26 April 2016

The Evolution of Mindful Drinking

When I started this blog in December, I had little idea where it would take me. I was doing daily reviews on Instagram, trying to write something here every day, beer related or not, and attempting to regain my life. My depression and anxiety had reached fever pitch and I was grabbing at anything I could to help pull me out of that morass. I wasn't fully conscious of what I was doing, I only knew my life could be better and I wanted good beer to be part of that.
What has happened in the last five months has astounded this cynical old man.
It has been with a concentrated effort that I banished macro lagers from my life. Acquiring and trying new craft beers has become such a joy in my life that it is the anticipation of getting new beer that I look forward to more so than the consumption. I love the first sip of my brew every day, regardless of style, and it often takes me a little longer to choose a beer because of what I have come to think of as the Polkaroo Doctrine of Mindful Drinking (PDMD). It's a bit of a joke for me to label what I do as such, but inside my little acronym happy life is a real truth for anyone who wants to slow down and enjoy beer without giving in to over-consumption and alcohol abuse.
It started with trying to chronicle what flavours and textures I was getting from each new beer and keep track of what I was drinking. It has evolved into a way for me to express myself on a larger platform, bring my life into focus and meet new friends. It usually takes from 10 minutes to an hour to choose what I will be drinking on any given night. Without the release of downing 10 or 12 beers a night, I needed a way to slow down and this is the first step. Once I pick my beer, I need to figure out my picture. Since my main review platform is Instagram, the visual is as important as the words that accompany it. Before I pour a beer, I usually read up on it, the brewery that makes it or something that jumps out at me about it. It has lead me down some interesting paths, from history to microbiology. It also helps me to understand what I'm tasting, as my palate wasn't the most impressive when I started. I will try any style of beer and do my level best to find something to appreciate about it.
I always write my review as I make my way through the beer. Sometimes it can change as it warms up, so take your time. Part of becoming more present is simply sitting and exploring what makes each beer a unique experience. Most nights I have time for only 2 beers and without a fridge full of empty flavour macro lagers, I don't seek the darkness anymore. The light of good craft beer has found me and I am a better person because of it. Finding something to write about along with the beer is the best way for me to keep myself present and not slide back to the ways of the past.
I know not everyone wants to put so much effort into describing and capturing their beer. What works for me isn't necessarily the best plan for all beer drinkers. But elements of what I do can be applied to any situation and help you gain control of your experience. I do believe that an app like Untappd or Beer Advocate is essential to the process and would encourage you to get one of them. I personally like Untappd because of its easy to use interface, but whatever you use, make it count. Rating your beer and making some short comments on what you're tasting will be beneficial to helping you slow down and enjoy every beer. Mindless cramming of macro beers brings nothing but emptiness and we deserve better. I always try to pair my beer with what I am doing and you should consider what you are after before you pop the top or crack the can. Look, smell and sip is a good way to begin. I think you can see that gulping a well crafted beer is pointless if you are truly trying to experience life in a more mindful way, so sipping and tasting is the way to go. Subtle changes in the beer often appear as it warms up and this can be how you make your way to being more present with your beer.
It seems so simple to me now, but it has taken almost three years for me to reach a point that I feel comfortable in my own skin again. The abuse of beer was part of the downfall that I experienced when I almost lost everything. I used it to escape from the walls crashing down around me and that only made things worse. I have been baptized in the fires of macro lager hell and come out the other side preaching the gospel of what great craft beer can do. Without it, I am not sure I would be here today to write this. I'm not being facetious. It exists in my mind the path I could have taken and it is lonely, cold and dark. So while PDMD (Copyright pending, haha) is funny, it also means so much to who I am becoming. There is no way I would be going out, meeting up with new beer friends or planning new adventures without it. So it is with happiness and gratitude to those who make such wonderful beer that I encourage you to support your local small breweries. Go visit them, try new beers and open yourself up to the possibilities of where  your imagination can take you. Be present, mindful and aware of everything in your life and use beer to enhance it, not hide from it.
Raise your glass and your standards, one beer at a time!

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