15 April 2021

Polk on Polk


There is no madness here, only truth.

Am I sane or am I Memorex? Is this a replay, albeit with a different outcome and characters, so perhaps a reboot? Honestly, I'm exhausted, I get it, we are all just fuckin' done with this. But we cant let up, we can't stop doing the right thing, even if our leaders have abdicated common sense and science. Is this disjointed? It feels like it, but to be honest, I'm headed back to work tomorrow amidst higher case counts, rampant variants that render the conventional masks mute and a populace broken by more than a year of trying so fucking hard. I see a lot of things, I watch, it's what I've always done, looking at the world with a jaded eye and never really investing more than I have to, but right fuckin' now, we gotta get it together, we gotta take care of each other and step up to injustice, to inequality, to the system that has been checked and found wanting. I don't have the answers, I'm at best a drunk and at worst an old drunk. But I know you gotta be kind and we gotta change the way the world works because this isn't what we want our legacy to be. Am I wandering around my mind out loud? Probably, but the moments of clarity come when they may, tomorrow could find me face to face with my own mortality and the chances I can contract the virus goes up with every shift I work. Do I drink too much beer? Who's asking? Me, I'm good with me. Be better than your nature tells you to be, the goal is to make more room at the table, not build a bigger wall. I hope and wish you have a better tomorrow, I really hope you stay safe and we can see each other on the other side of this piece of human history. 

I appreciate the folks who reach out, even when I don't know what to say, I see your comments, messages and I take em to heart. We are all in the same storm, albeit in different boats and circumstances and if we can all pull in the same damn direction, we can make a fuckin' difference. If you stayed til the end, Polk loves ya and sees ya, knows ya and hopes life gets better from here on out for ya.


1 April 2021

Polk the Truth 2021 - March : In like a lamb, out like a Lion.

 Three months into the very real numbers of what I drink and I am finding a pattern and comfort in my ability to use the data I am generating to have conversations with myself and the people I trust to help me navigate this life I lead. Honesty and openness has long been my benchmark and while I won't sugar-coat anything, I do feel like this is helping me get a better understanding and perhaps even a plan of action as I move forward. The raw and emotional response some have to what I do with my life does not go unnoticed and while I appreciate the concern so many have shown, I am doing much better in terms of mental health and self worth as the year has progressed. There is something soothing and sobering about confronting the numbers as they occur and that is part of what I had hoped to achieve. Not knowing what the next months will bring, I endeavour to continue to shine the light on myself and hope it does more than just help me understand my own motivations, that perhaps other people will look at their own consumption with a more honest eye.

Onward to looking back on the month that was March, 2021.

The month of vacation was a good one

 The entire month boils down to three real distinct parts as this month includes our annual vacation, albeit the stay-at-home version (times 2) of my beloved Polkapolooza tour of Ontario. As with last year, we did not travel the province, visiting upwards of 50 different breweries as it was not advisable to do so during the pandemic, we made a couple of close to home stops at local breweries and contented ourselves with a staycation at Casa de Polk. The early part of March found me a little more focused on getting to that vacation and I was really cutting back on the pints at night mainly due to working a whole lot. The first 11 days (we started vacay on the 12th) saw only 30 beers consumed or 2.72 per day, a serious drop and more in line with where I'd like to be as we move on in this year. Even better, 20 of those were unique check-ins and that meant that the "beer for just drinkin" beers were way down as a percentage of what I poured in my glass. A 28% drop from the first 11 days of February and a whopping 47% drop from the same time frame in January. I was much more aware of every beer I was drinking and I think it had a deep impact on whether or not I grabbed a go-to beer or not most nights.

More of this going forward

  The vacation beers were another story, but to be honest, it isn't a big deal a to me overall because I enjoyed my time off and cutting loose a little during a pandemic might be an okay salve on this wounded year that saw me celebrating my second locked down birthday at home, away from friends and family. There was no real surprise then that in the 9 days we were off and relaxing' my beer total was a little higher than normal. All in, I was at 52 total beers for the time off, although 34 were unique, a rate of 68% and that's a 20% difference from the ratio the rest of the month. We picked up or had delivered a whole lot of different breweries, so there were many options and I took advantage of that to enjoy them all. A daily average of 5.77 is about 43% higher than my normal average for the rest of the days in March and 24% higher than the overall average for the year. I had a good time, we enjoyed some fine beers at home and then went back to work with an eye to continue what we had begun earlier in the month.

