So much more than beer...
From Homer Simpson, to heads of state, to those who wear beer helmets at the football games, beer is an integral part of our society and our culture. While you may encounter people who lump beer into one category, and say things like "beer is gross," or "I don't like beer," reducing beer to its commercial generic form and throwing the baby and the bubbles out with the bathwater, it is less and less common. In our century, beer has gained a reputation broader the "common man's drink" and this brewing renaissance of our day has inspired in beer the same artistry that we seen in the arts throughout the centuries and still witness today.
In a number of ways, brewing is visual art. For a moment, consider the palette of any famous painter from history, from Picasso to Dali. At first, the canvas is blank and the colors are all separate. These "image brewers," then went to work blending, balancing, and brushing their colors on the blank canvas. From their separate paints laid on a slab of wood, chaos comes to order. The light reflects the colors and the human eye beholds a creation. What's more, these masters mold the brush stroke, manipulate surfaces, and think of every detail until their painting looks exactly as they wish.
Now consider the grains of a brewer. In the mind of a "liquid painter," the canvas of wort is blank. Grains are chosen for the twinge and hue they will bring to the eye of the onlooker. This master goes to work mixing and matching, balancing and blending, until he knows his eye will be satisfied with the light refracted through the pint to come. Beyond the colors are the textures and aromas of each grain's contribution. The canvas of the pint is painted to the will of the master brewer. But this is one complexity that beer brings to its consumer. Consider the hops, the yeast, the infinite combinations of other ingredients, fermentation techniques, aging, etc., the art of beer is as complex an art as can be found on this green earth.
To ask a painter about a painting would be to unlock a part of that person. The artisan would likely describe the process, the medium, the strokes, colors, focal points, the flaws. But the image is a shadow without its inspiration. With more fervor, the artist would describe the object, the loved one, the moment, the feeling, or any number of human experiences that prompted the beauty spread on the canvas before you. A work of art without a meaning seems shallow, commercial, and lacking in the humanity with which we long to connect.
And so it is with the liquid art that we call beer. Behind every great beer is a better story, a human story. Laughter and tears, joy and pain, thought and feeling, sweat and heart in every ounce of every pint. Pushing through every draft line is the mind of an artist, the brush stroke of genius, the will of a master bending matter to become a representation of themselves and their story.
In the end, beer, as a masterful work of art, is incomplete until shared. The mind of an artist holds the meaning of the piece, and while art can mean many things to many people, the beauty lies in the exact moment of its creation, its intention, and its meaning to a specific time and place in history. The next time a pint slides across the bar, take time to notice the hue, every rising bubble, and every subtle note. In this glass is a work of art, a piece of history, someone's story, the mind and heart of a craftsman bringing meaning to matter.
- Bobby Cody, The Colorado Farm Brewery