Story last updated at 7/16/2014 - 4:12 pm
I've been writing about beer long enough that people often come up with cutsey crap to ask me about my habit. Oh, sure; I get all manner of the "have you tried this beer," or "what do you think about that brewery," and such, but there are three questions that I consistently get asked.
The most common question is "What is your favorite beer?"
I hope I'm not offending anyone when I reveal that inwardly, I think "what a stupid question" when I'm asked. Beer, in all of its infinite variations, is an incredibly situational thing that's based on variables that transcend the beer itself. Consider this: If you asked 10 different people what their favorite pizza is or what their favorite sexual position is, do you think you'd get the same 10 answers?
As far as I'm concerned, the enjoyment of beer is entirely situational. If I'm working hard, something lighter and quenching would be my favorite. When I'm sitting by the fire after a long day at the gold mine, a darker, more brooding beer seems to go with nudging sticks deeper into the dying fire or kicking at the embers. When I'm writing, anything goes. I try to write with an open mind and drink with one, too.
So, my pat answer to "What's your favorite beer?" is "The one in my hand." And I explain my reasoning.
The second most frequent question I'm asked is "Have you ever been to Germany," which is another silly question, in my opinion.
I'm sure you suspect the reason for the question, but I usually quip back with "Why?"
No, I've never been to Germany, but just because I'm an avid quality beer lover doesn't mean I have to go far to find the goods. In fact, a more relevant and deeper question to me would be, "If you could visit any country to explore beer, what country would that be?"
Certainly, Germany is the hinterland of beer and most people associate beer's roots with that country. The place is steeped in tradition and rich history, and there's that Oktoberfest thing, but I'd have to say I'd visit Belgium first. Belgium's robust beer culture is just as interesting and drowning in foamy history, but I find Belgian beer much more diverse and enticing than Germany's.
It's more than that, however. Why do I have to go to Germany for good beer? Or Belgium? Or anywhere, for that matter? As far as I'm concerned, right here in the U.S. of A, and especially in Alaska, we make the best beer in the world.
Before the craft beer movement of the mid-1980s, American brewers emulated the European styles because that's how beer in the world was defined. Times have changed. Palates have shifted. American brewers got restless and bored with standard styles and started branching out. We don't need Germany and Belgium to hold us by the hand anymore, and some of the most interesting beers in the world are originating right here. You don't have to go any farther than Alaska's local breweries and bars to find the best of the best.
Oddly, of late, the third most-common question I get is "You drink so much beer all the time and make a living out of it, how come you're not fat?"
Indeed, the bane of the big beer drinker is the beer belly. I'll be the first to tell you that until recently, it wasn't some special trick that keeps me trim. I've always been rather genetically indisposed to gaining weight.
Again, until recently (age takes its toll: I'm 56), I'd been on a see-food diet, which means that I'd chow with abandon and compliment rich, calorie/carbohydrate-laden foods with all manner of great, "fatty" craft beer.
I got a scare some time ago when I was told I was borderline diabetic. I don't know what you know about that crap, but it was strange. I learned that not only do carbohydrates affect blood sugar, but much of the same dietary gee-wizardry can contribute to significant weight gain. At the time, I was an oddity because although I had high carb numbers, I had model weight and model cholesterol. I gave up a lot of blood in little vials as the docs poked around to find out what was going on. Somewhere along the line, I was assigned a dietician.
My female dietician said, "Don't change a thing right now, but record every morsel, every drop of liquid - anything you eat or drink for the next two weeks - and bring it to me." I did.
She reviewed what I provided. In the meantime, under her tutelage, I learned about carbs and calories. I came back for the followup. Yes, my blood sugar numbers were high, but my overall average numbers were model. She was perplexed, but we pressed on.
The turning point came when she set a 22-ounce energy drink on the table; my favorite kind that (set your clock; I'd have one of every single day at 2 o'clock sharp). Now, this stuff is called "No Fear" and I think it has the 14-22 age range as a target market. She'd worked with me before to learn to read labels. She said "how many carbs are in that drink?"
I looked and said "Umm ... 38?"
"Yup, she said," then "now how many servings are in that can?"
"Yup, so how many total carbs?"
"Umm ... 76?"
"Right," she said as she pulled a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from under the desk. "Know how many carbs are in this six-pack?"
"That would be 14.1 carbs per 12-ounce serving times six servings = 84.6"
Then she pulled a Monster Ultra Zero energy drink from under the table and set it on the desk.
"Tell me how many carbs are in this," she teased.
I read the label and did the math: "Zero."
She picked up both cans of energy drink and said, "Trade the high-carb drink for the no-carb drink and you just earned five free bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in terms of carbs and you really haven't changed your lifestyle."
I was smitten. I absorbed this and it made perfect sense. I started carb trading because I was damned sure I wasn't going to quit drinking beer. If she'd have told me, "You're going to have to give up beer; it's loaded with carbs," I'd have gone for a second opinion. If that was the same, I'd say, "Well, tell me how long I've got to live because there are a lot of beers in the world I haven't drank yet."
The result? Although my fasting blood sugar numbers were still trashy, I'd dropped my average to an abysmally low level. But something else happened. In two months, I'd lost 17 pounds.
There's a happy ending. Another specialist was brought in.
I'll trade sugar-laden stuff and carb-loaded beers for food any day to maintain my stealthy physique. Getting bigger? Maybe you should do the same.
Do you have any more beer-related questions? Just ask Dr. Fermento, but all things considered, I'm really just a beer drinker with a writing problem.