17 July 2019

Beer as Art

Brewing is a science. There is no doubt that it takes a serious commitment to brew great beer, from the cleaning and preparation, to the recipe to the execution, it all matters. Home brewing a 5 litre batch or making a commercially available 50 hectolitre tank come down to the same basic functions of temperature control, what you use and when and a little bit of the spark we all hope to see when we open the final product. It is that spark that separates the craft beer we drink now from the macro we used to consume with such devotion, the art of creating and designing something new is what we seek and that is what I celebrate today.
  To brew a consistently good beer, like Great Lakes Brewery Canuck Pale Ale or Collective Arts Ransack the Universe IPA is a truly brilliant thing. Maintaining the flavour profile batch to batch so that it never wavers from the original intent is the mark of pure and level headed brewing. Recipe locked and loaded, the steps known to everyone involved in the process and the final product something that is always the same, time after time. There is a subtle art to keeping this standard of excellence and it should be applauded, it is what the macro producers learned a long time ago and some craft brewers must either get on board with or perish as consumers start to expect that level of quality every damn time. But the unique experience of creating something new is not to be dismissed amidst the regular options we see available year round, for they are where art meets beer and we are most grateful for that.
  Waxing poetic? Perhaps, but the transformation in just a few short years of a dead palate and sombre consumption to a vivid and colourful exploration of a world of flavours is something to be damn excited about in my humble opinion. Taking a page from the artists of long ago, many brewers today seek to push the absolute boundaries of what we consider beer and with that embolden us to seek a new understanding of who and what we are as drinkers and consumers. When we see something new and shiny, we are drawn to it, craft beer has always been about that for so many of us. We want the next thing, the better and bolder expression, and with that comes a certain trepidation as others settle into a style lock and paying the bills means having an offering like everyone else and the public at large feels they need to seek at each successive stop. Hazy IPAs, lagered ales or even low level kettle sours become the pedestrian choice for so many to keep the lights on and without a doubt, there is a segment of beer drinker who will turn up their nose at anything but said IPA or sour if a brewery heads in another direction. I feel for the brewer that feels they must make these bill payers but understand completely the business of staying afloat.
  But let's now turn our practiced palates and perhaps slightly cynical heads a little at the beer list and begin to explore the world of one offs and creativity that really shines when given the chance. An old style revived with care and passion, brought to life in an injection of inspiration, lager made well, saison shown respect and given a spin never seen before or even the IPA hit with something from far out of what your mind had ever considered before.  I will assure you that not every idea will see fruition as a beer you love, no doubt some will fall short for your particular palate, but it is in trying and experimenting that so many of the things we love as our regular beers came to be real. It is the willingness of a brewer to step back, look around and say "I can do this differently.." that brings us to a next level in our pursuits.
  Bold changes in direction or style in any art is often met with resistance at first, we crave the comfort and familiarity of the known, even in the chase for the new, We circle back to the same breweries because we know them, we trust them and at the end of the day, the more choice we have, the more likely we are to default to that very setting. Breaking the chain means pushing yourself, much like some of our favourite places do, and being willing to admit that you can still learn more.
  Life is about balance, choices and challenges. Balance your expectations, choose to seek out the new and bold and challenge your palate...always.



9 July 2019

Words about Beer

They're just words, but damn if they don't get people up in arms when it comes to their craft beer.
Writing about beer every day is challenging, how many times can I say an IPA tastes like grapefruit or some other citrus before even I begin to hate seeing those words. A low ABV beer being referred to as "crushable" or probably worse. "drinkable" can make some peoples' blood boil and don't get them started on the words "hoppy" or "mouthfeel". So many things can be annoying in the tiniest of ways when it comes to talking about our passion for beer and as someone who communicates with the world in mostly written form, I must consider how and when I use these words in their proper form and in context to what I am describing. Looking back at over 4000 different beer reviews I see a pattern of words and descriptions that I lean hard into many times because they fit the moment, the beer or the mood I am creating on that day.
  Here are a few words that drive people to madness, some I use and some I don't. At the end of the day, they're just words...
"Crushable" ("Quaffable")
  Perhaps the most overused word to describe low ABV beers that populate the summer months, crushable gives way to a whole host of progeny that are used to try and convey the fact that these beers are not meant for slow sipping or contemplating, but simply enjoying. Fun to use but will drive some people to small madness when they see it.
  One word I cannot bring myself to use as the opposite would be undrinkable and therefore this word seems fairly broad in application. If a beer is drinkable, it is by definition a liquid that you can drink. Avoid at all costs. It's just too stupid.
  Oh, this one. The "moist" of describing beer. Drives people mad with distraction but in essence it is not a terrible word. The feeling of the liquid in your mouth. How it feels. Is it bubbly? Is it smooth, rich and velvety? Perhaps too easy and lazy, trying a more accurate description is probably for the best when it comes to the texture of your beer.
  Hoppy? How? Citrus? Pine? Melon? Berry?
  So many choices when it comes to describing the flavours of our beer and hoppy falls into that lazy category. I usually understand it to mean a bitter beer but in reality it can be whatever the writer thinks it is. Pithy citrus peel or watermelon can both be flavours you find in a beer, along with coconut or dill. While these beers are hoppy, most would not describe a coconut tasting IPA as hoppy. Stick to specifics and if you can, check out the hops used to help you find a better description.

 What? But that's a good one, it tells us the bitterness of a beer. Well...in not so many words...no. The term is referring to International Bitterness Units, which is itself a scientific measurement of the amount of iso-alpha acids as opposed to perceived bitterness. While an Imperial stout may approach 80 IBUs and a pale ale only 30, the flavour intensity of the roasted malt in the stout serves to mask the bitterness relative to the pale malt. What you perceive as bitter is different than the person next to you. It makes for good copy on labels of high IBU beers but isn't really a true measurement of how you will taste it. Still gonna use it though, it's the best we've got for now.
  Cold is a temperature, not an attribute.
"Craft Beer"
  Okay, okay, hear me out. Much like IBU, craft beer means something to us that it really isn't in the wider context. The line continues to be blurred between what the hard core beer fan or snob considers craft beer and what the wider world does. Large, multi national conglomerates own some fine breweries, making great beer and that is all well and good with the general public. They don't care about semantics, they just want good beer at a decent price. What we are talking about is independent beer. Independent from a large corporate structure in a company that's main focus is maximizing return to shareholders rather than growing inside a community.  Supporting a small local business seems to be the main focus and while we see the term Craft Beer as all encompassing, it has been taken to mean a whole new thing. Time will tell if things change but for now, craft beer is at best a placeholder as the industry changes and grows. This logo from Rebellion Brewing from Regina, Saskatchewan is a good place to start. Independent should be the watchword.
  Much like it's close relative, clean, crispy (or crispy-boi) usually describes some form of lager. Generally a pilsner that is brewed correctly and with great care. Bringing joy, these true to style beers that taste like beer are hard to describe sometimes as they have little to differentiate from normal macro offerings to most beer drinkers. Sometimes a better texture or more flavour comes through but in the simplest of terms, crispy does the trick.
I like this word but know it stirs the pot in some circles.
  This one is relatively new and is used to describe the softly bitter, tropical and hazy New England or Vermont style IPAs dominating the market right now. The word could also be used to describe any number of sour ales, fruited wheat beers or the like but at this point has become so synonymous with the haze craze that it lives inside the mind for any of them. At best it tries to describe what your tasting but like tropical or pithy, it needs a descriptor attached to really be useful. I'll keep it in the repertoire but try to make sure it is context of how and why I feel that way.
  A few things to ponder, many more words are probably missing from my list so a return engagement to this topic is possible. Agree or disagree, as long as we are enjoying a good beer, it's all relative.




