Tap takeovers, festivals, special releases and events of that nature have been exploding in the last year as Craft Beer in Ontario hits new highs in sales and prominence. We can find something happening almost every night if we look around and it is hard to miss out on anything our friends go to. But is there an underlying problem that we are ignoring and covering up by claiming we are drinking better beer? Do we have a quiet issue that remains unacknowledged because the community doesn't want to talk about it? I'm probably the last guy who should discuss excessive consumption but maybe I'm the perfect one to do just that.
As chronicled in my Truth in May and the follow up, 150 - The Real Truth in May, I tracked every beer I drank for a month and was shocked at just how much I had consumed. It was far more than I had envisioned and in the next few months, I took greater care to slow down and consume less, not stopping, but definitely no where near that much. As I look around my social media, I notice there are an awful lot of folks who are just like me, posting one or more beers every day and being fine with it. We got this under control we say, no drunken stupidity coming out of here and look at how I don't drink a dozen MGD's anymore. But is it all a shaky premise built on a façade that is at best pretty loose with the facts.
Reading back on those two posts, I can see a distinct chip on my shoulder as I tried to justify a really ridiculous amount of beer for anyone in a month. Regardless of your situation in life, 5 beers a day isn't a thing you should be okay with. Last night I had just one and it was a little weird, I kept wondering if I should just have another to take the edge off the day, troubling as that thought was. It took a bit more discipline to keep myself from heading outside and another round. I was honestly struggling with it and as I look at my friends, in real life and online, I know many of them are in the same boat, consuming almost daily with a wink and a nod about sharing our love of this community. But perhaps we are missing the bigger, more shady picture that is developing.
Addiction is very real and I have no doubt that it plays a large factor in what some of us are doing. Chasing that darkness is perhaps not at the forefront any more but is drinking two huge ABV barley wines really different from pounding a sixer of macro lager? I would have to argue no and am the prime example of how we justify a few pints a day by talking about it and posting a picture on social media. I have no doubt that I have a need for beer, I think about it way more than I should and although I don't let it interfere in my work life, anything after hours is fair game. Frequent day drinking is something we joke about, but I see it often enough to wonder what is really going on.
We know what beer does, regardless of its' origins and to try to be cute about why we drink is part of the problem. We want to engage other people, go and do fun things with our friends and try the new and exciting creations of our favourite craft brewers. But I have begun to wonder if this pursuit of the pint allows some of us to be alcoholics with a good cover; I can take great pictures and put words to them as well as talk to anyone about my love of beer but do I use that to allow me to drink more than I should? Is there a rush when you get "likes" or comments on your latest post? Do we begin to create things so we can get more people following along and gain some sort of prominence in the craft beer world? People are paying actual money for fake followers to help promote their "brand", which boggles my mind. The end game is always personal promotion but once again are we overlooking our addiction for the false feeling of being on the inside. Everyone always wants to know the scoop on new releases or special things their local brewer is up to and being part of what is now the cool thing has it's own feeling of superiority and exclusivity. For most of us, we are just regular working stiffs, so getting to feel like we matter and have a stake in this burgeoning world gives us something that may be missing from our everyday lives. We cannot overlook the factor getting access to things others can't plays into all this. It's human nature to want to feel special and when you become a grown up that is something that rarely happens. Being a craft beer fan allows us to join a unique club, one that is growing everyday.
The long term impact of Craft beer is mostly positive. Smaller breweries are more involved at a local level in community work and it is pretty awesome to be making new friends as an adult through sharing our favourite thing. They provide jobs, fun experiences and a chance to explore things we could never have imagined from our beer. But it should not cloud over the very real addiction and mental health issues that still are with us because it is, at the very end, alcohol. The dangers exist no matter the way in which it is made and some people cannot help but over consume because of their personal mental health issues.
This is not to say that there isn't an inherent difference with Craft Beer, I believe there is something that can help us to curb our consumption when we really start to experience each beer for what it is. My concern is that some of us are getting our fill and then going over the top without seeing a problem. I don't come home to a fridge filled with macro lagers and want to get hammered. It's become a more nuanced approach to consumption and I believe in some way that this community has helped me to change and grow in my personal approach to my beer. I just think it's time to have the conversation and make sure we listen when someone needs help. I know I have problems with limits and will take care to continue to work on myself, but I also know that my world is indeed different than it was just 2 years ago. I can have just one beer and not feel angry. I don't actively try to get drunk to hide from my problems and want to be a better person who is engaged in life and not slurring his way into an early grave. Should I quit drinking altogether? I honestly don't know, I hope I have grown enough to recognize the nature of every beer I drink and my relationship to it. But the question persists.
I don't have all the answers, but I know it's time we stopped pretending there isn't a problem. I want us to be a better community of drinkers and help those who need it. So think about what your consuming and try to make moderation part of your evening, the beer tastes better when you take it one at a time.