When I sat down to begin writing my 2010 year in review, I was unsure where to start. I asked Anthony what we should cover and his reply left the door wide open: write about anything, and beer. Suddenly I couldn’t remember anything from the past year other than the random YouTube videos that got millions of views, the half-baked tweets that made the evening news, and the WikiLeaks that embarrassed diplomats. It seems that social media has become the new reality for better or worse. Not that we didn’t already know—I mean, I’m sitting here writing an online blog—but until now we convinced ourselves that social media was something trivia and not something that could drastically impact our lives.
I have to admit that I’m still very skeptical about the merits of social media. Facebook allows us to easily get back in touch with friends and “friends” who would have otherwise fallen into obscurity. Twitter allows us to update our friends and complete strangers we call “followers” on what we are doing at any given moment. Where once it took days and even weeks to correspond with a friend, it takes less than a second. And on top of that, we gut our messages to their most basic form because the extra letters take too long to type. But speed is not the only aspect of today’s communication that has changed; the audience has changed as well. Correspondence was once an intimate activity between two people or two families, but today we have a generation of autobiographers screaming at the top of their lungs to get the most hits on YouTube. So I have to ask myself what we’re doing writing this blog. What does it matter? And what does it mean?
There is something to this new social media that I find important; something that became apparent to me as I considered this past year and the role of craft breweries in America. Craft and microbreweries have sprouted up across the nation in big cities and small towns I have never heard of and though they serve similar styles and recipes that are nearly indistinguishable to the average beer drinker, they are thriving. This past year, I tried more new beers than in all my years of drinking and brewing beer combined (though to be fair that’s only five years) and when I recall my favorites I not only remember the beer itself, but the entire context in which I drank it. Ale Asylum Bedlam at a table in the brewery after riding my old Schwinn World Tourist with a group of friends across Madison. Surly Furious at St. Paul’s Turf Club in a booth with cracking vinyl seats as I listened to the music of the Pines. Breckenridge Agave Wheat out of a liter stein at Oktoberfest in Breckenridge, Colorado where the aspens were gilded with yellow leaves. These are the moments that are committed to my memory.
I’ve been reading a collection of short stories by Anthony Doerr entitled, Memory Wall, who has made me understand the power of memories. Memories are the fossils of this passing life and they are miracles; the minutes and seconds that are caught in the thick muds of the mind are preserved forever, while all the rest dissipate into the void. In essence, this is what we strive for in our everyday lives, to be a memory, committed to history forever. Likewise, each new beer preserves a unique perspective on the world in terms of recipe, brewing history, and in my own life experience. It tries to become a memory in the same way that each new blogger, YouTube video, Facebook post, and tweet tries to assert its individual perspective into the collective social memory. It gives life a heroic purpose and poetic meaning, to which I can lift my glass. Cheers to 2011—may it be full of beer and memories.