5 July 2019

Crushable Summer

 The very nature of beer has always been seasonal. The cycles of brewing were once dictated by environmental factors and availability of ingredients and without much change, we have leaned hard into these traditions even as modern farming and equipment make those notions obsolete. Saisons, dark beers and all the other styles and variations have their place on the timeline of brewing and while today we have available to us year round most IPAs, lagers and assorted ales, including porters and stouts, the summer seems particularly made for the low ABV or session beer. Call them crushable, patio pints or gone before you know it, these low alcohol beers have transformed from flavourless light lagers to a dazzling array of craft beer options in almost limitless styles and possibilities. It seems every brewery is tossing their hat into the ring as the temp goes up and people spend more time socializing outdoors with friends and family for our all to brief summer here north of the 49th parallel.

  While the term "crushable" is detested by many, toss "hoppy" and "crispy-boi" on that pile too, it is, to me, a proper term of endearment for these easy drinking pints of summer. Lighter in body, but not in flavour is the goal as craft beer has an opportunity outside of the traditional light lager style, although many release pilsners that are spot on technically and have that much desired lower alcohol content. Suffice it to say that if you have a style you love, you can generally find a version that will have a lower ABV without sacrificing any of the taste you've come to love from your favourite craft beer.
  There are a myriad of options available now at your local craft brewery, with many more already in stock at the LCBO and Beer Store. Wanting to be able to enjoy 3 or 4 pints on a hot summer night should mean enjoying it all, not getting hammered and I am all for this lovely low ABV option. Sometimes you want a slow sipper to contemplate or celebrate and other times you just want to crush a few and have a good time.
  I used to be a big consumer of light beer, Brava Light in fact. Barely registering on the scale of flavour, it was so light as to resemble barley water and I could down a six pack in minutes each day upon returning home from work.  That is part in parcel due to not wanting them to warm up in the summer heat, macro lagers do not do well if not ice cold, and also because you only drank them with one purpose, to get drunk quickly and cheaply. And while times have changed and I no longer down beer like I need it to survive, in the humid summer nights, a low ABV beer can be a godsend as you still don't want to drink a warm pale ale or pilsner. Not so much chugging as consuming a little faster than when drinking in winter, the availability of so many styles makes it an easy choice any day.
  The presence of so many craft breweries means that there is a local option available to almost everyone when it comes to finding your patio pint and while I would love to get into every one of them, I'll stick to recommending a few that I know are a little more accessible through the LCBO or Grocery store options. Depending on your own palate, sours or wild ale beers may not work as a summer crusher and perhaps a pale ale or pilsner would do the trick for that weekend BBQ or family party.

I'll undoubtedly miss a few, there are just so many options and even I can't keep track of them all. Under 5.0%, ready for the patio and available right now!

Nickel Brook Brewing Raspberry Uber has been a staple for many of us in Ontario for the last few years. Tart and full of berry deliciousness, it gives rise to the term dessert beer but is oh so good when poolside too. 4.0% ABV, 500ml Bottle, $5.95

Great Lakes Brewing Sunnyside Session IPA will surprise you with just how tropical this low ABV treat can be. Grapefruit and pineapple with a light pine and lemon finish. BBQ? Yep. Swimming? Hell yeah! 3.9%, 473ml Tall Boy, $2.90

Collective Arts Brewing Lunch Money Blonde Ale is a pretty much straight up, easy drinking Dad beer. I like it, my dad likes it and they sell copious amounts of it at the taproom to the blue collar folks here in The Hammer. Simple yet elegant. 4.8%, 473ml Tall Boy, $2.95

Great Lakes Brewery Over my Dad Body Pilsner continues the tradition of great and accessible styles of beer from GLB. Dry with a grassy, citrus hit of hops with a touch of noble spice. Made for hanging out all night, singing the songs we remember so well by the firepit. 5.0%, 473ml Tall Boy, $2.90

Henderson Brewing's Food Truck Blonde Ale is a maltier take that lends itself well to meal time. Light citrus with a biscuit malt body is spot on for a little more flavour without getting boozier.
4.8%, 473ml Tall Boy, $2.95

Lake of Bays Beach Break Lager with Lime will not blow the socks off anyone looking for a big beer but it is designed to be ready for the day long pool party and family BBQ. A simple lager with citrus punch, it's fine to drink out of the can and just enjoy. 3.5%, 473ml Tall Boy, $2.95

Nickel Brook Brewing Cause & Effect Blonde Ale is a long standing fave here. Floral and citrusy orange and lemon with a touch of pine, its got a cracker malt and is a conversation beer that is there but doesn't take you down the garden path. 4.7%, 473ml Tall Boy, $2.95

Bench Brewing Strawberry Grove Sour Ale hits the tart note and delivers a strawberry knockout punch for that sunny, humid day spent outside with nothing to do but relax. 5.0%, 500ml Bottle, $7.50

Muddy York Brewing Switchboard Session IPA arrives in a shortie can that delivers a big citrus pineapple and grapefruit in droves. Cooler filling, patio livin'. 4.9%, 355ml Shortie can, $3.00

Amsterdam Brewery 3 Speed Lager is a bready but light floral and spice lager that comes in a big old can of beer that is the post work, swimming pool BBQ one you need. 4.2%, 568ml Super Tall Boy, $3.00

Sawdust City Brewing Little Norway Pale Lager is a bright citrus and lightly malty lager that means you don't have to do anything but sit on the deck and let the world go by. 4.5%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.10

Skeleton Crew Brewing Evil Genius Session IPA is the new kid on the block and it brings a west coast IPA vibe with a toasty malt body and citrus pith. New friends are summers greatest joy. 4.5%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.10

Muskoka Brewery Ebb & Flow Sour Ale is a lime and grapefruit intro sour that will be an easy choice on a sunny afternoon or as the waves crash on the beach and your life is resplendent in relaxation. 2.4%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.15

Black Oak Brewing Nut Brown Ale is an Ontario classic and delivers caramel, toffee and chocolate in an easily crushable body. Change of pace and that is a good thing. 5.0%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.15

Spearhead Brewing Summer Ale brings a unique blend of simple ale and wine together for a stone fruit and bright citrus patio pleaser. 4.3%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.15

Muskoka Brewery Detour Session IPA is a legendary crushable all season IPA that delivers pine and grapefruit to your glass as the sun shines and the pool beckons. 4.3%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.35

Wellington Brewery Helles Lager has become a patio go-to the last year or so. Crisp and toasty with a nice pinch of citrus, drink it from the can as you float around the pool if you like, it's a beauty either way. 4.5%, 473ml Tall Boy, $3.15

  If nothing else, this gives you a good start and hopefully you will find your cooler filled with great beer that lets you enjoy the memories you are making in the Crushable Summer of 2019.