It's good to relax on vacation

  The last eleven days of March were a little more the first 11. A sandwich of moderate consumption surrounding a 9 day stretch of a little more indulgence skewed the progress made this month and I feel like the stretch after vacation reflects that I am still a work in progress. Despite increased stress at work and the world feeling a little more pandemically challenged around me, the numbers came in with a drop of 26% from the holiday stretch with 47 beers for an average of 4.27 per day. Looking to bring that down below three as we move into April and better weather will be the next challenge but as we ended the month down 5% from January and even with February, I am encouraged by my progress using this approach to really dig deep into the why's of my not so subtle beer drinking.

The last third of the month was a little bit of a struggle

 The biggest challenge remains those evenings where there is no work the next day, primarily Saturdays and Wednesday, where I had 43% of all my beers. I wasn't really intending to end the month with a bang, but that negative Covid test gave me a reason to celebrate and here we are with that little 7 beer party skewing things a little bit, in my humble opinion.  I am trying to find a way to enjoy writing about beer while simultaneously cutting back to just the single new beers without giving up a few nights of enjoying some old and go-to faves just because. It's a work in progress and I'd be lying if I said it would be much easier to just drink the beers and not bother documenting it all, but I want to know, I want to learn and I want to change.

Thanks again for indulging my numbers and my thought process as I navigate this year and my own relationship with myself and beer. I am working on being a better person in a lot of ways and this is just the most visible one. I encourage anyone who comes to the realization that they need help to get it and while I may make a lot of jokes about getting real hammered on Twitter, I am more than the memes I use to try and lighten the mood in a dark world.

Stay safe, see you again in May.


Now for the raw numbers, nerd Polk approved...

Beers by the day 

Sunday -  15 (3.75 per day)
Monday - 7 (1.40)
Tuesday - 18 (3.6)
Wednesday - 31 (6.20)
Thursday - 16 (4.00)
Friday - 15 (3.75)
Saturday - 27 (6.75)

Unique Beers - 73/129 (56.5%)

Beers by Brewery

Nickel Brook Brewing - 11
Collective Arts Brewing - 10
Great Lakes Brewery - 6
Gateway City Brewing - 6
People's Pint Brewing - 4
Merit Brewing - 4
Spearhead Brewing - 4


Nickel Brook Brewing Headstock IPA - 13 times
Collective Arts Good Monster DIPA - 3
Collective Arts IPA No 16 - 3
Nickel Brook Brewing What we Brew in the Shadows Hazy N.Z. IPA - 3
Merit Brewing Young Rival IPA - 3
Niagara Oast House Brewers Haymaker DIPA - 3

25 March 2021

Good Monster - On Work and Rest

 Dystopia tastes better than I thought it would.

Patio drinkin' with Collective Arts Brewing Good Monster 8.0% New England DIPA...again.

It's lovely out here, the birds are singing their end of the day songs, the sun rests into the back forty and I give myself a little reward in the middle of a 9 straight day work "week". I sometimes struggle with my inability to say no when it comes to overworking. Is it fear of losing a job? Everything I've always held onto as a working man is that you go in every day and never, ever miss a shift. I haven't had a sick day in 30 plus years of full time employment and that used to be a badge of twisted honour that I now know is more of a serious issue I need to address with myself than I thought. I routinely push myself to work more than anyone else, longer shifts, no breaks or lunch and it is wearing on me. Beer helps, but beer should be about fun, not soothing a beaten body and psyche. I don't know, I don't think I can change that much, it's so engrained in who I am to just keep going even when everything is not okay. We work so hard to get where we are and even now I can't stop and enjoy it because of the fear it may all go away if I slow down for a moment. Work trumps everything else in my life and has for the better part of it. I know folks here think beer is what I'm all about, but if you knew me in real life, away from the shiny pics of pints, you would know a man who slogs through his days on the edge because he is always worried he isn't working hard enough or long enough. It's a complicated thing and maybe a random beer pic on a ransom March Tuesday isn't the proper forum for working through stuff, but to be honest, the beer led me to discover a whole lot about myself I never knew, opened up my mind to write about far more than what I taste and in the end has been a catalyst for some positive change. I know I need to do more away from it, I'm trying and someday I may even slow down and see how the other half lives. 

We're here for a good time, not a long time....


