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January 8, 2008

Mug Shots: A manifesto for 2008

When it comes to beer, you can’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t been exposed to it, and even then, familiar habits and conveniences persist. It requires determination to escape the subtle noose of conformity demanded by American consumer culture.    You must be willing to question allegedly sacrosanct beliefs. You must eschew ephemerals of packaging and presentation, and begin thinking in terms of essences and ultimate goals. You must abandon the dictum that more for less is always better. You must recognize that enlightenment is preferable to ignorance even when broader understanding brings with it “unpatriotic” and “antisocial” perceptions and connotations.     That’s the hardest part, and it comes when you find yourself irrevocably at odds with the beer culture of your upbringing, because the past and those who populated it retain a nostalgic pull. But you know that you can never go back. It — they — will have to come to you, or be damned.     The sociology of humans making alcoholic beverages and drinking them, both privately and publicly, is complex, intimate and fascinating, and it incorporates religiosity, education, science and individual and group psychology. All can be poured into a glass and consumed. The power of the metaphor is enhanced by greater knowledge, and yet knowledge irrevocably alters your relationship with others, as well as with the elixir.     It takes hardness of heart to realize that your beliefs are beyond compromise, even if the result is a schism with the past. So be it. Beer drinking isn’t measured in terms of volume consumed, but in terms of comprehension, and if this understanding precludes partaking of the detestable liquid many still venerate, as though nothing is different after decades of incessant, clamorous change, then I’ll have to regrettably pass, and urge them to come to me on my terms … or not at all.Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.