For any thing that anyone cares about, there's someone who cares insultingly little about it and, at the other end of the spectrum, someone who cares way too much about it. This week, we're going to see if there isn't some kind of "sane middle" that we can agree on. Because if there's one thing I know, it's this: "beer yoga" is really stupid.
I'll admit that some of us take beer too seriously - me included, probably, since I actually pay money to produce a beer blog that generates virtually no revenue. But at the same time, I don't think it's out of line to suggest that maybe people shouldn't use craft beer as some kind of artisanal prop, either.
You're Taking It Too Seriously
When I saw an April Fool's joke that suggested Cantillon was soon going to begin distributing in cans, I laughed my ass off - which is a massive warning light that one might be a bit too "into" a certain hobby. That's a seriously esoteric and geeky joke. But geekiness, in and of itself, isn't really something to be too concerned about. If anything, it's a natural pendulum-swing away from a postmodern society that's "so over" almost everything, and where enthusiasm is almost something to be ashamed of.
That's not what I'm talking about here.
I'm talking about the people who feel the need to treat beer as an almost theological enterprise. We've talked before about the dogmatists among us (and thanks for the "you're not insane" support from Brulosophy on that one). Beer, brewing, homebrewing, beer judging, and other cognate/tangential sectors of the beer world are lousy with martinets, sticklers, and pedants and purists who sound off on normative absolutes and generally suck the fun out of this whole thing. We've talked about them before, and at length, as being great personifications of "aleholes." These are often people who start from a position of taking beer too seriously.
When your approach and attitude to beer start to spill over into a desire to dictate to others how or what or when they should be drinking, then you need to take a hard look at what you're asserting to ask if it's reasonable.
Am I a hypocrite for saying that drinking beer while doing yoga is dumb? Maybe. But I think I can defend it reasonably, so I'm still OK with doing it. Yoga requires significant effort and concentration, so drinking while doing it makes as much sense to me as holding a footrace over an icy parking lot. I'm not telling you not to do it - I'm saying I think it's a really inconvenient way to drink beer (if that's what you want to do) and a poor way to do yoga (if that's what you want to do). Why not just go to a yoga class and then go drink beer afterward?
But, for example, if I say that if you're drinking a beer that's a few degrees above or below its optimum serving temperature that therefore you're doing it wrong, then I'm now entering a different arena - that's not just sharing an opinion, it's imposing a standard and actively judging people that don't hew to it. That's wrong, and when I do it I hope people point it out.
You're Not Taking It Seriously Enough
OK, so what about the people who don't take it seriously enough? They're out there, too. Our "beer yoga" people are probably in that category.
Here's the thing: making good beer is a challenging endeavor undertaken by people who (usually) care a lot about what they do, and they do it knowing that it's almost certainly not going to make them rich. The Jim Koch's of the world are rare. Most people in brewing know that the way to make a small fortune in the beer world is simple: start with a large fortune (rimshot).
When you treat their work as a trendy prop, they might be grateful you bought it in the first place, but it's still kinda disrespectful. Craft beer has fought long and hard to get to where it is, often against competitors that use ethically (and, sometimes, legally) questionable practices to fend off legitimate competition. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have a craft beer-themed fundraiser for your nonprofit or host a "beer tasting party" for your non-beery friends - I'm saying that you shouldn't be doing it so that you can make fun of the "hipster in the work shirt and beard" that is your stereotypical image of a craft brewer/drinker.
I used to joke about yoga, that it was just stretching and laying (hell, there's a yoga pose that's literally called corpse pose where you lay flat on your back). Then I tried it, and it kicked my ass for a little while. It made me realize that I was being a bit of a dick about it, even if I wasn't making fun of people who did yoga, maliciously and mercilessly mocking their efforts. I was just being dismissive and (mentally) treating them like dilettantes who were just engaging in a trendy hobby - and while, almost certainly, some were, a lot weren't, and what they're doing deserves our respect even if we don't share their enthusiasm.
The Balance Point
So where's the balance point? After all, we're talking beer and yoga, both of which care about balance.
I think it's here: don't let your attitude about beer (or just about anything, really) be either a cudgel or a punchline. If you're browbeating people with it, you're taking it too seriously. If you're (even passively) mocking people with it, you're not taking it seriously enough.
And for those who are (inevitably) going to criticize this as being "obvious," I just have to say that I don't think it is. Most often, people say something like, "yeah, duh - we know 'too far' when we see it." Years of experience in/around this world have shown me that those on either side of this divide very, very often do NOT know "too far" when they see it.
A modest suggestion: be a little more self-critical. Err to the middle. We'll all be a bit better off for it, I think. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm literally going to go do yoga before writing an article about becoming a certified beer judge.
Namaste (which is Sanskrit for "Keep it Simple").
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