The Task of Intimidating Beers

I felt intimidated. 22 ounces of 15% Founders Bolt Cutter barley wine and only two hours until bedtime. Big beers can intimidate. The percentage number can make us feel small and insecure. “That much???” we might think in shock.  And when a 22 ounce bottle is opened, there is no looking back. It cannot be returned to the fridge half consumed. At its price, it cannot be thrown out. It must be completed to the end.  After three months of bottle ownership, and with no one to share with, I knew the time had come. The bottle had to be opened, solitary 15% drinking be damned.

The only cure to intimidation is to break down the object into parts. Writing tasks can be broken down into sections (6,000 words? Four sections and an intro? That’s maybe 1,000 – 1,500 words per section). Daily challenges can be broken down (first wake up, then make coffee, then try to get kids to eat breakfast….). Break down that 22 ounces. A 12 ounce pour not even doubled. Of course, no bar pours 12 ounces of 15% barley wine. I had a 5 ounce pour of Against the Grain’s 14% Bo and Luke the other day at Lexington Beer Works. My brother in law and I split 32 ounces of the same beer over Thanksgiving – that’s 16 ounces each. I had maybe an 8 ounce pour of the same beer back in October at Country Boy. All of these pours provided some solitary indulging of high ABV. Each demonstrates the ease of consumption. The move from 16 ounces to 22 ounces is only one more small pour (slightly more than a 5 ounce). Doable. The task is broken down into its parts.

Not that I have never consumed high ABV beers alone before. I have. As recently as November, I consumed a bottle of East End Gratitude (11.5%) alone. And just a few weeks ago, I drank a 22 ounce bottle of Firestone Walker’s 16th anniversary by myself (13%). Speaking of Firestone Walker anniversary beers, I remember consuming the 13th anniversary by myself in our funky hotel room in Petaluma, California while my wife watched TV and our daughter slept, and the 15th anniversary by myself in our not so funky hotel room in Seattle while my wife watched TV and our two kids bounced up and down on the bed.  So why did a bottle of Founders’ barley wine intimidate me? I’m no newbie, after all, to big beers.

Ideas circulate. They move from post to rating to discussion to website back to rating to message board thread to another in person discussion to us. We accumulate these circulations into other ideas, such as “this beer is too intense to drink alone.” When such accumulations occur, we find ourselves believing in some idea or concept outside of any experiential or critical experience (i.e., a response such as “but a few weeks ago I drank 22 ounces of a similarly high ABV beer”). Such is thinking. Thinking can lead to feelings of liberation (“now I get it”) or intimidation (“that’s too much!”).  Of course, experiential experience is not enough to overcome problematic circulations. Even if we have experienced otherwise, we might still succumb to a circulated idea (and we often do). For whatever reason, and outside of my own experiential experience, for instance, the big bad barley wine intimidates. I have bottles of barley wine that sit for some time in my basement cellar space, all in the hope of sharing that alcohol percentage, but which I eventually drink alone and which I eventually survive from drinking alone. I walked away from that Bolt Cutter last night feeling fine. No problemo. Off to bed on target like middle aged parents of two often do. Woke up early to my two year old son kicking me in the side at 5:30 am. I survived. I survived that barley wine better than I survive Saturday morning cartoons of Curious George and The Cat in the Hat. Or of being kicked in the side by a two year old early in the morning.

This is a rhetorical issue. Intimidation is based on perceived meaning. And with that, I bring together my worlds: profession (what I study, teach, and write about) and consumption (what I love to drink). I don’t just consume a 15 % barley wine on a Friday night while the kids sleep and my wife watches TV, in other words, I consume an idea, a meaning, a perception. And then I rework all three into a blog post about intimidation.