Posted by: Addison – Aug 31, 2012
Dispatch 2: Miller Comes In A Can, It Was Put There By A Man.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
I won’t lie. This was supposed to be a regular column. I was thinking weekly, maybe bi-weekly (in the every-other-week sense). But shit happens. Subjectively major shifts in living situation, employment, overall lifestyle. You know, normal stuff. So, it’s been a few months. My bad.
On New Year’s Day of this year, my girlfriend and I moved out of Richmond, to a rural (read: bumfuck) stretch of pristine shore on the Chesapeake Bay in Mathews, VA. Eight months later, we’re living a mile down a heavily wooded gravel driveway, on the muddy banks of an inlet to the Rappahannock River (cue banjo. No, really). There’s a goat here, too. I now work at a (really damn good) barbecue and country cookin’ spot just a few farms away from the small, oyster-shucking, yacht-sailing, golf-cart-riding town of Urbanna.
I’m going somewhere with this. I promise.
Beer in Richmond was a very, very social thing. A really good beer was actually easier to find on tap than on a shelf. Beer was a multicultural subculture. A benevolent cult. But this is Budweiser Country, and finding a place to sit and have something of substance fill your pint glass is likely to involve at least half an hour in a car each way. Don’t even try if it’s Monday.
And even after going through the ordeal of arriving at the clandestine watering hole, you can’t have more than one or two. Worse, perhaps, is that there’s likely no ongoing conversation about what’s being tapped, no esoteric dialog shuffling coasters on the polished edge of the bar.
Where the hell do the beer reps drink around here?
There’s not a lot I miss about living in the city (I still love ya, RVA, I’m just somewhere else in my life right now), but this void was beginning to get to me. I don’t do a lot of internet research. This is how I learn things, and I like the intimacy of this ritual.
And that’s when, after a somewhat desperate, (albeit confidently worded), cover letter to the proprietors, I got hired at the country store/barbecue joint. It turns out the store has a lot of really, really good bottled beer. Funny thing is, I didn’t even know that when I asked (begged) for a job. So, while I still didn’t really have a fellowship of hop worship, I at least have a readily available source for craft brew. And a pretty scenic, secluded place to drink after work. Not a bad deal.
By accepting my new, more private relationship with craft beer, eschewing industry jargon and hype for wordless contemplations of body, nose,and finish, I began exploring the overlapping layers of each, visualizing physical and musical qualities represented by every characteristic. I began to understand, to know, what I was drinking in ways I can’t explain.
Maybe not such a good thing for a writer.
The point is, I found a way to get myself back into craft beer without the social events, albeit in a somewhat monkish, solitary way. You don’t really hear a lot about people chucking city life to go commune with beer in nature. I can assure you, it’s a thing.
But I also started talking with customers about what they’re drinking. If I see a Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, or a St. George Porter on the lunch counter and have a minute away from the flat top, I’m going to be talking to whomever is on the other side. Don’t drink all of those. I’m going to want one later.
And so, it dawned on me. The epiphany shimmered. Things were illuminated. Understanding achieved. Like so many things inherent to country life, it takes a little longer to find what you’re looking for. You gotta get a little lost to get where you were going. Hell, the scenery is worth it. The beer world is here, in quaint, beautiful, riverside Urbanna, Virginia. It’s probably in small Urbannas all around the country. ‘Round here you just gotta work for what you want.
My art-drenched urban lifestyle is gone. My beach-bum career is over. C'est la vie. They had limited long-term potential, anyhow. I’m closer to work here. Closer to good beer. Closer to Richmond. Closer to being truly happy. Closer to myself.
From the sloping banks of the Rappahannock,
-S. Preston Duncan