2 July 2019

Trust me, Drink the Pilsner

  I have a confession to make.
  I like Pilsners.
 A lot.
 Okay, some other styles of lager too.
 But Pilsners...oh baby.
  The last few years have found me growing as a beer drinker, exploring new and different styles and the myriad of off shoots our craft brewers have come up with. From the evolution of the West to East IPA to Saisons and Sours, I have fallen in love with the variety and options available every time I crack open a beer. Little in the way of a regular or go-to beer is in my fridge now as I just have too many choices to be made on a daily basis. But something is changing and evolving as I grow a little older and feel a little more like indulging in a forward looking nostalgia that is a finely crafted lager, pilsners to be precise.
  Seeking out the latest Hazy IPA or tart puckeringly sour is not without it's joy. I love to see new releases and returning favourites from Double IPA to Barrel Aged beauties, but I feel the tug of a clean and crisp pils more now than ever before and I think it is a good thing to be in the mix of what I drink. A beer that tastes like a beer is probably a little simplistic but at the end of the day, all the adjuncts, dry hopping and kettle additions in the world cannot compete with the dry and bitter grassy, floral and lightly fruited lagers I find drawing me back to where I began.
But those beers from my past are but mere shadows in comparisons to the delights being brewed right here in Ontario. Flavourless and lacking depth, while technically and efficiently brewed, the ABInBev and Molson/Coors offerings have little to give us in the way of enjoyment outside of being served cold and consumed quickly. The pilsners and lagers I drink now have a whole other level of complexity to them and while it is still advisable to consume them cool, the rush to finish them and pound another isn't what it once was. Their is something in their flavour and texture that belies my memories of what was and has created a whole new level of what is. I drink them to enjoy them but also to release myself from trying to explore the deeper nuances of the more flamboyant of our options.
  Where as not so long ago I would have told you to drink a brewery's IPA if you wanted to know them, I now understand the technical prowess and sheer patience and dedication to brewing a clean, flawlessly crisp and refreshing pilsner with body and depth. There is no where to hide a flaw or a shortcut from start to finish and only true commitment from the very beginning will result in a divine product cascading into my glass. Much respect is given to those who understand the process, love and time involved in creating something so delicate, yet robust in so many ways. To crack through the haze-craze and tart puckers of today is to have crafted something so beautiful that it is a marvel in it's simplicity.
Pour me a golden hued, fluffy white headed, crisp and clean homage to the German and Czech fore bearers of today's tributes and I am yours for the afternoon. On a patio, in a pub or in the quiet of the evening after all my labours are complete, I will indulge myself with more than one and look to a future where my palate can continue to grow and evolve while appreciating the true classic pints of our times, now, then and forever.



What's in my dream Pilsner/Lager fridge right now? Well, a lot of it has to do with availability, so here is what is happening at the moment here in The Grotto...

Fairweather Brewing Donna Pils (Brewery only)
Anderson Craft Ales Summer German style Pilsner
Great Lakes Brewery Over My Dad Body Pilsner
Merit Brewing No Limit Lager (Brewery Only)
Clifford Brewing East Hamilton Lager (Brewery only)
Muddy York Brewing Gaslight Helles Lager
Beau's All Natural Helles Lager
Mascot Brewing Pilsner


21 June 2019

Leap of Faith - One Polk's Dream..


I look into the mirror every morning and I see a tired man looking back at me. I am old at being young, but young at being old (to quote The Barenaked Ladies), but I feel every year sometimes. Life is rolling along at an ever increasing clip and as a blue collar guy who left high school and has worked in a variety of customer service jobs over the last 30 years, I don't have much in the way of plans for the future. Little savings from being self employed for 13 of those years and working for chains that don't offer retirement packages means I am most likely to work till I am well into my 70's or until I keel over at the grill one day. The prospect of another 30 years spent grinding out 50 hour work weeks with 2 off for good behaviour seems daunting at times as the entirety of my life will be spent working to just stay put. Not an appetizing thought by any means and I lack the self discipline or guts to trim my life to the basics so as to save and retire a bit earlier on a modest budget. But one day I had a thought, perhaps I could "retire" for a few years now while I can enjoy it and then toil away my remaining years with the wonderful memories I could create.
  How's that now, you ask yourself?
  Well, admittedly it isn't the smartest plan or the most stable but it is a dream to dream each night.
  We bought our house about 12 years ago, right before the market went ape-shit. Coming in at a very reasonable price, we looked at it as our forever home where we would raise our child (to come soon after) and enjoy the life we were building. A simple 2 bedroom home with a huge yard and room to grow, we hosted parties,a wedding and so much more before life got really complicated after I lost my business in 2012. The struggle to stay afloat was real but after a time, we found our footing and on we went. The real blow was when we found out that it wasn't in the cards for us to have kids, tough to swallow that one I will tell you, but once again, we refocused and strode on into the night with our sights on tomorrow.
  But I did get tired of it all some days. I looked at a future where we just keep doing the same things, day in and day out, a fait acompli until I take my leave of this mortal coil and no longer care. This cannot be all there is and one day, a mad plan, a decidedly crazy and unabashedly irresponsible plan popped into my head when I was a few pints in.
  We sell the house.
  Travel the world for 2 or 3 years.
  Come back and resume our lives, but with the tales and memories to carry us to the end while we still can enjoy them.
  Simply put, as madness usually thinks of itself, the profit from the sale of our house is going to exceed $300,000 and while we do have decent jobs, they are nothing we couldn't find again after a few years away. I don't have a career that needs saving, a life worth living should be lived well and hard. This is what I proposed one evening...
 We take half of what me make, maybe a little more and just go.  Leave with the wind at our backs and don't stop until we have to come back to ground and resume this life lived proper and true to what is expected.
We would head to Europe for a few months first, chasing beer dreams from Belgium to Germany and the Czech Republic. Drinking Belgian Trappist beers in taverns across from the monastery that produced them, sitting in a German Bierhaus during Oktoberfest and crushing Pilsner Urqhell on the patio in Pilsen would no longer be a dream and without a rigid travel timeline, we would be free to explore at our own will.
  Returning across the Atlantic, we would embark on the most ambitious part of my "retirement" plan; Polkapolooza : North America. Buying a truck and a trailer, we would start our journey in Newfoundland, exploring the local craft beer and food scene in every province and territory in Canada as we travelled across this great land. Timing stops for cultural events that pique our interest, we would search out experiences that will give us the memories promised but left unfilled in an uncertain future. Perhaps a year or so spent driving and stopping in to visit anywhere we fancy before we turn south and visit our friends and neighbours in the United States to do more of the same.
  Rather than looking for a reason or a purpose, we will simply go where the wind takes us and live the life that we cannot expect as our years advance. There will be no lazy senior days for this guy and this rather wacky and wholly un-thought out plan remains a dream that tantalizes my soul when the days get dark and the future a muddled mess of repetitive convention. Is it idiocy or madness that drives me to contemplate taking a risk and just letting go of all the routine and "correct" things we are supposed to do? Sure, a little of both but I do know one thing for sure, I was not born to just work until I die and pay bills.
  There you have it. The flights of fancy of a middle aged dreamer who will head back to work tomorrow with a little glimmer of what may be, even if that's all he has to keep him going.