21 March 2021

Thoughts about beer - Sunday Morning edition

   I think about beer, a lot. More than I drink it, I ponder it, I wonder about it and I talk about it to no one in particular and everyone in general. I research hops and styles, malts and adjuncts; I read blogs, books and watch videos. I immerse myself in the brewing process and the science of beer, albeit as an outsider looking in, I have no real wish to work in beer. I'm a better drinker than I am a creator of that which I love so dear. 

  Having said all that, I have some things that I'd like to see when it comes to my beer and the places that make it.

1. Labels - Clear and concise information. Ingredients, types of hops used and any adjuncts used in addition to the usual water, malted barley and yeast. What kind of malt? What yeast strain did they use? I know not a lot of folks care about this, but I think it can help fuel the love we have for beer when we know what's going into it. Finding out how a certain hop tastes when I drink a single hopped beer is one of my favourite things and I endeavour to educate myself further when I see something new on a label as an ingredient. To me, what goes into making great beer should be part of what we can see on every label. Nickel Brook nails it every time and that's part of what keeps me coming back for every new release. I just wanna know everything. Having said that, while I personally could give a second thought to my caloric intake when it comes to beer, that seems to be a push from some regulators and beer drinkers, so we will see where that goes. 

2. Styles - Be what you say you are. Seriously, this happens more than I'd like it too. A lot of consumers pick up new beers based on what they previously liked in terms of taste and if you call your beer a New England IPA and deliver a bitter, unfinished mess, it will turn people off in a hurry. Call your beer exactly what it is and skip the marketing mumbo-jumbo. Accuracy helps people make decisions and can bring a returning and recurring customer for life if they can trust you.

3. Consistency - The one thing the big boys of beer have going for them is that their beer tastes the same no matter where it's brewed around the world. They understand that the blandness of their most inoffensive offering may not be for everyone, but that the near perfection in delivering it every time is something to behold. I get that craft beer is about experimenting and pushing the envelope of what beer can be, but it should also be about delivering a product to your customer that they can count on. One-offs aside, a seasonal or core offering should not vary from batch to batch, nor should it be okay with people who drink it. I don't buy products from certain breweries because they have shown themselves to be less than authentic and responsible about owning their mistakes and poor brewing techniques. Beer isn't any different than any other food or drink, keep it above board and on point.

4. Be part of your community - For whatever reason, perhaps the communal nature of beer drinking itself\, we expect our local breweries to be a part of the larger community around them. Whether it is participating in events, brewing beer and donating money to causes in need or being on the right side of histroy when it comes to inclusion, diversity and equality, we seek to have our beer makers be better corporate citizens than perhaps any other business. I work in the restaurant industry and my particular brand does zero in the charity or community side of things and it affects our sales in no way at all. But we demand more of our beer and for me, that's a good thing. Now, I know not all of them really get into it, but even if it's just a surface of respectability that makes them do some good, it is a start.

5. Engage with your fans - As a big consumer of social media and an open book when it comes to my life, I get that the online world can be overwhelming at times. There are a lot of negative folks out there and to be honest, I've learned to not be bothered with what other people think of me online and the mute button works wonders for my mental health. Of course, I am not a professional writer or journalist, just a wordy drunk with a laptop and a smartphone, so I can step away much easier than a PR person for a brewery can. But they do and should encourage feedback from their customers and utilize the love their fans have for their product and premises to lift up the brand in a positive way. Some breweries have outstanding social media managers who know how to engage with the public and make them feel like they are part of something special. Having your social media personality be reflective of your breweries values is something that people notice and appreciate, doing it right can be the best soft promotion of all.

  A couple of thoughts on this Sunday afternoon while I sip away the day and wonder what my next pint will be...



4 March 2021

Polk the Truth 2021 - February : 28 Days Later


  The year of truth in beer rolls on through the shortest month and the 28 days of February were full of lessons and insights into my beer drinking ways. Let's take a look at what the last 4 weeks taught me...

Good month, need to up that new beer ratio

  Now I don't have a format planned out for each month, more of a let's look at the data and let it tell the story, but I do like looking at the month in halves for context of what seems to change as the beers roll in. February was much like January in that the first 2 weeks were much heavier than the last 2, perhaps more of that observation changing the outcome theory that I postulated last month. It seems to play out and time will tell as March begins if it is indeed a theory worth following. 60 check-ins on UnTappd in the first fourteen days was a heavy 4.57 pints a day and that included a 4 day weekend party for one that saw 29 beers consumed in 96 hours. Maybe not the herculean totals of my 20's and 30's, but at 7+ beers a day, those 4 days drove the bus on the rise in numbers at the beginning of the month. Zoom beers and celebrating GLB's birthday on that weekend were what gave me license to let go a little and while it isn't a frequent thing anymore, it certainly gave me pause when looking at the second half of the month.

