Written by Roger Baylor
The Jeopardy category today is Time Passages, and the answer (for a whole sawbuck) is this:
“The years 1982, 1983 and 1984.”
Did you guess the question? It’s a fairly tough one:
“What were the last three consecutive years prior to 2010, 2011 and 2012, when Roger did NOT set foot on the European continent?”
Seeing as 1985 was my very first trip to Europe, it’s a reminder of just how invigorating a run it was, while it lasted. No one ever has been more fortunate for so long, and I’m grateful every single day for the sights, experiences, history and people. There were more than 30-plus excursions over a quarter of a century, and enough beer was consumed to float a ramshackle dinghy from Calais all the way back to Cape Cod, but as we’re constantly reminded, all good things inevitably come to an end.
Or, more accurately, they come to a suspension; even better, perhaps they arrive at a reinvention.
Of course, my travels haven’t really come to a close. Their systematic regularity was displaced by the necessity of caring for a demanding newborn named Bank Street Brewhouse during weird, recessionary times. The suitcases, backpacks and bicycle panniers patiently await, to be repacked some sweet day, and in fact, Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon have started whispering about the possibility of an excursion to the United Kingdom next summer.
During our last visit to her relatives in Plymouth, I enjoyed one delicious cask-conditioned Best Bitter after another, as conjured by at least a dozen, mostly small craft breweries in the region of Devon and neighboring Cornwall. You can bet I’m ready to do whatever it takes for a seaside view, succulent Cornish pasties and a burnished pint of Mild. England’s filled with great Indian eateries, too.
Stay tuned for details, and pass the chutney, please.
But seriously, this much I know: There are times when the most meaningful journey you take is the one you didn’t actually make.
I’m older now, understanding far better than before the winding, cyclical, serendipitous nature of life. Occasionally, when it is least expected, events conspire to change your perspective. Twenty years into his career as one of the greatest ever rock drummers, Rush’s Neil Peart took a sabbatical to relearn and modify his technique. He was among the best, and that wasn’t enough. There’s much of value to learn from Peart’s studied decision to improve, not merely slide through on past successes.
Accordingly, I know that when my foreign travels resume, whether next year or any time after that, they’ll be even better, because taking a break has afforded me some much needed perspective. Recent epiphanies have been many, and it is undeniable that they were quite impossible until I was ready to pay attention to them – and this is my central lesson derived from three years spent stateside.
For so long as much of my daily life constantly revolved around planning the next overseas extravaganza, as it did for more than two decades, there could be no transformative cosmic insights about my own place in the world, whether geographically (temperamentally?) as an American, professionally as a brewing company owner and beer purveyor, or philosophically as a citizen of the universe. My travel obsession was escapism, pure and simple, but then, over a period of years, the pendulum began swinging back. First it nudged me, and then I was knocked ungracefully to the ground.
Finally, I understood: There wasn’t going to be enough time, energy or sufficient money – really, had there ever been an actual desire? – to learn a foreign language, fill a shipping container, wade through reams of paperwork, start all over, and be an American expatriate in Europe, consciously emanating Ernest Hemingway a full century after Papa drank it all in France and Spain. Damned if life hadn’t actually happened while I was busy making other plans.
Old hopes and dreams evaporated, and their place was taken by new ones. Sniffing around the grassroots, spying niches on the perimeter, I belatedly circled back to wondering what it means to be an American … and to be an American beer maker in an unquestioned time of milk and honey. Answers were (and are) elusive, and yet the questions vastly changed my outlook.
When we bought our downtown New Albany house in 2003 and surveyed the state of moribund affairs in the historic business district, synapses began firing: How to revive a once vibrant city? Might craft beer be of help?
Beginning in 2004, the revival of a tradition of rotating family reunions took me to American places I’d never been, like Boston MA and Charleston SC. When I joined my friend Graham in his Crown Vic on a Great American Road Trip to the Left Coast in 2006, I felt myself returning to long suppressed childhood fascinations with the American West. Frequent summer visits to the People’s Republic of Madison (Wisconsin) for the Great Taste of the Midwest further expanded the evolving consciousness, providing examples of other ways to live, work and drink beer.
Yes, indeed: Craft beer was the common theme throughout these contemporary American jaunts, and consequently, the combined experiences heavily influenced our localist vision when it came to expanding NABC’s brewing operations at Bank Street Brewhouse in 2009.
However, at the time, I still mistakenly believed the conceptual linkage was pointing European, and while some of it undoubtedly emanated from the continent, the bulk actually came through consciously reconnecting with my own sense of place, Americana-style – even if I refused to acknowledge it for the longest time. For what it’s worth, stubbornness is my best and worst personal trait.
With university majors in philosophy and history, it’s likely that my taking both these areas of study far too seriously is why there must always be some sort of doctrine prefacing my actions. So it has been, and so it remains, as the pondering (and pontificating) continues. Craft beer’s my life, so what does it really mean at the end of the day?
Back to Jeopardy, final round.
Answer: Think globally, drink locally.
Question: Where’s the Curmudgeon headed, anyway … come what may?