I first noticed I had this issue about nine months ago when I dared to take the self-styled "Chiswick Monitor" and Seb Fuller (the black sheep of the Fullers' family) to task on Twitter after they attacked Melissa Cole, one of the true patron saints of beer journalism, around the time Asahi took over Fuller's Brewery. Fuller and Mr C. Monitor chose to answer myself and others with personal slanderous insults - including most egregiously calling Melissa a "post-op" - before unleashing what they must have thought was the ultimate accusation - that someone who spends a fair amount of their time sampling and appreciating beer must have an unhealthy dependency on the stuff. This was based on, and unfairly illustrated with stills from, a YouTube video where I documented treating myself to a couple of afterwork beers in Cardiff on the first day after StopTober. (If I recall correctly, that day I had two halves, a third and four pints.)
That was easily, if uncomfortably, batted away with a couple of well-placed Blocks.I agree that this person most probably drinks too much #beer. The fact that they run a Twitter account devoted to it strongly points to them being an alcoholic. We must be careful not to judge them too harshly, as I am told that alcoholism is a #disease. #W4— The Chiswick Monitor (@ChiswickMonitor) January 26, 2019
And it's not just in the rough and tumble world of social media, where unkempt unfettered pathological personalities maniacally manifest themselves without filter or fear. I don't know about you, fellow beer lovers, but have you found that when you even dare to attempt to broach the subject of our hobby/interest in polite everyday conversation, somehow it doesn't take long for the jokes and the ribbing to start?
Suddenly your invitation to others in your work environment for a quick pint on a Friday isn't such an innocent pleasantry. Suddenly your harmless use of a stray beermat as your coffee coaster isn't looked upon without a raised eyebrow. Suddenly your enthusiastic enthusing about that delicious coffee-infused milk stout you sampled the night before isn't treated with the usual polite acknowledgement that goes with the everyday office routine.
New desk beermat pic.twitter.com/9HHSOcCgIZ— 🏴🏉🍻BringOnTheRugbeer 🇸🇪😼 (@bringonthebeer) July 25, 2019
And I am sick of it. I really am. Because I know I am not an alcoholic. I can go without beer at the drop of a hat. I have gone for months without beer before now. Hundreds of days at a time. The FOMO can be a killer sure, but not as much of a killer as cirrhosis is. I have two sober months a year, guaranteed. It's easy. In fact, with the rise of great lo/nos, it's never been easier.
Alcoholism is a terrible, terrible disease that for some reason is bandied around in much the same way as OCD is used to describe people who keep their DVDs in alphabetical order. The use of the extreme end of a spectrum to describe and encompass all within that range is the height of ignorance and a horrific example of stereotyping. To put me, and others like me, in the same bracket as wonderfully inspirational and brave folk like Craig Ferguson, is stupefyingly simplistic.
I cannot understand why our hobby, of all hobbies, carries with it such a stigma. Beer consumption is an inherently and unquestionably socially acceptable activity yet when some of us dare take it outside the rigid societal barriers of Friday night or Saturday night at the pub it's unhealthy. When some of us dare to consume more than just macro lager or mainstream brands it's unusual. When some of us are able to get much much more out of beer consumption than the effect of just getting drunk, it's odd.
I admit - there are some hobbies out there I don't understand - like rockclimbing or collecting unusual teapots. But if they bring joy to the person with an interest in them, what harm does it do? Why is individual beer (or wine, or gin, or whisky) appreciation unable to be observed without drawing an unavoidable, ignorant, almost innate prejudicial conclusion that the person in question has an unhealthy reliance on their thirst-quencher of choice?
Beer appreciation is, or should be (on the whole) a wonderfully diverse, open, engaging, growing subculture. It is a group, a community, a movement. We encompass folk who have one beer a week as well as one beer a night. We are not defined by a single member or single voice amongst us. We are not to be pigeonholed. We are not to be summed up. We are not to be boxed in, defined, labelled or conveniently packaged by others who either wilfully or innocently misunderstand us. We must challenge their ignorance and misconceptions. We must let them know it is possible to have an interest/hobby like we do that is just as benign and manageable as rock climbing or teapot collecting. We must let them know that lager louts and supermarket crate gulpers are not our poster boys and girls.
But we must also continue to have the strength, and courage, to be loud and proud about our own relationship with alcohol. We must know what we must do to keep the relationship healthy, and benign, and unambiguous. We must not let the Chiswick Monitors of this world have the last laugh.
I believe in you.