A heavy start to February...

  The whole purpose of documenting every beer that passes through my glass this year is to examine more closely when and why I drink, can I be honest with myself and by being accountable to whoever follows along, can I change a behaviour I find to be less than desirable? It feels like it is having an impact already, I find myself pausing before grabbing the 4th beer of a random day and wondering if I really want a beer or am I just doing it out of habit or boredom. I have begun to do other things instead of just mindlessly pouring another one and while I have no intention of giving up my daily pint, I do feel like the "bender" evenings or weekends should be less of a regular occurrence and more of  a black swan thing.

...a little better on the back end of the month.

  Swinging into the second half of the month, I did see a significant decrease in consumption from the first 14 days at 52 check-ins and only 3.71 pints per day. That drop amounts to an almost 20% (18.75% to be precise) reduction and reflects once again that by making every beer a known quantity, I changed my behaviour to match the vague and movable goals I set on a daily and weekly basis. While I don't have a particular number in mind for a daily average or monthly total, I am feeling like when I have fewer beers on a given day, I feel better about myself the next day. Piling one on top of another beer just to drink to pass the time has become less appealing over the last 59 days and I am encouraged by the trend I see and the attitude I am adjusting inside my own mind. 

  I know some people find this whole thing odd or that I am encouraging or enabling any sort of over drinking by myself or other people and I get what those folks are saying. I have an incredibly complicated relationship with myself and my past, my alcohol consumption and my own inability to control my impulses from time to time. I enjoy the 2 beer buzz a lot and I continue to advocate for all things in moderation, including letting myself enjoy an extra pint or three once in a while. But it also has become clear that I do slide into the 6 or 7 beer realm a little too easy some weeks, whatever the stress or trouble I am tying to escape may be, more than 76% of my total consumption happened in only half the days. So trying to transform more of those 14 heavy days into the lighter, more moderate ones is a reachable goal for the next month, a modest reduction in pouring one last pint at midnight on my evening off and then falling asleep in my chair would go a long way to helping make that happen. Whatever I do with the numbers I find, I do know that being absolutely open and honest about every beer I pour is changing something about me that I am open to exploring more as the year goes on.

 Thanks for following along and we'll do this all over again at the end of March for what should be an interesting look back at my birthday month that has a week's vacation in it and how that plays into the numbers going forward.


Now for the raw numbers, nerd Polk approved...

Beers by the day 

Sunday -  14 (3.50 per day)
Monday - 8 (2.00)
Tuesday - 8 (2.00)
Wednesday - 19 (4.75)
Thursday - 20 (5.00)
Friday - 15 (3.75)
Saturday - 32 (8.00)

Unique Beers - 60/116 (51.7%)

Beers by Brewery

Great Lakes Brewery - 12
Collective Arts Brewing - 9
Nickel Brook Brewing - 5
New Ontario Brewing - 5
Fairweather Brewing - 4
Block Three Brewing - 4


Collective Arts Good Monster DIPA - 9
Clifford Brewing Brave Captain Brown Ale - 6
Collective Arts - Frisch Pale Ale - 5
Grain & Grit Beer Co. Homebound IPA - 4
Collective Arts Brewing IPA No 16 - 4

28 February 2021

Sunday Beers - In Praise of Milds, Bitters and Brown Ales


 Imagine a lazy Sunday afternoon in a warm and cozy pub, maybe on a patio if the weather is nice, but the main components are still the same. Good friends, good beer and hours with nothing to do but enjoy both at your leisure. For a lot of people, the beer is as much a part of the experience as the folks you spend it with and while we are ways off from just all getting out there and filling the pubs and taprooms, the time is coming round again. While many chase the latest craze in haze or double down on big, boozy stouts, I want to take a few moments and talk about the low ABV offerings, why they are so important to me and why I call them Sunday beers.

