Sunday, June 30, 2013

Beer Preaching to the heathens

Last night I was introduced to a new group of people as a beer feminist.

[caption id="attachment_1126" align="alignright" width="336"]the-love-of-beer If you haven't had a chance to the 2011 Hopumentary The Love of Beer, you are missing a mental lego piece.[/caption]

"She's a beer feminist," my friend waved a hand dismissively as I began to explain what I do with my spare time.

To which I, startled but compliant, agreed.

"I guess I am a bit of a beer feminist although I prefer to consider myself a beer liberationist. I fight for the rights of all people to have equal beer love. But yeah, since people associate feministism with strong women who have strong ideals then I'm flattered to have been referred to as some sort of black panter of the pint."

Next thing I knew I found myself soap boxing to a captive audience for the first time- beer preaching.

One asked me, "when did this whole beer obsession start for you?" And, although I had fully blogged about my path into craft beer, I realized I needed to simplify and find a way to analogize my story to a people that had no idea what an IPA was. How does one explain the streets of downtown London, to eskimos?

[caption id="attachment_1133" align="alignleft" width="235"]St Augustine beer St Augustine Parton Saint (kinda) of brewers[/caption]

We, Americans (most Americans), are surrounded by craft beer and are aware of it in a way that most other countries are not. In that respect, there are some who are raised in the beer culture, like my friends in Portland, Oregon and there are others who have found the community of beer culture through years of searching. As I glanced out the bar window to see the tallest building in the city peeking over the horizon- the cathedral, I found my analogy- beer culture is like religion. The home brewer a parishioner, the  professional brewer a priest, the brew kettle a church and all us who write are the scribers of the holy word. (Although, like most biblical fiction, we fill the lines between the important bits with our opinions and rants).

On the west coast America we are so soaked in the healing froth of craft beer that fundamental historical facts like the Reinheitsgebot are common knowledge and we are able to debate about the social effects of the law from a firm understanding of what it is. French natives know about terroir but since "beer is made by man, wine by God," they directly assume that the one controlled by nature is more superior and reject human creativity as second best. Also, it's difficult to persuade people to the importance of beer when you can't communicate on an even level, French is not my first language and English not theirs. My french compatriots know of my beer hobby and have listened to my tales, nodding, smiling and frowning with agreement at the approritate locations in my talk, but they continue on their way because I'm a silly female foreigner who comes from a strange (and often disillusioned) country.

[caption id="attachment_1131" align="alignleft" width="336"]maybe-its-the-beer-talking-large I avoid drinking too much when trying to spread the holy word of beer[/caption]

Being with non-converted English speakers didn't make the task any more easy, but the group continued to ask me questions, leading me on to say more and it as enlightening and exhilarating to hear myself verbalizing what I write and read about faithfully as it was to share with native English speakers. It must be what the missionaries felt then they connected with a polytheist who seemed genuinely interested in their one God stories.

Because I was raised Christian with dashes of fairy lore (thanks grandma), I know a bit of scripture and I don't go to church but I know the story of David and Golith. Like a children's tale with dramatic cliff hangers and flowery language, I told of the prohibition. The capitalizing growth of the macro lagers that led to the death of many American breweries and how people have began to over throw the beast through determination and faith.

[caption id="attachment_1129" align="alignright" width="280"]New-Belgium-Mothership-6pk_2 Nitch has attended many a BBQ with the Organic Mothership Wit in hand[/caption]

And again the analogy themed continued through the exchange:  Beer culture is like religion. So when the person asked me, "when did this whole beer obsession start for you?" I was able to explain my baptism by beer in terms of clergy and spiritual growth. When you grow up saturated with bibles and churches it's a normal thing to attend mass on Sunday. When even the connivence store carries New Belgium Brewing, it's a normal thing to attend a BBQ with craft beer. In 2011 I spent a year in Australia and, for me, it was entering the amazon jungles- what do people here do on Sundays? And where are all the beer options? I was so used to having the choice of beer praying the way I chose that when I was in a world of unbelievers it shocked me. To see (West/North) Australians spending huge chucks of the paychecks on expensive low-grade drinks and bad service caused me to feel like Shirley Temple in Africa. I was the only civilized ( short shorts wearing) girl in the area, just waiting for a bearded, barrel chested brewer to come and restore order.