16 June 2019

Reflections on a Beer Festival

  I do not do beer festivals anymore. I work early in the morning and most weekends, so that has a part in it for sure. I struggle with big crowds of people and have little tolerance for drunken frat boy behaviour or jackassery. All told, I'd rather stay home and drink amazing beer in The Grotto in peace and quiet.
  I have a soft spot for my OG Hometown Craft beer heroes Collective Arts and when they asked if I'd like a pair of weekend passes to this years Liquid Arts fest, I couldn't really say anything but "Thank you" and "Can't wait to see you all". I haven't been writing about beer that long, not quite 4 years, but I haven't missed a CA release in the whole time either. So I come by that love quite honestly. I am enamoured with the community of craft beer lovers and with the closeness to my house, this fest seemed like we could at least go for 1 of the 3 sessions and then wander back to The Manor for a night cap. I joked that there was no way I could do all 3 Sessions without dying but in the end we did go to all 3 and had a blast at each one.
  The vibe was super chill all weekend, little in the way of drunk and disorderly and anything untoward was addressed quickly by security and with no bullshit taken. A large concern for me going in was the "token less" nature of the festival, that is you only pay for your admission and then you drank what you wanted, no tokens or further money required. Rampant over consumption and rowdy drunks were not an issue as the volunteer staff was well versed and had no trouble cutting people off if necessary, not that I saw much of anything resembling that level of idiocy, although I am sure it existed. The upside to a non token festival is that you can get half pours, dump a beer you don't like and you don't feel like you've wasted your money. So many times I would take a few sips and feel like it wasn't for me and politely dispose of the contents and proceed to the next one. A green peppery tasting off flavoured Hefe met this fate along with a few stouts that rocked the smokey level too high for my style, but for the most part it was smooth sailing.
  The layout of the festival this year was a solid plus as well. Spreading out over a larger footprint gave it a strolling component but not like you had to trek for miles for the next tent. It didn't feel overcrowded even when the place was jumping because you had room to move and sip. The grouping of breweries was easy to navigate and with little trouble we found styles to each of our liking every step of the way. Loads of IPAs, Double and Triple IPAs, NEIPAs, Imperial Stouts, Sours and even some Pilsners and Lagers for an old guy like me who just wanted a damn beer from time to time. Breweries from 14 countries meant we were getting stuff from all over, although I would have liked to see more locally or culturally significant to that particular country as opposed to another hazy IPA. But overall, there was literally a beer for everyone and any taste bud could find happiness in their afternoon or evening.
Meeting my Beeroes

  I will admit the art and music were not a huge thing, but my tastes in both run a little more old school so it wasn't really something I was putting much stock in as the day went on. For the most part, it was just noise in the background as the festival crowd rose and the laughter and pints flowed along with it.
  Running into fellow beer lovers you only know online is a big part of why we did all 3 sessions. So many friends coming in at different times and I couldn't help but want to hang out a little and chat while we drank. As someone who does very little to no socialising, it was a safe and beautiful way to experience the community and make people as part of my day. Lots of folks stopped me just to tell me they enjoy the videos or the writing and to be honest, I am stunned and humbled whenever anyone tells me that. A lot of hugs and handshakes, although as the night went on the latter became more prevalent. Craft beer isn't just better beer, it seems to create some very strong bonds between strangers who quickly become friends.
  While I am no longer an UnTappd kind of guy, it was fun seeing people's excitement as the added to their running totals and got badges all day long, well over 200 different beers available and that included a dedicated Ontario Craft beer tent that was often staffed with the brewers themselves. Things sold out and although there was the occasional long line for certain beers, I didn't have to wait long when I wanted something. Literal strangers would strike up a conversation and within minutes we were enjoying beer tales of days gone by.
Polk doing Polk Things

  For the most part, these things are the things happening every weekend at Beer festivals and breweries around the world. People like being part of something bigger than they are and this community is made up of a lot of regular working folks who just want a little tipple on the side of fun at the end of an often heavy and dreary work week. Family obligations, kids events and just plain old life are complicated and messy and if for a few hours we can escape that and just enjoy a couple of pints with like minded people, I think that is the biggest success of all.
  Whether or not you enjoy yourself has a lot to do with what you expect going into the day and this year I think Collective Arts certainly took the things from last year that did not work (i.e. international bottle shop and a VIP that under delivered) and fixed them by keeping it simple. Getting in an hour ahead of everyone was worth a few extra buck for those with the Mothership Passes and with the other events, food trucks and even a complimentary Caesar/Gin Bar, hair cuts from Architect Hair design, Tattoo artists and more, the value was there for anyone who wanted it.
  Thank you once again to Toni and the staff at Collective Arts for always including us in these events and for being open and accepting whenever I have a question or criticism of what they are doing. I do strive for honesty in all things and I can truly say Kat and I had a wonderful time that we will long remember.


