Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perfection is an affront to god

Weavers and Builders in the Islamic world always put in a purposeful slight imperfection into their product, because perfection would be an affront to god. I'm not sure that in our brewing, or our drinking, that we should subscribe directly to this protocol, putting in a purposeful flaw, but it provides a relatively compelling introduction to this post.

My erstwhile companion in starting this blog, bJames, has suggested that perfection should be our goal. Our brewing should become metered and consistent, but I wonder how far. Were all beer to come out the same I would not drink out, I would just bring my beers in. I live in a state with relatively easy liquor laws, and going out for the $5 draft could be avoided with a $3 single bottle, closer to my house. Where I could also be assured no unrine but my own is on the toilet seat (thankfully the cat has gotten over his most recent bouts with a nasty UTI). So the draft is different- it sits in the keg, pumps through lines and into my glass. There is more carbonation, it dances a little, the beer has traveled, not alone, but with friends, been through some new and interesting narrow channels and has come to tell me what it has learned. Still, it is pasteruized and pressurized to the point that almost any idiot can get it to me in a reasonably consistent condition (except for the knuckleheads at the campus bar-- with the gall to charge a membership fee no less-- for beers that are priced and sourced as premium but pushed through lines that would make the Hilton's plubming look hygenic).

But, perhaps I digress-- beer is alive. As our friends out in California remind us, beer is teeming with living organisms. Any batch of drinkable beer is the result of a miracle of the right bugs eating the right sugars to make the right alcohols-- and flavors too. The British, as I may have mentioned before, love their cask ales. These beers are alive when the hit the floor and are kept by cellarmen and cellarwomyn who keep them the best they can. The elements affect the beers, they leave the brewery in under two weeks from inception. The drive, the cellar, the tempature, season, pollen, lines, other beers, spiders, they all conspire to make the beer different every time. These beers are alive, and I am alive. Sure, I've gone home with migranes from poorly kept beer, sold past its date by landlords who can't sell 6.5 gallons of the same beer in a week. This when they only have a few taps. But I've also had exquisite beers this way, that will never be the same again, only fleeting memories to be replaced by new ones as I try them again. It is the same with brewing- while ending up with radically different brews isn't desirable-- things change and we need to embrace that. 

My beer is alive, sitting in bottles in my closet as the whims of my landlord drive the heat in my house around 10 degrees, with the Chicago weather doing the same for another ten. Beers get better, they get worse, the age. I'll keg soon, but there will still be yeast alive chaing the profile of the beer. We can know a lot about our beers- we can take them to near perfection. But actual perfection-- beer brewed in nine locations in the US tasting exactly the same every day regardless of the season. Miller High Life being innoculated against skunking? These are technical marvels fitting of the first nation to put a man on the moon, sure. But they are also an affront to us as living beings, to nature, to our world, and, of course, to god.


  1. Any pursuit for perfection loses the chance discoveries found in true creative risk taking. Perfection is just another form of control and conformity. ( Only one opinion in billions YMMV)