Sunday Beers are all about the hours. They imply a leisurely pace to drinking them and a focus on good conversation and interaction with your companions than getting hammered while pounding back 8% pints of something hopped up or barrel aged. It is about the 5% and less English Milds, Brown Ales and the like, which bring a fine sessionability to the table along with great flavour and a complex profile that is also ready for multiple pints. Rounds for the table and enjoying food while imbibing in an unhurried atmosphere are what I feel when I pop the top on a Mild. It lends itself to easy drinking, with the low alcohol allowing more than a couple without falling into drunkenness and as I continue to evolve as a beer drinker and a person, I appreciate that a lot more than I used to.

While I suppose any sub 5% beer would do, a lager or pils perhaps, I think there is something about the flavour of these styles that brings this feeling of communal drinking, no time frame and an easy afternoon with your pals. The base maltiness delivers more than a simple lager can and the toffee or caramel combined with a solid bitterness that isn't overwhelming and actually invites another sip and then another. They are easy going beers in a busy world and my love of this style continues to grow. I wish there were more of them and that they were easily accessible for drinking at home right now, at the pub in the future. The problem, of course, lies in profitability and giving the shiny things to the loudest people. IPAs sell, hazy ones all the better. Big and bold pastry or barrel aged beers stouts bring a big price point and fruited sours still drive the pretty pictures on the internet. But and it's an anecdotal one I know, I think their is a market for the Milds, the Brown Ale or even the English style Pale or ESB. These beers have loads character but their accessibility to the novice craft beer drinker is a big plus to their potential.

  I often wonder what things will feel like when we can gather once again in larger numbers in taprooms and pubs. Will it be different? Will we appreciate it more, the connectedness of us all sharing a few pints on a lazy Sunday afternoon? Will we finally find a peace with enjoying a good beer without chasing the hype? I have been feeling nostalgic for a thing I never had when it comes to these styles, perhaps it is my longing for that kind of friendship again that I had when I was a denzien of a Dive Bar...but with better beer. 

Take the road less travelled and marvel at what you'll find in your glass.


24 February 2021

Trust and Beer - Honesty beyond the label


I am a simple man. I like routine and consistency in my life and while I do enjoy trying beer from all over the world and in any style, I expect a few things when it comes to those beers. The easiest one for all of us to get behind is that a beer should be what the label says it is. If a brewery describes their beer as being "X", it had better be just that or we will most assuredly have a problem. Now I'm not talking about our personal likes and dislikes when it comes to flavours or styles, I'm strictly talking about truth in advertising here folks, be what you say you are. 

  The rapid expansion of "craft" beer across this province and the ensuing local pride in having a close by brewery can often blind people to the truth that the word "local" doesn't necessarily mean quality. Wanting to be part of the community is what drives some to ignore the truth that the beer they are drinking is sub par and not up to snuff. Off flavours, pale ales that give a muted performance or watered down stouts with little body or flavour are but a few things I've encountered over the years. I've had beer that tastes like bad home-brew and turned around and seen it being praised because so many can't say the truth because either they lack the knowledge or don't want to rock the boat. I don't write about bad beer very often because I don't want to waste my time or yours' unless it is egregiously poorly made or mislabelled. This year of recording every single beer I drink is giving me some insight into things I would usually just pour out and move on from to be sure.

  For me, it is all about trust and staying true to what is delivered in every pint. I will reference the term 'Trusted Brewery' a lot of the time when I record a video because I really do have a list of places I trust with my beer money implicitly because they have never let me down when it comes to quality, consistency and style. These few are breweries I would gladly purchase a six pack from of a new beer without trying it because they always describe what it is I will be tasting later that day when I get the beer into my glass. They may do strict, to-style beers or they may make crazy fruited up sours or adjunct laden stouts, but they always tell me what I'm getting up front and deliver right to the last sip. In a day and age where more than 300 plus brewers are competing for space in our fridges, bad beer and false advertising should have no place to hide. 

  I never understand when someone will tear down a well made lager because they find it boring or "only drink IPAs". Why bother drinking it at all if you're not going to be truthful? One thing about going back on UnTappd has been the rise in anger I get from reading descriptions of great beers being denigrated because someone doesn't like a flavour or style that is clearly defined on the label. I shake my head as they talk about everything the beer has said it is and then watch them go off because they don't like that particular thing. Just stop. If you don't like dark roasted malt beers, don't drink 'em and especially don't rate or review them because at that point, ignorance triumphs over truth and that is never a good look. Opinions based on facts and style guidelines with an eye to what the beer says it is going to be are fine and dandy, a bad beer is a bad beer, but it's lazy and disingenuous to bring shade on a beer because you have a preference. I've always tried to look at the beer as it is presented and leave my personal flavour biases on the side, I can't stand most dry-hopped sours, but when I have one I always try to see if it is what it says its going to be and relate that truth to the world. 

