I don't think there is any other way to do this. I mean I've known for a while my true feelings and kept them to myself. I tried and tried to get in line with popular thinking and experience the things like everyone else does. I want to be part of the good time gang but it is time to admit the sad truth about life as Polk.
I don't like going to beer festivals.
There I said it and I'm sure I will feel better at some point. I am not sure when this transformation happened, what kind of beer loving person wouldn't love seeing tens of great craft brewers in one place, hanging out with like minded people and experiencing all the frivolity a festival can bring? Apparently it's this guy and as I usually do, I have a theory.
At the beginning, beer festivals were novel and fun, Kat would drive or we'd take a cab and get bombed on great and not so great beer, one 4 to 6 ounce sample at a time. I always went to every event with the intention of only sampling a few beers and maintaining my wits but ten minutes in and I'm downing beer like Nic Cage in Leaving Las Vegas and trying to test every beer offered. It's loud and the lines may be long but all I can think of is pounding the next one, regardless of style or flavour profile.
What makes me like this? I practice self control all the time at home and this should be no different except for one thing...I have to be social and that's when the anxious nervousness kicks in and I turn to the one thing I know can calm me down. Every sample alleviates my fears, bringing a false peace that exists only if my blood alcohol reaches a state of pure drunkenness. I have never gotten comfortable in relating to other people without alcohol and that is something I guess I should work on but I'm not sure if a hall full of $3 beers is a place to explore and confront the demons of anxiety.
I don't like waking up the next morning feeling the effects of the previous evening. When I drink at home, I never go hard, preferring to enjoy every beer for what it is and not get hammered. I have no desire to see the return of the blackness and despite my best efforts, it always happens when I get together with a group of people and the beer flows. I chase inebriation in a crowd like a dog on a bone, my one skill as a former heavy drinker is the ability to put away a lot of beer faster than almost everyone else. The slurring words, half open eyes and poor motor skills are but a happy by product of a night filled indulging the worst of who I was and could be, I don't blame the festivals or the people I know, I just can't help who I am. That nagging voice comes creeping in whenever we hit the entrance and my self doubt about being able to handle a crowd without liquid courage roars into the front of my mind.
It is funny that I spend 50+ hours a week working with the public in my job and at no point do I crave a beer. I mean, who wouldn't love a pint at lunch but I don't need alcohol to be able to do what I do. I talk to and deal with so many people and their problems every day and don't let it affect me but put me in a convention centre with 20 breweries and 5 friends and I'm looking for a funnel and a keg. It's not normal but it is what I deal with. Maybe it's the bro factor, no matter where we go, it's creeping its way into this craft beer space as the scene becomes more popular and mainstream. Or maybe it's that I can't really enjoy and experience each beer the way I've trained myself to that makes me lose control. Not staying focused and present in the moment and scrambling to get to the next one is not how I drink anymore nor do I have any desire to return to that life.
It would be silly to say these festivals aren't about drinking a lot of beer. If you have 20 brewers show up with even 3 beers each that's 60 possible samples over perhaps 4 or 5 hours at best. After the 10th one, you're not really getting much out to them anymore except the ABV if you're being honest and that is fine for most people. They attend these events to have fun and let loose and I can support that whole heartedly. I will continue to promote and encourage people to go to these events but for me, right now, the cost in both money and my self worth is far too high a price to pay.
The answers I seek about myself aren't always the ones I like to find but my pursuit of an honest and open life mean that is what I get sometimes. I don't want to give the impression that I don't like festivals, the people who attend them or the breweries who participate, I just am struggling with the person I become when I go. Not everyone has that kind of problem and I do love to see the pictures and stories my friends share when they go to various events around the world. I hope someday I will be able to come back in a better state of mind and without the anxiety driving me to forget everything I've worked so hard on and lean in hard on getting my drunken stupor on. Life is funny but not when your knee deep in a sea of trying to bullshit yourself about being in control.
I'll be cheering you all on from the sidelines this year and hoping everyone has a safe and fun time at every event. The people who volunteer or work them are pretty awesome too and along with my extended beer family, those are the things I will miss the most. But after a lot of time spent reflecting on my own mental health, I do need a break from that part of my craft beer life so that I can keep my sanity intact.
Have fun and remember to try something new when you get the chance, that's a pretty awesome part of any festival for me.