13 June 2019

Don't Gamble with my Beer - Quality Matters

  Beer shouldn't be a lottery ticket.
  I know, I know.
  Not exactly something most people think about when it comes to their beer, but when it comes to Craft Beer, it is something that continues to pop up more and more. The growing market share of our favourite beverage will not continue it's rise if breweries start to cut corners and put out sub standard beer to control costs or hit a planned release.
  The macro beer producers learned long ago that consumers demand a consistent, albeit boring, quality product that will give them exactly what is advertised. Beer that delivers the same thing whether you buy it in Toronto, Vancouver or St. John's. A Canadian or a Labatt's Blue may not be the things beer nerds like myself line up for on a Saturday morning, but the people who buy 24s of them on a regular basis are never disappointed in what they purchase. While you or I may have left these plain lagers far behind, the majority of beer drinkers still enjoy them because they are what they say they are, every time.
  I am certain that there are a few Craft breweries that could learn a lot from this kind of quality control, dedication to consistency and being prepared to admit when their product is less than optimal.
  I have had beer that contains off flavours, resembles poorly conceived home brew or generally lacks in any kind of quality control and yet still it was released to the public, even when privately you hear whispers that it would have better to sit in the tanks longer or even meet its fate in the drain on the floor.
  While the recent Flying Monkey's "Sparklechunks" debate is still running on Twitter, it is the lack of concern from some people that truly concerned me. Phrases like "I got lucky, no chunks." accompanied photos of the very good version of this beer, while other times people would lament their fate and report a clear, chunky mess of a beer that appears to be something completely different. While I am not privy to all the world, I know that if I buy your product and you tell me it is one thing, it had better be that or we have a problem.
  This is not about not liking a certain style or even a certain brewery and their take on it. It is about being honest with your consumers. I was not a fan of Collective Arts IPA No. 6 last year and talked about how it was just not balancing well together for me. Trying it a few weeks and another batch later, it was better but still had me questioning the release of the first one. Too many times I find beer that is not quite ready for prime time and whether that is a decision based on money or production is a questioned best left to be explained by those who released it.
  This industry grows every year but people will not suffer sub-standard fare for long. The hope of more market share rests on delivering a good product at a fair price on a consistent basis. $5 for a lottery ticket of a tall boy is not something I'd like to keep trying my luck at. 
  While the wild and crazy things we see in craft beer are no doubt entertaining and helping to open a world of creativity and flavour, quality must remain the watchword and in a time when anything goes, it is paramount to always keep the bar moving up when it comes to making sure every pint is on point and consistently well made.
  It falls on consumers to make the choice to support those who follow the path of good beer and fairness. Your dollars speak and when you spend them, you are showing support for what you believe in. Believe in better beer and demand nothing less than the best from what you buy.



7 June 2019

Comfort Beer - You can go home again.

The pursuit of the new and novel is the hallmark of most craft beer drinkers. We love to find different styles or variations of such and of course, pursue the elusive whales of our dreams. These flights of beer fancy are fun and leave us looking whenever we stop at the Liquor, grocery or Beer stores or the breweries themselves for something we haven't seen before. This is the reason so many of us got into craft beer in the first place, the constant and changing landscape of innovations and ideas drives the need to keep searching for the next thing.
 While this is what we do most often, we also lean back sometimes to the beers that took us from there to here and enjoy them quietly and in a deep appreciation for what they have brought to our lives. Whether you've been a consumer of craft beer for decades or are just dipping your taste buds in slowly right now, we all have those beers that bring us joy and ones we return to again and again without fanfare but with much love. Some people call these "Go-To" or regular rotation beers but I like to think of them as "Comfort Beers" and with good reason, they give me just that.
  A Comfort beer is trustworthy, never wavering from the original intent and always reliable. It delivers what you remember and what you enjoy with equal aplomb and even if it's been a while and your palate has changed or improved, it still gets you smiling when you take that first sip. You find yourself buying a few cans of this beer every so often just because and it can surprise you when you haven't had it in a while because it continues to be a consistently beautifully crafted ale. It isn't flashy or trendy and for some of them, even well known, it can seem like they have been missing from your life for far too long. You know them and you love them for exactly what they are.

  While each of us has our own version of a Comfort Beer, the hallmarks of consistency, quality, reliability, availability and trust play huge factors as often times new beers can miss the mark or leave us wanting as brewers change and challenge the notion of what a certain style of beer should be. For me, a true Comfort Beer is as close to the style points as possible and delivers them in balance between all flavours and aromas. It also has to be readily available all year long as a one off or seasonal release may not be there when the notion hits you and you crave the familiar. Although having said that, I do count on a few releases every year to join me as I roll along through life like long distance love.
What hits the mark for one person will not for another but here are a few pints that you should pick up again or maybe for the first time to enjoy and reflect.

Nickel Brook Brewing Headstock IPA - The OG of West Coast style IPAs for me. Big citrus pith and pine with a toasted malt body that is all about balance.
Wellington Brewery Imperial Russian Stout - The only year round Imperial stout in Ontario. As a slow sipper at the beginning of the day or the last pint of the night, it is perfect.
Amsterdam Brewing Boneshaker IPA - The beer that taught me citrus pith and pine are good things. It's big brother Fracture is a yearly Comfort beer that never disappoints.
Steamwhistle Pilsner - Legendary quality. The original crossover beer for so many of us and a ubiquitous part of our craft beer life that appears again and again, especially in summer.
Great Lakes Brewery Canuck Pale Ale - That most Canadian of Pale Ales. Available fresh and with an unmatched consistency of taste.
Clifford Porter - One of a handful of beers that sets the benchmark for any that come after it.
Collective Arts Ransack the Universe IPA - My first love. A tweak has developed it once again into a must have on a regular basis.
Side Launch Wheat - My favourite straight up wheat ale. Perfect in every way.
Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA - A cottage take on the classic West Coast IPA. It hits different hop notes than most classic IPAs and that brings me joy. Twice as Mad Tom is delightful too.
Sawdust City Brewing Lone Pine IPA - A brilliance of balance. Pine, resin, grapefruit and more citrus check all the boxes. Twin Pines...oh baby.

  While I am sure I could list a dozen more and that your own personal list of Comfort Beers may contain a completely different set of beers, the intention is the same. Identifying the beers you trust and know will always deliver what you ask of them, Finding your way back home after an adventure and enveloping yourself in the love and spark of what you know and love is a fabulous feeling.
  Enjoy your summer and remember it's okay to just drink a beer because you know it and enjoy just drinking it. Life is all about chasing the dream, but sometimes you just need a break and a Comfort beer should be exactly that.




30 May 2019

The Beer Store - What's next?

