Just a brief thought I was having for no particular reason.
At the tail end of high school and into college, I became a pretty big fan of philosophy. I was an engineering major in college, and philosophy did absolutely nothing for me with regards for my degree. Nevertheless, I found taking philosophy classes kept me balanced amidst all the math and science. My favorite philosopher, even in high school, had always been Socrates, or rather his pupil who documented his work, Plato. There were many great works by Plato that addressed many concepts, but one concept that seems especially relevant to me today is his philosophy of (what else?) alcohol consumption.
Plato believed* that, when consumed in moderate quantities, and regulated properly, consumption of alcohol (he spoke of wine specifically here, but one can infer that any alcoholic beverage would do) was a useful method of educating the soul. He spoke particularly of the ability of alcohol to promote the virtue of fearlessness, as well as its use as a method of improving relations between groups of people, from citizens of the state, to militia.
This concept of drinking in moderation as an educational tool always stuck with me, and today, I think back to this lesson fairly often. However, there’s another facet of drinking as education that Plato didn’t touch on; namely, tasting as a method of sensory expansion.
When you’re drinking a beer, or a wine, or drinking anything for that matter, or eating anything for that matter, you are tasting, and your taste buds map to a part of your brain which corresponds to varying degrees of pleasure (or perhaps pain in bad cases). And this is the very reason that people want to try new craft beers – to taste something they haven’t tasted before, not just on their tongues, but in their minds.
Brewers have often complained about the fickleness of today’s craft drinkers: they have no brand loyalty, they won’t drink very much of one kind of beer before demanding a different kind, etc. But I get what these consumers want. These drinkers are addicted to the sensation of tasting something they’ve never tasted before, and by doing so, expanding their mind regarding the possibilities of what craft beer can taste like.
Plato would argue that drinking without the end goal of education is deleterious to society. I wouldn’t go that far. Sometimes, you just want to turn your brain off and have a beer.
But, I know that the best beers I’ve had have been so good that I demand that the person next to me stops talking – so I can truly concentrate, in order to understand and describe what it is I’m tasting. Someone who’s had a really good beer may describe the beer as “mindblowing”; perhaps this description isn’t too far off.
In conclusion. If you’re interested in learning and challenging yourself, then craft beer is probably for you. Not only that, but we're in a golden age of brewing at the moment, where creativity is king and no idea is too out of bounds. We should consider ourselves to be lucky.
Nothing anyone that’s reading this probably didn’t already know.
Hope this makes sense.
* reference "Laws", Book I.