In many ways beer is quite simple. Just combine water, yeast, malt, and hops to make it. When you pour yourself a glass, you're drinking an ale or a lager.
You can find good beer everywhere. If you like chemistry and cleanliness, you can make your own beer at home. You can look around your area and buy a local craft beer. Or you can pick up something mass produced by a global juggernaut. Some of the best beers are very traditional, brewed the same way for hundreds of years. Pilsner Urquell, the undisputed king of pilsners since defining the style, has followed the same recipe since 1842. Others are whatever your favourite local brewery is making for the first time this week.
Both of those stories, and thousands more besides, are built on culture and community.
Trappist monks brew some of my favourite beers, which have more complexity and depth than almost anything else you’ll find. These can be very hard to come by because the monks still produce them at a small scale, primarily for their own consumption and whatever they need to sell to keep living. Ask me about Westvleteren 8 sometime, an incredible beer made on a very small scale to this day.
Some styles of beer came out of necessity. A great example of this is India Pale Ale (IPA). This style of beer solved two problems the British encountered when sending beer to their troops. The beer they sent had to endure a long voyage by boat, without refrigeration. Adding hops and increasing the alcohol percentage made it work. There isn't much data from the 1700s, but I imagine IPA goes on record as the largest and fastest adoption of a new beer style in human history. While British forces at that time were volunteers, they were a vast community that eagerly drank the grog provided as a job perk.
A recent trend lately highlights another example of how important beer can be in bringing people together. Non-alcoholic beer, historically a very niche product, has gotten massive lately. Craft brewers, always an innovative bunch, have taken the bull by the horns at breweries like Athletic. A trusted friend and homebrewer suggested their hazy, Free Wave, as the best of this new cross between non-alcoholic and craft beer.
It’s safe to say there is a beer for everyone.
Far and away the best community to talk about is your own community. Without hopping on a hyper-local soap box, who do you share a beer with, and what is your favorite? How does that impact your life?
During the pandemic, I have been very interested in how beer can bring people together. Given COVID and the climate in Canada, these are often small gatherings that happen outdoors. But there are other ways to connect over a beer. Last year, I was lucky to join an amazing group who ran a beer advent calendar.
The idea behind the advent calendar is pretty simple. Twenty four people each buy 24 of a beer they think is worth sharing with others. Everyone drops their 24 beers off to the organizer(s), who set up 24-packs with a different beer for every day of advent. The packs are set up so that each person is chilling and drinking the same beer as everyone else each day of advent. Everyone comes back to pick up their packs and joins the discord group set up for people to chat about the beer if they want to.
Not only did I have a new beer to try every day of advent, but I met a bunch of new people, some of whom have become good friends. I encourage you to get a group together to try a beer advent calendar next year!
About the author
Taylor Reeseis our Principal Innovator based in Edmonton, Alberta. His background is in design and facilitation, but he also loves drawing, cycling, and craft beer. He believes the things we build must improve the lives of those who use them. You can follow some of his adventures on instagram @sketchnote.love.
About the artist
David Matheson is an artist based in Edmonton, Alberta. Not one for sticking with a sole signature look, he likes to explore various styles and mediums, especially when it comes to drawing. He also does acrylic landscape painting, as well as illustration and logo design on Adobe Illustrator.
He writes, "I wanted to emphasize on the article’s social aspect on beer bringing people together, and illustrate how that has been true though history and culture (Mesopotamia, Medieval Trappist monks, World War I, 21st Century).
The images were drawn using pen and ink, and coloured in Adobe Illustrator. I intentionally kept the clunky, organic line-work to maintain a sketchbook/cartoonish quality, while the flat, somewhat incomplete colour fill was inspired by the graphic style from UPA animation studios in the 1950’s.