  This Wednesday finds me leaning into this rant a little more than usual because I care about what people ask me when they want a recommendation about beer. So, I will always fall back on my Trusted Breweries and know that anything I suggest to someone that comes from them is sure to deliver. That isn't something I give easily and after almost 6 years of drinking, learning and writing about beer, I still wish to find more places to give that kind of trust to.  I hope today's little journey through my mind helps someone to examine their relationship with their beer and the breweries they frequent. The choices we have now are almost infinite and our dollars speak volumes about who and what we are.


Ten of my most trusted breweries, click to order beer from any of them and enjoy!

Great Lakes Brewery

Nickel Brook Brewing

Collective Arts Brewing

Left Field Brewing

Merit Brewing

Silversmith Brewing

Shacklands Brewing

Sawdust City Brewing

Muddy York Brewing

Clifford Brewing

9 February 2021

#GLBDay 2021 - A celebration of all things GLB

  Back in 2016, I was pretty new to craft beer, really just learning and exploring every style with eyes wide open and an enthusiasm that had me always searching for the next new beer. Few independent breweries in Ontario had a presence at my local LCBO, most had a core beer or two and maybe the odd seasonal, but when I discovered all the things Great Lakes Brewery was putting out on such a pace, I was hooked. The old school 500ml bottle were like manna from heaven and the IPAs were some of my first true loves when it came to the style, especially my one and only at the beginning, Pompous Ass English Ale. A bready toasted malt body with notes of toffee and tea, slightly bitter and dry with an inviting aroma that hooked me from the first sip. It led to Lake Effect and Octopus Wants to Fight, Canuck and Apocalypse Later and a whole host of styles I had never dreamed existed. To say GLB was there at the beginning is understating it a whole lot. 

  I discovered, by happenstance that year, that their birthday was February 12th and thought to myself that it would be a funny little thing to drink and post nothing but Great Lakes beers on social media that day, taking it off work to make it a right proper holiday and all. They had enough presence in the LCBO that it worked out well for this neophyte and I coined the hashtag #GLBDay because it just rolled so good. It was the beginning of a series of beautiful new friendships for me, opening my eyes to a wider world of beer and from being invited to brew a beer for their 30th anniversary with other beer writers to the countless pints had when I dropped into the taproom to pick up new releases and up to the start of home delivery this year to my area, we have grown together and I've always appreciated the support from the team at GLB. It may be a business, but for a lot of us, it feels like a part of our family.

  This year Great Lakes is really kicking #GLBDay up a notch and I am so glad to be able to see other people sharing in the joy that is good beer. We may all be supporting our local breweries now, especially in these trying times, but for one day, this Friday February 12th, everyone's local brewery can be GLB. They are available all across the province, in grocery stores, Beer Stores, the LCBO and beyond. A 24 of Canuck remains unchallenged as the best deal in Ontario Craft beer at $54 for two dozen tall boys of one of the finest Pale Ales around. Their new brewpub, just announced, will no doubt drive more innovation and creativity and the party to open that second location will be most epic when it can finally happen. From simple lagers to bold barleywines, from session IPAs like Sunnyside to monster Double IPAs like Robohop, they've got you and I covered.

  So, I hope to see everyone, virtually of course this year, as we raise a glass or 4 to our friends at Great Lakes. To this birthday and many more to come, may #GLBDay become an annual holiday we can all celebrate and embrace as a bright spot in the middle of winter.

  Stock up, rinse your glasses and get ready to drink together, apart.



Great Lakes Brewing website can be found here :  greatlakesbeer.com/

4 February 2021

Polk the Truth 2021 - January


When I set out at the beginning of 2021 to document every beer I drank for an entire year I knew it wouldn't always be pretty or easy to accept that absolute truth. I am not under any illusions that I enjoy a few more libations than the average person, although I think if some folks out there were as honest with themselves as I am, we would have a whole different conversation right now. But they are not I and this is not that, so onward we go with this 12 month look at the raw and unfiltered data of my beer drinking.