[caption id="attachment_1134" align="alignleft" width="197"]avatar2uj6 Drink and be filled with the holy light![/caption]

That's when I found my beer culture spirit- in the empty red desert of uninspiring drinks. The community around craft beer was my church and I wanted to share that joyful light with the heathens. I looked at macro beer swillers as the lost and un-god fairing natives of the amazon, as the missionaries saw them. But I'm not one of those people on the street corner with a megaphone (and surely not a nun) so I try not to be judgmental, pressing or the other extreme, seclusive. I merely drink my good beer, liberally offered samples to those around me and conducted myself in the most down to earth way possible. Letting those around me come to me when they realized that they are seeking something more then fizzy yellow beer.

[caption id="attachment_1135" align="alignright" width="340"]glover-beer_egyptian-serving-girl-pouring-beer The original Holy Spirit of the Pint- Ninkasi[/caption]

Last night, after the group got the ball rolling and the stage was set, was the first time I've been able to preach the word of beer. I felt the spirit of Ninkasi fill me with joy!

The scholarly conversation lead me into solidifying theories that I had formorly floating in my primal pool of knowledge. Of course, you can't just rip into other people's historical understanding by dropping too many serious beer facts on them. These are intelligent humans who lead complex lives- what need they for enlightenment from a pretty young lady- about alcohol consumption of all things.

[caption id="attachment_1127" align="alignleft" width="332"]73140_144728808907254_144594552254013_222964_5380129_n Lost Abbey's Witch's Wit brings attention to that extremely gruesome point in history when women were hunted by the church for being 'evil'.[/caption]

At the point when I stated that the classic image of a woman over a big pot representing a witch is actually the local head brewer on brew day before the inquisition, expectantly people chuckled and ask for a reasoning behind such thinly drawn lines.

"You don't see any children in the background- she isn't Mrs. Hubbard and she isn't making pasta sauce for the rest of the year. Maube she is making stew, one suggests. Stew for a festival? And for that she is evil in our iconography " Woman had recipes for beer- government saw beer as control- easiest way to defeat the compition is to turn the world against them- they are the devil. These ideas are reaching, I admit and weren't the single force behind the cultural desicration that happend in the time of kings and queens, but it helps draw people attention the importnace of alcohol and alcohol comsuption in our past. In just under an hour after meeting this group I had been called a beer femisnist, re-evaluated my beer roots and re-deinfed history. I hadn't even begun to allow my enthustiasm to really set in- let them google to learn more. Next time we meet, I'll intorduce them to Mikeller and watch the beer revial spark flare up in a whole new set of followers.

For the moment, Nitch signing off in the French macro lager amazon telling myself:

[caption id="attachment_1136" align="alignright" width="350"]1664-Gold-2012-light Savor an authentically moment. Yay...[/caption]

"Some religion is better then nothing," as I sip on a 1664 Gold.

"That's not so bad, the gold one," a French native chirps, eager to please.

"It's horrible," I mumble unheard.

Life goes on. I'm still mostly alone in my quest but... I march on.
"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -Maya Angelou




  1. [...] Nitch has been called a beer feminist and can only nod and agree. I am a beer feminist, a black panter of the pint and I strive to educate the world in the beauty and magic of the culture of beer. Historically, throughout the world, women were the brewers. As soon as I tell women about this and other long lost norms of the beer world (like the female goddess of beer Ninkasi), women’s ears perk up and they put their foot in the constantly closing door of male dominated beer drinking society. “Um. Hi. We were here first. Yeah.. thanks.” Call it feminism if you life, but empowering women to take up a even position in something that was traditionally theirs is like deciding between a male and a female pregnancy doctor. [...]

  2. Hi Nichole,
    As one of the audience present I can certainly say I was impressed with your knowledge and passion for beer! As a Brit, a CAMRA member, beer festival goer and drinker of the stuff, for 40+ years, I definitely understood most of what you were saying.
    Your presence at the gathering certainly brought another dimension to the night out in a French bar, thank-you.
    I look forwards to hearing more of your 'preaching' I can certainly find you a pulpit in my village local in England where the audience would be as captivated as I was.

    I might forget what you said, perhaps what you did, but I will never forget how you made me feel! ;)



  3. Merci Steve!!
    Forgive me for titling the piece referring to 'heathens,' as you and everyone else in attendance are nothing of the sort, but rather to solidify my feeling of being a missionary in a strange place. Thank you very much for listening and even more for your kind words now. Hopefully someday soon I will be able to take you up on that offer to preach the word of BEER in your home land- Ninkasi willing ^.^


  4. […] That being said, it must be known that I live in France- the culture hoarders of the world, perfection in all things gastronomic and nasal expressions for things that displease. There is no beer culture beyond lager (some, but not much). And if you want to give me that shrug about being close to Belgium and Germany, then you can join these people. […]