 The Beer Store.
  Iconic Ontario beer retailer that has been around for almost 100 years and it seems that time is drawing nigh for its near monopoly (80%) on beer sales in this province. While the politics behind the recent legislation in Ontario do cause me considerable pause, I wanted to talk about the actual beer problem we have here as opposed to getting weighed down by my personal loathing of our current government. Not to ignore their bread and circuses policy announcements but I am intrigued by what happens either now or in the future when the beer market finally opens up and we see what competition can deliver to Ontarians. 
  First off, a little primer for folks who don't know much about The Beer Store and it's ownership profile. Many think it is like our LCBO, owned and operated by the government with the profit returning to taxpayers fully but indeed it is a mostly (99.8%) foreign owned entity, controlled by Molson-Coors (50.9%), AB-InBev (44.9%) and Sapporo (4.2%) with a sprinkling of almost 30 other brewers from Ontario holding minor stakes. Delivery and distribution is a hallmark of The Beer Store as well as a world class recycling program for all alcohol bottles and cans sold here, saving tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue by dealing with the material instead of local municipalities. Well over 7000 people are employed at this (kind of) not-for-profit organization and while it is true many of the positions are part time, the full time union jobs are well paid and with good benefits.
  The monopoly on full case (12/24) sales outside of the actual breweries is but one way the stranglehold of most beer sales in Ontario has been established. Price breaks on larger package purchases encourages consumers to shop for their 24's here as opposed to the LCBO or grocery stores. The mandate of beer neutrality is supposed to help alleviate concerns of smaller brewers about the macro producers dominant position of ownership and from personal, albeit anecdotal, experience, I have found most Beer Store employees to be a good resource when I had questions about something new. Like any retail setting, including craft beer taprooms and the LCBO, some people are just punching a clock for a paycheque and others are passionate about what they are selling.
  The potential loss of jobs is certainly a large concern, especially for the people I have come to know as friends who work at The Beer Store. Opening up sales at convenience stores is more likely to impact grocery store 6 packs but if they are allowed to sell 12 and 24 packs or have any control over pricing for sales (now controlled through the LCBO), that could change. Whether legislation forces a minimum craft allocation at each convenience store will be interesting to watch but we can hope that some enterprising owners will seize the opportunity and perhaps some of them will see that carrying a wider assortment of craft is good for business. The more likely scenario is the heavy macro sellers (Coors Light, Bud, Canadian, et all) will continue to dominate as an easy pickup when the fridge runs low or you are on your way to party, late and in a hurry.
  The potential for Craft Beer focused stores like in Quebec or some of the other provinces that operate much differently than we do here is a big plus for many of the people I know. Access to more craft breweries from around the country and the world is considered the end game of any monopoly break up and while the Ontario Craft Brewers Association supports the legislation itself, it is difficult to see them laying out capital to build or own actual locations. Representing less than 30% of craft brewers in the province diminishes their voice a bit but that could change if they begin to offer more access and continue to lobby the government to create looser rules regarding stores, cross selling between breweries and the like. Being able to get a better selection just from around Ontario would be a huge plus, with more than 300+ brick and mortar breweries to choose from as well as even more doing the contract brewing thing.
  I'm sure the logistics of setting up such a venture would be mind-boggling and expensive and despite my best hopes, I know not everyone would satisfied. The majority of beer drinkers will continue to drink their macro lagers and purchase their 24s each week or so with no hesitation save a sale or giveaway included with purchase. I know this because only 4 years ago I was that guy who's brand loyalty was to whomever would be cheapest or had the coolest thing inside my case to offset a higher price point. I know as well that most craft beer drinkers tend to look for what's new and buy in smaller quantities outside of their own personal favourites that they like to have on hand all the time. Selection, freshness and a knowledgeable staff would be a seriously amazing thing if we can dream. And while I understand the nervous and not altogether unfounded fears of what will happen next, change is coming and we need to look at what we can do with an eye to creating good jobs, better access to great beer and the end to a system that has it's roots at the end of Prohibition. It's time we grew up and took off the chains of the protestant forefathers that ruled Ontario in the 1920s and beyond, we aren't children anymore.
  I have no desire to see anyone lose their job but at the same time, the world is a much different place than when this system was set up. The explosive growth of craft beer, spirits, wine and cider demands a new approach to the distribution and selling of alcohol in Ontario. The old ways must be examined, what worked can be integrated into the new system but in a humane and most Canadian way. Working within the framework of existing contracts with an eye to a modern approach to having greater and more convenient access to our favourite beverages is nothing to be done off the cuff, it behooves us to make sure the protections are in place to ensure minors and people who struggle with addiction are not left out of the equation. Craft beer focused stores may be the end game, how we get their will determine just how successful they can be.
Just my 2 cents, my personal habits are unlikely to change unless we see a radical shift in who sells what and where. I am cautiously optimistic but hope this conversation isn't used as cover for what has become a dangerously unprogressive government when it comes to important social issues. Do they have the mandate to break a legal contract 6 years before it expires? Is it really about beer? Those questions will have to wait for another post on another day, I'm pretty sure it's beer time now.


20 May 2019

We Drink Beer.

  We drink beer to enhance our joy or reduce our pain.
  We drink beer to celebrate our accomplishments or to drown our sorrows.
  We drink beer and we know things.
  We drink beer.
  Life as a beer drinker changes when you discover craft beer. Whether you submerge yourself into the community or just drink and enjoy the different styles and iterations contained therein, you change. Some still drink to excess and some don't. Some write and celebrate with pictures and videos their finds and some don't. Some think the whole thing is puffery and still others are evangelical in their pursuit of the next great beer.
  I've been on both sides of these equations in my 30 plus years as a consumer of beer and while it is my distinct pleasure every day to open a beer and talk about it, I wonder what it all means as the industry itself morphs and changes with it's growing size and spread. Every new account online and every new convert to craft beer helps grow and enhance our community but what is the end game for it all? Why do we talk and talk about our beer and leave out the fact that it is still about the drink, at the end of the day. It makes us feel good when we have a beer and it makes us feel even better when we have four. It is the alcohol that brings the buzz, while the flavour, texture and other subtle nuances of even the finest of our beers are but a delivery system for the ABV contained within. Do we want to drink to enjoy the beer or do we still seek the simple pleasure of what that warm feeling gives us as we pour another pint?
  Would we care who makes our beer if it didn't make us feel part of something different and special? I know as I grow older, I feel less like I belong to what is happening in the world. Things change and it can feel like life passes by quicker every year, but when you enter the world of craft beer, you feel like you belong to something timeless. You enter a community trying to be different and focus on what a small, local business can deliver that a giant corporation cannot. We want to try different things in a life that maybe has too much normalcy and routine. We want to feel an escape when the work and family responsibilities take away our feelings of youth and independence. Finding a voice or a niche and surrounding yourself with other like-minded individuals can be comforting and often empowering. Being with a group that thinks like you do is a hallmark of humanity going back to the beginning and like any religion, we often overlook the darker side of what we have wrought.
  We drink beer because we like how it makes us feel. Or we cannot stop ourselves despite how it makes us feel. My personal relationship with alcohol is complicated and my journey in life is much my own doing. While I was for many years an almost teetotaller, I found no comfort in not having a pint as I do in having one. Perhaps the balance I sought was delivered when craft beer entered my life or maybe I'm just getting older but I have found myself less inclined to overindulge as I used to be. But still I do find myself pouring another pint when the last one should have been just that. I still seek the release of what a few glasses of a strong slow sipper will deliver even as I think I know exactly how much I can consume to achieve that state before I slip off the edge.
  Ignoring the effects of alcohol by trying to portray what we drink as being a community or art or any other thing we want to call it is to try to pull a veil down that we all see through. Would you drink beer if it didn't give you something more than the flavours you find? I know it isn't something we talk about often but this can be a real problem and one I am guilty of overlooking myself. We drink beer socially or alone, but we do it and we mostly feel good when we do, but some folks are suffering and we need to find a way to address that too.
  I don't have the answers, I struggle every day with leaning out and back in on what I do to share my own life through beer and wonder if I could be doing more to lift the conversation to a higher level. I want to make the world a better place and with craft beer I always felt that was possible. I love being part of this thing we have happening, even if I don't always feel like I belong. It is a special place and time but one we must still try to be honest about, at all times and at all points.
  I drink and I know things.
  The time to start talking about them is now.