  The month of January opened at midnight on the 1st as I was still on vacation for a few days and we celebrated well into the morning on New Year's Day. So, the first few check-ins on Untappd were all about that party of two and enjoying our night together, a very late one indeed. Headstock from Nickel Brook Brewing was my first beer of 2021 and the reigning pint of the year made 16 more appearances in January as it remained my go-to choice to just relax and enjoy whenever the fancy struck me. This kicked off a very heavy first half of the month and by the 16th I had accumulated 82 total check-ins with 50 distinct beers. That's an average of a little over 5 beers a day and not at all a surprise as that seemed in line with what I had discovered back in 2018 when I had previously tracked my every pour. 

 But something was different this time, I wasn't particularly proud of that number and here we come up against what the Hawthorne Effect or more simply, the theory that by observing something or being watched changes the behaviour of the individual. In this case, I was seeing in real time and real numbers the actual amount of beer I was consuming and this did change how I approached each one that came after that day. Most of you don't know that I have a fascination with numbers, inspired by my love of sports statistics when I was a young man, and when I used the features of Untappd to delve deeper into my patterns, I began to alter what I was doing with a conscious bias toward changing the trajectory of said numbers. I rarely give myself credit for doing anything with a plan, but I started to look at my days with a little more thought and each beer with an eye to why I was drinking it and whether it wouldn't be better to wait till the next day off to have more than one or two in a day. 

  I took a clean approach to whatever I was doing, trying to ignore past failures in keeping myself in control of what I was imbibing and the numbers from the final 15 days of the month certainly bear out my intentions of utilizing this year of truth to try and work on my relationship with myself and alcohol. I made the choice to try and have no more than 2 beers on a work night, which for me was usually Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with a little looser reigns on Wednesday and Saturday because we all deserve a few more pints on our nights off, especially during this pandemically challenged time. What I found with being more aware of the numbers was that I went down to 53 total beers, or 3.5 a day (a 35% drop) and 36 distinct ones. The reduction in consumption was found in the "just drinkin" beers, the pints I didn't write about or make a video with. Those beers are usually consumed well into the evening and often pile on one another in a fashion that a late January snowstorm does upon the trees. Accumulation through ignorance seems to be my easy way out and by taking stock of what was happening and doing a deeper dive into the numbers, I was able to alter my behaviour simply by acknowledging the truth of what was in said numbers.

  While I know I still have a ways to go with really coming round on getting my stuff together, the reasoning behind wanting to document this year is coming more and more into focus. It is about changing my internal conversation and trying to break the patterns that have been hardened over the last year or so of mostly solo drinking. It is easy to fall into a night of 5 or 6 beers without consequences the next day, I have been doing that so long it feels like a comfortable blanket and a warm fire. But the accumulated effects of all those nights doesn't show up all at once, but rather slowly over time and I do this with a look to a future that is hopefully longer than my past would often indicate I would see.  I have tried to stress moderation in the past, I want to believe I am capable of being far more attentive to my own health than I have been in the last couple of years. But I also want to be able to enjoy a few pints once in a while without feeling like I am heading down that dark path I was on not so long ago. It is a delicate balancing act, one I have seen people I know and love fail to be able to control. I am aware of myself a little more this year, taking stock of life while Covid-19 is all around you does that I guess, and I know I want more of what tomorrow may offer than getting hammered every night can give me. 

  So, onward we go into February with this new look at the numbers and an awareness that wasn't there when we started on the first of January. I'm sure the creators of Untappd didn't intend for their app to be used as an esoteric look at my relationship with beer, but damned if it hasn't happened anyway. I'll see you all back here after the calendar turns to March and we shall see together what the next 4 weeks brings to my glass and life.



More numbers because I am 100% that nerd deep inside.

Beers by the day 

Sunday - 19 (3.80 per day)
Monday - 13 (3,25)
Tuesday - 11 (2.75)
Wednesday - 27 (6.75)
Thursday - 12 (3.00)
Friday - 30 (6.00)
Saturday - 23 (4.60)

Unique Beers - 83/135 (61.4%)

Beers by Brewery

Collective Arts - 9 distinct beers
Nickel Brook - 6
Fairweather - 5
Camerion's, & Great Lakes - 4
5 others tied at 3


Headstock (Nickel Brook) - 17 check-ins
F**k Dry January (Nickel Brook)- 7
Double Palms (Grain & Grit) - 4
Jurassic IPA (Cameron's)- 4
5 others tied at 3 times each

