“Shite weather!” He grunted as he walked in, passing a hand through his wet hair as if he expected to dry it that way.The above excerpt is the first few hundred words of the book Alan and I have been writing together since January. It's almost finished, we need to cross the last few i's an and dot the last few t's. Its working title, which may or may not be the definite, “The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer – A Rant in 9 Acts”.
He greeted the tapster and found an empty table near the bar. No need to order the beer. It had materialised with a “thump!” by the time he had taken off his coat and scarf. As he watched the half litre mug in front of him, he decided that no more shits would be given today about the weather, or anything else for that matter. As far as he was concerned, the whole world could go fuck itself in any way it saw fit, and to make a point of it, he downed almost one third of the glass in one long swig and put it down with an even louder “thump!”.
The first sip of the first beer of the day. That unadulterated pleasure devoid of the prevalent bollocks. That is what beer is truly about. That is the essence of beer. A blog post was beginning to write itself into his mind when he noticed a familiar face walking in cursing the weather. Just as he had.
“Hey, Alan!” said Max with a half-smile. “How're you doing?”
“Better now. What are you drinking?” Alan shook the rain from his coat.
“Beer. What else?”
As if waiting for that cue, the tapster thumped a pint right in front of Alan as he sat. Glasses were raised and for the moment no further words were said. It was now Alan's time to enter into his own communion with the first sip of the first beer of the day. He immediately softened, exhaling his worries.
“As nice an ale as ever I've had!” he declared with the utmost satisfaction sucking the wet from his moustache.
Max was startled. “Say what?! This is not ale! This has ‘lager’ written all over it! It couldn't be any lagerer even if it tried!” Max spoke with a slight hint of irritation and then proceeded to squeeze the last drops of his mug before taking the fresh, full one that had just been brought and showed to Alan so he could see how many times lager was written in the beer.
“How can this be a lager! Did you miss your mouth?”
The argument warmed. Words like “notes”, “hints of”, “mouthfeel” were used. Then thrown back and forth as if they were snowballs. Soon the sanity, intelligence and knowledge of both were liberally put into question.
The tapster watched them in complete disbelief. Morons, he thought. Two seemingly normal fellows bursting into such a heated argument about something of such little importance. For him, and surely everyone else in his pub, it was just beer. What could be so complicated about that, he wondered.
The two then stopped, each steeping in their own juices.
“Oh! For fuck's sakes! Who cares?” said Alan sneaking a smile.
“Morons. That's what we are.” Max couldn't hold his laughter any longer. The tapster smiled and nodded as he wiped the bar.
“It's incredible how stuck in this bollocks we have all got,” Max continued looking around the room. "Look at the people here. Do you think they care? I mean, I'm sure there are some of them who wouldn't be able to recognise a hop bine even if it was growing out of their assholes! And do you think they aren't enjoying their beer? The fuck the do! And perhaps more than us, because they are not wasting any time or energy pondering over the stuff they have no control over. They are enjoying the beer for the beer's sakes and this beer it's not the centre of their universes in this pub, it's just another part of the whole lot. And I understand them. Let me tell you this,” and with a an almost conspiratorial tone, he said: “I wouldn't walk across the street for a glass of this beer, but I would walk across town to have it in this pub.”
Alan - thinking it wouldn't be wise to interrupt a Max in full rant mode - just listened, learned some new bad words and sipped his beer trying to catch up with his drinking. Once the Argentine paused to answer the call of his mug, the Canadian decided to add some fuel to the rant. He was after all still thirsty and had no intention of cutting the discussion short.
“I've noticed a pub around the corner with some pretty interesting beers.”
“Oh, yeah," Max sneered. "That place. Have you been there? It's got the atmosphere of a dentist waiting room. I won't argue about the beers there, they are lovely, much better than this.” The second mug was gone, deftly replaced by a third one. “But you know, though the truth is always in the glass, beer is a lot more than that.”
2013 has not been an easy year for either of us. It was hard sometimes to find the time, the energy and the right mood to sit down and write, picking up the tale where the other had left it, but it's been fun, a lot of fun, and a bit addictive in some way; we had originally planned 30,000 or so words, but it grew to almost 50,000. It was fairly easy to get carried away once we started writing; the narrative structure we gave it – a surrealist journey in the time-space continuum to wherever and whenever it was that the beer decided to take us – allowed us to get a bit silly at times – we are talking about beer, after all.
What we set to achieve with the book will be very clear to anyone who reads it, in fact, I think it's quite clear from the excerpt – to challenge the prevailing beer discourse. On a more personal level, and I believe I'm speaking for Alan, too, we wanted to challenge ourselves as writers. Putting together a book of this kind requires a more solid intellectual consistency than writing a bunch of topically related blog posts that can be separated by months, if not years, as sooner or later you come across something that makes you review your opinions, more so when you are writing with someone whose experience with beer, and life in general, is vastly different from yours.
This last bit to me was the best thing about writing this book. I've been following Alan's blog for six years already, we had exchanged a few, friendly e-mails before and not much more than that, so I can't claim that we knew each other very well. The idea to write the book together was his (I was thinking of something else), but I loved it from the get go, and after almost a whole year working with him I couldn't be happier with the result. Not only the book is like one of those very rare collaboration brews that go beyond the marketing gimmick and produce something really new, which likely neither of the partners could've done by themselves, but I believe that have also gained a good friend in the process.
Bugger, I'm getting too sentimental here! Back touting the book.
Once it's ready, the book will be published in Kindle and a few more other channels, too. It will have a wiki companion so people can know where to go and insult us (making friends wasn't one our goals), as well some other internety things that will allow us to interact with readers in some way or another – one of our plans is to write other stuff together.
So, stay tuned.
PS: We agreed with Alan to post the excerpt an our comments on it at the same time today, here's his post, which he has cleverly used as his contribution to this month's Session.