26 March 2019

Take a Friend, Make a Fan

  The nexus for the craft beer revolution for many people happens at home or at a friends place when they try something new and different. The spark may happen at a random event like this or when that leap of faith occurs and you take from it a fire that builds slowly and steadily. But for many people what cements their transition from macro to independent craft beer is most likely a visit to a certain taproom that propels them forward into a world they didn't know existed.
  A few weeks ago, I took my brother in law Cam to a few of my favourite stops in Toronto while our wives went to see Ellen. Starting at Muddy York, a place we frequent on a fairly regular basis, I began to see the taprooms I had come to know and love in a different light. Watching someone else soak in the atmosphere we may have become accustomed to and seeing the wheels spinning on what was happening was inspiring. It made me think of how far we have come in a few short years and what generated that transition. From d├ęcor to personalities and of course, the beer, I could start to understand the pull of the taproom and where it was becoming so much more than just a place to pick up new or favourite beers.
  Most beer drinkers are not craft beer drinkers. Whether from habit, disdain for the new or unknown or just plain indifference, the market we live in, while intense and growing, is mostly unknown to the larger beer drinking public. They have little interest in our squabbles about macro versus craft and even if they are into the craft beer drinking, it is merely as a consumer, not an adherent to some unknown principles of independence and creativity. They just wanna drink some damn good beer and enjoy themselves.
  We become entrenched in our little world and spending some time with people who enjoy craft beer but are not involved in the ups and downs of the daily movements and social constructs of the industry is eye opening to say the least. Things we think are huge issues do not even begin to resonate with them. They buy new beers all the time and if they like them, buy again. Brand loyalty isn't a real issue as it's a big section of new stuff to try and the occasional stop in a brewery on a Saturday drive out with the family. They are not invested in the "battle" we fight every day of corporate beer versus independent beer and our squabbles about this beer or that being off flavoured or over priced doesn't even reach their ears.
  The trials and tribulations of our tiny corner of the beer aisle aside, the thing I saw that resonated with me the most was how exposure to one or two really well run taprooms can change peoples perceptions on a dime. Talking on Twitter about this, I was a little surprised by the response I got when I asked people about that particular visit to a brewery that turned them into craft beer drinkers. Everyone had their own reason for falling in love but the driving force behind a lot of the talk was the people who worked at each spot and the beer that grabbed their attention. From small out of the way places like Killanen up towards Owen Sound to craft giants like Amsterdam, Great Lakes and Sawdust City, people were passionate about their first loves. The one that gave you a glimpse behind the curtain to a world where beer wasn't just a 24 and a hangover. It could be a place to hang out, bring the kids and the dog and enjoy a beer while everyone listened to a local band play and a food truck sat out front for snack time. It could be a hub for groups to connect and help spread the word for worthy causes and maybe a home away from home for someone in need of a break from it all. It in time replaces the local pub, never a real kid friendly place to be fair, with one where strollers and talks of favourite hops go hand in hand. Paint nights, comedy, activism and social gatherings all help to convert a casual fan into a long time one and bring forth a new and wonderful feeling of community and ownership that never existed in their beer drinking lives before.
  The impetus lies with us, the lovers of independent craft beer to help keep open the doors and make room at the table for everyone who wants to sit down. We must continue to strive to be better than what came before us and make it so that whenever someone comes into our favourite brewery, they too can experience what we felt on that day that changed us forever. It only takes one bad experience to turn someone away and it is a real shame when we lose people who could otherwise be a part of growing what we love. Make time to explore your favourite places with a friend or family member who expresses an interest and help make the revolution spread.



1 February 2019

Not so Dry...

Life is never simple and each day I pour a beer and talk about for a little while to help me sort it all out. It has brought me much joy but also something to ponder about where I am headed next. With the rise in people doing the Dry January and now the Canadian Cancer Society's Dry Feb fundraiser (link here) that some of my beer friends are going to be starting today, I felt like I should take a moment and pose some questions to myself as I try to better understand what the last 3+ years of my life have been about.  After more than 3500 beer reviews and almost 1000 videos, this blog and the countless tweets, am I ready to step back?
  The American beer writer Norman Miller (The Beer Nut) posted his final column (link here) back in late November talking about having to quit writing about and even drinking beer because he knew his consumption was slowly killing him. A wickedly insightful and self aware post that has been sitting with me for almost 3 months as I take a serious look at what I do and why I continue to do so.
  Should I take a break?
  From craft beer?
  From social media?
  From it all...?
  In his column, Norman talks of drinking 5 or 6 pints every weekend day and then that even became most Thursdays. Like me, he struggled with his weight and although I have yet to end up in the hospital with stomach issues, I feel what he was saying deeply in my heart. While my own largeness has been with me my whole life, the last year and a half saw me go to a number that really scared me...but still I go on and I wonder why.
  Because he is not me.
 I don't go out and drink with people, it is a by product of anxiety and just plain work that gets in my way. But that "Guy's Night" mentality is done for me and that has removed some of what would cause me to pound beer after beer.  I don't drink more than two or three beers most nights and to be honest, even that has dropped to one after I switched jobs and felt a little more like myself after walking away from a toxic environment.  
  But even a beer or 2 every day may be too much and after over 1100 days straight of being the daily beer guy, is it time to stop?
  I considered a Dry January, or even the Dry Feb with it's charity aspect to end my important only to me streak but I held back...because it isn't the beer at all that I fear. It is who I was before all this began. That guy was not ending up anywhere but in rehab or dead and I still believe to this day that finding craft beer saved my life.
  I used to drink a lot. 12 to 16 beers a day was not uncommon. usually late at night when I got home from work and alone. I will not mince words and say I was after anything more than a good, blackout drunk and to be quick about it. After years of chasing that particular ghost, I found craft beer and before I knew it, everything had changed. I found a voice, I rediscovered my love of writing and I began to feel the dynamic shift in my relationship to alcohol. To be sure I still felt the siren call of the blackness, but I was no longer held captive by it.
  As the last 3 years will attest, I have had slip ups and bad weeks where I definitely drank too much, like almost anyone who drinks does. The difference now was that I knew it and was active in trying to stop, each time a lasting less than the one before it. Now if I have four beers in one sitting, I'm falling asleep in my chair. I would rather have one beer and talk about it, what's happening in the world or my life than get hammered and that is why I won't be stopping any time soon. It isn't a problem for me, despite my often misplaced jokes about getting drunk or wanting to be wasted all the time. It is a satire on my original persona that inspired the entire Drunk Polkaroo universe that I riff on and enjoy with gusto as my life continues to be redefined every time I write or film a video.