28 January 2021

Let's talk about #BellLetsTalk

   I struggle a little with the #BellLetsTalk  every year and I wonder if there are more people like me out there who are unsure of how to discuss about what it means to see our timelines flooded with well meaning, but sometimes offkey attempts to talk about mental health. I see the people who rant about Bell's terrible corporate track record when it comes to their own employees and the small drop in the bucket this campaign raises in relation to their enormous profits. I understand that Bell operates the prison phone system and exploits those already burdened by having an incarcerated family member and just trying to stay in touch. None of this kind of quasi-bad guy, mostly terrible stuff is not lost on me, no corporation is in the business of doing anything but what it is legally obligated to do and that is to maximize returns on investments for its shareholders. I have no doubt that there exists a lot of positive spin and increased profit found by Bell when this campaign runs every year, even with the larger donations gathered by the use of the hashtag on multiple social media platforms.

  Every one of these things is true and yet I still wonder if, despite the underlying corporate bullshit, it isn't still worth something to at least try to reach out to those who feel like there is nothing left for them here on this often seemingly uncaring and chaotic planet. Seeing your favourite athlete or brewery or what have you addressing the issue of mental health may spark hope in someone, it may give them the feeling they maybe aren't alone in this. Maybe it gets them talking to a friend, or to pick up the phone and call a crisis line. Maybe, just maybe, having a large and very visible campaign aimed at increasing the normalcy of asking for help and of checking in on your friends and family to see how they are doing may have some positives attached to it, despite the originators ultimate advertising aims. 

  I've spent the better part of the last decade struggling, often in silence, to try and fix my own mental health issues. I didn't wake up one day falling apart, it was a quiet and measured descent as I watched my business fail and the life I thought I had crumble around me. It was the slow bleed of stress, working longer hours for less money and an devastating downfall from the highs of my 20's and 30's. I gave up most things that brought me joy, let decades long friendships dwindle and die and generally stopped celebrating the milestones of life most people mark the passing year with. I still feel the push of that negative thought process, birthdays and anniversaries are heavy because it often feels like another step closer to the end of it all. That kind of darkness is hard to fight by yourself and as you become more isolated because you know how to push people away because it is safer in your mind to be alone so no one can ever hurt you, you descend deeper into that funk. You turn to alcohol, drugs or other potentially destructive behaviours that seemingly ease the pain of the moment with little regard to the future, because it doesn't matter. Nothing does and you see no way up, no way out and the numbness sets in with every single turn of the cap, pill or shot. This pattern may be different with you or someone you love, but the result in the end is the same, a depression that lifts less and less each time and can drive people to the edge and over it because hope is all but gone.

  So, how do we fix it? How do you stop someone from hurting themselves or those around them when they see no alternative? It's much bigger than just a single day or hashtag campaign by a large corporation and their partners. It involves governments prioritizing the mental health of its' citizens as much as their physical one. It involves active engagement in the lives of those we love and it involves being honest with ourselves when we know we need help. Asking for someone to listen to your problems and concerns is hard at the best of times, I personally was always worried about bothering anyone and that kept me silent for many years before this. We seek to normalize the notion that it is okay to not be okay and things like therapy and medical help for our mental health should be a bigger priority for not just our families but our workplaces. We look to making the world a little more compassionate to those who need it or a taking a day when you just need a break from it all. We want to be able to look the people we love in the eye and tell them we aren't handling something well and need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen without judgement. 

 There is no quick fix or easy way to help one another outside of being there and reaching out to make sure the people we love are okay.  While a day like today is good and makes a whole lot of money for mental health initiatives, we need to remember that tomorrow and the next day and forever after that. Way too many people fall between the cracks of our social safety net and I know we don't want to lose someone because we waited too long to see that they were suffering in silence. Reach out to them, they may be too scared to do it themselves. Making our collective response to the mental health crisis we are facing today a positive and open one one because the world is better when we can help each other stand up and feel better.

  We want to talk about mental health, depression, suicide and self harm with an open honesty and despite the corporatization of mental health, the end result is we may be better off at least attempting to keep the conversation going long after this annual initiative has passed. Are there empty platitudes rolled out every year by a variety of brands and people who then recede into the background and often contribute to the problems we face rather than the solution? Of course and it is up to us as consumers to be informed and spend our money where we can support the places that truly value their employees mental and physical well being. At the end of it all, the hashtag can't be the whole conversation, it should just be the beginning...

Be safe and be kind.