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Compulsion (The Session no.76)

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, beer bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session and the upcoming topics, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s archive page.

Logo of The Session, Beer Blogging Friday

This month’s Session is hosted by fellow Aussie blogger, Glen Humphries of the blog Beer is your friend. His chosen topic: Compulsion.

“Like most beer fans, I tend to buy way more beer than I can drink. I can have a fridge full, plus a few boxes of bottles, plus homebrew and still I’ll walk into a shop and buy some more. Or order some more online. Or do both in the space of a few days.

Why do we do stuff like this? Obviously we’re not just buying stuff to drink because, if we were, wouldn’t we just wait until we were running low and then stock up? What so many of us do is stock up, even though we’re already stocked up.”

Banner image of growler pouring many samples of dark beer for tasting paddles

Ooo… this topic could drive a bundle of sad self psychoanalysis.

Where is the point that compulsion becomes OCD? What is the relationship between desire, compulsion and obsession? Is that a butterfly with a bomb?

Ok, I’ve never studied psychiatry, so I’m in no position to make intelligent comment on the nature of compulsion. How do I keep this topic light, blog friendly and beer focused?

Well, we’ve been watching the new NBC TV series Hannibal lately, and the show’s psychoanalysis content has been fascinating. However, this TV fiction escapism may have led me to dwell far too much on the potential of my own, very mild, obsessive and social detachment sorta-disorders. More relevant to this post is that the show has provided a scene of beer geek pleasure, revealing Hannibal as a home brewer and connoisseur of high end ales.

In episode 4, Œuf, Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) prepares dinner for his colleague Dr Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). Hannibal offers Alana a drink, to which she responds with “I appreciate beer more than I do wine”, noting Hannibal’s prepossession for fine wine. Hannibal then opens his fridge and pulls out a bottle of barley wine:
Screen caps from the TV series HannibalHannibal: “It’s not what you appreciate; it’s that you appreciate it.

Hannibal: “A compromise? Beer brewed in a wine barrel, for 2 years. I bottle it myself.”

Alana then tastes the beer and picks that Hannibal had used a Cabernet Sauvignon barrel.

Hannibal: “I love your palate.”

Alana: “I love your beer.”

It’s not what you appreciate, it’s that you appreciate – that’s an excellent analogy and/or lesson for where to draw the line between knowledgeable enjoyment and compulsion.

Do we buy/consume/brew beer purely for its appreciation or is our beer desire an irrational hard-to-define force?

I probably shouldn’t look around my house right now. It’s full of beer bottles, beer books and other beer paraphernalia? And yes, I buy more beer than I need based. That must be obsession, not compulsion, right?

What compels me to love beer and write this blog? What compels me to write for The Session?

Certainly, my appreciation and enjoyment of beer influences a tendency for compulsion. I have a compulsive nature to some extent. The more I appreciate something, the more I want to indulge in it. I’m not a watcher, I’m a participant. (It’s a double edged sword.)

But what about beer compels me? I think it’s the physical aspects of beer that captures the five senses: sight, smell, taste and touch, as well as what you hear about and from a beer.

Yes, the full package of a diverse sensory experience and the social fun around beer compels me. I have an irresistible impulse to smell and taste new/unexperienced beers, driven by an appreciation for really good beer. To appreciate something you need perspective from all ends of the spectrum.

And despite my own social awkwardness, I enjoy the social interaction that’s stimulated by beer. So I use beer to generate a social connection, as misdirected as it may sometimes be.

Aren’t I just a contradiction.

I put my compulsion to the test at the recent Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) (which is a fair comparison to the way I buy beer as well). I wanted to see if my matured self could be in the presence of a multitude of beers and control any compulsion to experience them all.

I failed…quickly and drastically. Although, I think that giving in to my compulsion was just a mark of the quality of the event.

GABS is a three day beer festival that showcases Australian and New Zealand craft beers, as well as the beers several guest international brewers. 89 new and unique beers were available at GABS, along with countless other beers from the core range of breweries and distributors who had exhibitor stalls at the event.

2 GABS tasting paddlesThe 89 “festival brews” are the main attraction of GABS. These beers had not been released in Australia before and were dominated by usual ingredients, hybrid styles and extreme flavours. Many local hardcore beer fans and geeks made it their mission to taste all 89. My own beer geekdom tempted me with the same challenge, but I saw its limits in timeframe, cost and health.

I knew my beer compulsion would make me want to try every beer as soon as possible, rushing through tasting paddle upon tasting paddle to sample every beer in the building.

Honestly, I didn’t want to tick every beer off the list or score 89 unique Untappd check-ins. However, I did want to experience the flavour of all 89 brews. My dedication to logging beers in Untappd comes from the amusement and analysis I get from recording and reviewing my beer history. To me, the numbers are fun (possibly in some sort of uber soft Aspergers way) but the “game” is irrelevant.

(By the way…I don’t understand the term “ticker”. Can someone explain it? Is it an American word? Where does it come from and what exactly does it mean in terms of beer?)

GABS menu boardRecognising my pending doom at GABS, I set myself to control my vigour.

Faced with the boards of 89 beers at GABS I started out nice and steady. I held myself back, but I was always bursting out.

Then, the happy festival atmosphere, the smoothly organised setup and the fun beer loving crowd quickly got the better of me. Happy times, I wanted to do it all!

I WANT ALL OF THE BEERS!  Oops, there I go. Compulsion.

A GABS beer taster with the festival guide description and a notebook or numbersTowards the conclusion of GABS my compulsion made me run around a little madly in hope of having all the beers, but, importantly, it didn’t bite me in the ass.

In the end, logistics won over compulsion. Late in the final session on Sunday, beers began to run dry. We missed out on festival beers, including one that was very high on my excitement list – the Moon Dog Brewing and Nøgne Ø collaboration, Selvmordstokt, a sour cherry wheat porter.

In the past, when I was more susceptible to beer compulsion, this would have frustrated and annoyed me. However, my development as a beer nerdist has taught me that missing out isn’t a big deal. There’s just too much out there in the world to make missing out a concern.

If your beer compulsion is causing problems, pain or corruption, maybe you should see someone about that.

The solution is easy though. Just study the history of beer, starting with the last 30 years.

There have been endless beers and breweries that have come and gone. The full history, knowledge and experience of beer is so big that it’s beyond the reach of any human life. So settle down, and enjoy what comes you way. If there’s a beer you MUST HAVE, then it’s probably hype.

That which has come before can show you that what you want now is not as special as you may think.

We live through such a small speck of time that makes justifying compulsion for beer quite impractical.

Everything about your beer compulsion has happened before, in another time or another place. So don’t let your compulsion damage or hurt you. The “beer” will come around again. It might seem different, but the end result will be the same, won’t it?

That’s the mindset I have now to prevent me from going overboard with my compulsion to have every beer .

So what’s the diagnosis, Dr Lecter?

5 thoughts on “Compulsion (The Session no.76)

    • Cheers Derrick. My mind might be a little too clear at the moment, because I’m in the middle of a dry detox few weeks to train for my next half marathon. And now it’s time for a Saturday morning 15km run.

    • haha…yeah…I do try and learn from my mistakes and hangovers. But yes, why be frustrated by something like beer? It’s something to appreciate, not obsess over. It’s been a journey, the evolution is a fair point of view.

      Not that I don’t mind a few backward steps here and there.


  1. Pingback: The Session #76 Round-Up | beer is your friend

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