  I feel no pressure to review a beer or post every day. I didn't start any of this to just be about beer, it merely grew organically over time into that. I have given some thought to just stopping with social media altogether when I'm having a rough day or getting bombarded with negative comments or sideways slams from people in the digital world. But as an advocate for not just better beer, but mental health, body positivity, inclusivity and just plain being kind to each other, I feel like I am in a good place to keep on keeping on.
  I recognise not all people are this aware about what they are drinking and there are most assuredly many of us who drink far too much, far too often. I see it and know that many people view me the same way. I get it and do not want to encourage anyone to ignore the signs of trouble in their own lives. It's just beer and if it is causing you to miss work, abuse yourself or those around you or it has stopped being a positive force in your life, then I beg you to seek help. Life should be enhanced by the drinking of beer, not hidden from inside the glass.
  I am trying to reign in my snarky comments about macro beer and will try to be a more positive force in the world I inhabit by supporting people and initiatives I align with better. I will continue to use these platforms to advocate for the things that matter to me and I will work with those who want to make the world a little better each day. 
   As for Dry February, I love the initiative and it touches all of us as we have all had brushes with Cancer in our lives or those of the people we love. So I will be donating, dollar for dollar, every time I spend money on beer in February to one of my friends campaigns. Check out Mike Burton (link here) or his team Beer Snobs United (link here) and perhaps you too can help out by donating yourself, like me or in your own way. Maybe you're thinking of giving Dry Feb a shot yourself, do what makes you happy I say!  Every dollar counts and I know that at least even more good will come from having a beer besides the liquid gold in my glass.
  Having struggled for years to find my place in this world, I am not going to go gently into that good night but rather I shall continue to try and be a positive beacon of hope and love...and beer!

23 January 2019

Rhymes with Polk

another beer won't make a difference
another pint won't let me down
another bottle tossed to my way
another chance for me to drown

  Why poetry?
  Long ago, I was a rather capable wordsmith. My younger years were filled with awards and citations for my ability to communicate with both the written and spoken word. I was a voracious reader and I enjoyed distilling that information while I was at school to no end. I actually found peace in the pursuit of knowledge until I didn't and then things changed. Part of that life was poems, short stories and other musings but I had long since given up hope of ever rekindling that love of words as the darkness enveloped me and I lost direction with abandon. 
  But of course, you know I found my way back and here we are.
The original question remains though, why poetry? It isn't particularly clever and often isn't good, but it is a very large part of how I deal with and process events in my life on a daily basis.  I like the way the words make me feel when I can fit them into a pattern and craft a narrative in 280  characters or less, although I often do have to start a three or four tweet thread to accommodate a larger one. The tenor and voice of each poem reflects what is happening to me at that very moment, they do not sit waiting for a particular special time to be published. I don't hoard them and to be honest, they seem to come in bunches and despite the fact that I know they get lost in the void, I would rather they exist that way than in what would feel like a false time to me.
The muse is often beer
Of this I am quite certain
The drunker that I get
The more open the curtain

  A world where I can express my inner thoughts with poetry is one where I seem to not be so anxious, so tired and so down. It lifts me in a way that getting drunk used to and when I have gone to long without finding a way to create something from this ordinary life. I sometimes can be crude and other times reflective, but always I seek words that will bring the ravenous beast in my head to heel. It lunges from under my happiness and snaps at my heels as I work to stay one step ahead and above ground. These are not just words and rhyming, they are stanzas that shield me from the worst I have inside me, trying to get out. The flow from line to line and seeking words that work is part of the purity I find when inspired to create. It is never just about what is written, it is the fact that I can write at all that means the most to me.

Strike hard upon the corner
Cap falls quickly to the ground
Pour gentle with a soft hand
Then raise up and drink it down


21 January 2019

The Polk, Myself and I

  There are three of us living here. Polk, who lives life through beer. Robert, who works 50+ hours a week to provide for this family and Rob, who is rarely seen and never heard from outside of this house.
  I am not suffering a break down or losing my mind, as it were, but rather looking at how compartmentalized my life has become in the last few years. I spent the majority of my adult years wandering through life with little direction, lurching from disaster to disaster and drowning my sorrows nightly in copious amounts of terrible beer and liquor. Things have changed for the better in the last few years but my struggle with alcohol, depression and life in general have only morphed and become more confusing.
  For most of my life I have been the good time guy, the party dude. I was the one planning and hosting bashes and family events, bringing people together and generally floating through life without much self reflection. My ability to close of parts of my life from others was reflected in my not caring if I was on the slow road to self destruction even as the walls came down around me. I fiddled while my personal Rome burned and it almost consumed me along with it.
  It wasn't that I didn't care, I am a reasonably intelligent guy and I watched, almost detached, as I careened down a path I didn't want to choose but was drawn to nonetheless. Catching a branch on that hill, craft beer became my hand up, my way out and I scrambled to find my footing as it slowly became more and more who I was. In a positive way, it changed the way I looked at my beer and after a little over 2 years, I have left the darkness behind...I hope.
  Getting back to the original inspiration for this post, my life has begun to feel even more and more like I am living 3 different lives in 1.  When we go to work, we try to put our best self forward. For me it is working with the public and having people I am responsible for that has me putting on that mask every morning and bing the most positive and cheerful fellow you know. I emphasize the bright side in all things and work very hard to make sure that I help bring that kind of energy to my interactions with everyone I meet. I do not allow myself to have a bad day and any negativity must be swept away with humour and a smile. Always the good guy, the day can weigh heavy but when someone is paying you to do a job, that shouldn't matter. Working in an ultra competitive industry with constant pressure to be better, sell more and keep the standards high has it`s pressures but that is Robert`s problem and where we leave them when closing time hits.
  Coming home leaves me only a few minutes to put everything away in my mind and move into my self for a while. I worry, I vent, I get angry and I let it go. As with the early morning hours before a shift, Rob spends that brief time trying to convince himself that life will be okay, that he can go to work, that the world will not collapse about his ears every single day. He is naturally pessimistic and this is why I spend as little time as possible in this state. It isn't like I switch them on and off but by focusing my energy in a specific direction, I can make that doubting, sad man disappear for a while.
  Polk is an easy going guy, most of the time. Occasional Twitter rants aside, I maintain a very happy go lucky attitude that looks for the best in people and does it genuinely. I always feel like this is me at my best and strive to put that me out there. Different from work me because there it can be forced and strained to keep my cool, while inside my little world of Polk, I`m actually happy.
  Craft beer helped me find something inside myself I didn't know existed and while I try to keep that kind of attitude all the time, being that guy can be just as draining as work Robert.
  Balance in all things is what I seek and while this may be a little tongue in cheek, it feels very real sometimes. But as a way to deal with what life can throw at me and still find some joy after a lifetime of making mistakes, it works and that is what really matters.