Every year, for the beer issue, I am forced to confront my own relationship with that ancient and noble beverage, of which I was once very fond.
It’s been almost seven years since I severed my relationship with drink — I was either very good at it or very bad it, depending on whom you were asking — and I learned to have no regrets about what came before or after.
So on the surface, it might seem contradictory for me to publish an annual issue lionizing a thing that, towards the end, brought me more than my share of trouble.
But not if you think about it.
I made my living pouring beers, among other libations, for 15 years. It helped me pay for college and entirely funded my twenties. I met hundreds of interesting people in my years behind the bar, saw and did the sorts of things that people don’t even believe when I tell them.
It was worth it for the stories alone.
I saw Jamie Bartholomaus turn his tiny Foothills brewpub into a regional player in the industry, watched Chris Lester and Kayne Fisher sell off all their bars and bet it all on Natty Greene’s at the corner of McGee and South Elm streets, which in turn ignited a renaissance in downtown Greensboro.
In the years since I began my abstinence, the beer industry — specifically the microbrew and brewpub nodes of it — has boosted the economy of our region. Old friends have become business owners and old drinking buddies have turned into gourmands when it comes to the suds.
Beer is still a part of my life — though not in a Kavanaugh way. Though I have no plans to drink one today, I still like beer because it puts people to work, it brings them together and gives them an excuse to be together in a time when such a thing is sorely needed.
Brewpubs have become cultural hubs with live entertainment, themed nights and women’s arm-wrestling. Regulars argue about yeast strains and ABV in the way my old customers used to bicker about batting averages and Super Bowl MVPs. People bring their dogs — and their kids! — to frolic in the carnivalesque glow cast from the food-truck lights.
These days, a visit to a brewpub is barely recognizable to me as drinking. That’s probably a good thing, depending on whom you’re asking.