dumb-dumbs, let me tell you what really pisses me off about this trend. If people took this same attitude toward books, or clothing, or food, we’d see people burning books, ripping clothing and shaming local farmers and grocery stores. Why don’t we see people hashtagging their pictures of them throwing away frozen pizzas or ripping up their Old Navy Performance Fleece or burning the newest Franzen novel? I have no idea, but I think it’s some uber-capitalist bougie bullshit: “Let me buy this expensive bottle of beer and pour it out, not for my homies, not for the gods, but so that people can see how ‘good taste’ is completely beneath me.”
Maybe the price point for being a shitty beer snob is too low. I mean, if a pouring out $15 or $30 bottle of beer shows how classy you are, go buy an expensive bottle of wine and do that. What? You don’t have $250 to spend on a truly nice bottle of wine that you just pour down the drain? That’s what I thought …
The last thing that pisses me off is the complete disrespect of the process: the labor and the intentions of the brewer specifically and the traditions of beer making in general. No one approaches art with expectations one way or another. No one goes up to a Van Gogh and comments on sloppy brush strokes, or puts down the color selection of Monet, or the lack of meaning in a Picasso. I’m not saying that every beer is perfect or every brewer completely blameless, because I’ve had some bad beers, uninspired beers, beers that made me wish it had been a bit different, more hops maybe, or drier finish, maybe a little less haze. But I can always close my eyes as I take a sip and see a human being dumping a bag of grain into steaming mash tun, hoping and praying this time they’ll nail the mash temp, or feel the sweat as they’re scrubbing every inch of stainless steel and throwing away every rubber gasket in the hopes they’ll kill the bad bugs that got into their last batch, or see the joy in their eyes when they realize the beer that got a little too warm during fermentation didn’t get ruined. And that is why I will drink every beer, even if to imagine how it could have been better or worse.
Robert Alan Wendeborn puts the bubbles in the beer at Ska Brewing Co. His first book of poetry, The Blank Target, was published this past spring by The Lettered Streets Press and is available at Maria’s Bookshop. [email protected]