Don’t Come To Indiana

Don’t come to Indiana. Don’t visit the Hoosier state, don’t fly in or out of our airport, and don’t attend our sporting events or festivals held throughout the year. Tell your relatives that they’re visiting you for the holidays now instead. Don’t come to Indiana, because, as Governor Mike Pence would have you believe, you’re not welcome here.

Pence, a rumored GOP hopeful for the 2016 presidential election, is preparing to sign Senate Bill 101, better known to some as a “religious freedom bill.” The bill he says, which passed through the House on Monday by a 63-31 vote, “is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact.”

Yeah, ok.

As we’ve seen it play out in the 19 other states that have adopted similar measures, SB 101 would essentially allow business owners and proprietors to refuse their services to citizens that they would deem in violation of their religious beliefs.

With this bill, Pence will take our state one giant 60 year step backwards to a time when discrimination and segregation were not just common but legally protected practices in stores, schools, and government offices. He wants you to know that your discrimination against blacks, latinos, the LBGTQ, etc. will now be legally protected by the state, as long as you do it for “religious reasons.” Don’t want to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage? It’s your right to refuse now, because your god said so. Don’t want to install an AC unit for the new neighbor you suspect is a lesbian? By golly there’s something in the Bible about that! If you want to make a rule at your restaurant prohibiting service at the diner to transgendered individuals, have at it!

“Sorry, NCAA teams here for the Final Four. If someone on your team is a gay, they’ll need to stay down the road at the Motel 6. Them’s the rules.”

Pence’s twitter bio is a never-ending source of hilarity to me, if only for the part that reads, “Serving Hoosiers in all corners of the state.” But his enthusiasm for SB101 shows anything but that. Hoosiers can be some of the most genuine, thoughtful, and loving people you’ll ever meet. Hoosier Hospitality is a real thing, but the passing of SB101 into law will make the state I’ve called home my whole life into a place of Hoosier Hostility to anyone deemed “different” or “living in sin.” It’s another severe misstep by Pence, who has a long history of them in his time as governor, including the establishment of a state-run news agency (which was quickly shut down the same week after mounds of criticism were lobbied at Pence himself), and his embarrassing power grabs at State Superintendent Glenda Ritz that serve only to weaken the office she rightfully was elected to over Pence’s old pal Tony Bennett.

I love this state, and am proud of the person it has helped me become. But SB101 will make sure that the experiences afforded to me growing up here won’t be available to all of Indiana’s citizens.

So please, don’t come to Indiana. Mike Pence doesn’t want you here.

Advertisements

In 2015, Does Sam Adams Still Deserve A Seat With Other Craft Brewers?

Recently, Boston Magazine published an article about Boston Beer Company founder, Jim Koch. In essence, the article centers around Koch entering a craft beer bar and not seeing his beloved Sam Adams Boston Lager on the menu. He then throws a temper tantrum reminiscent of a toddler who just found out he has a baby brother. The story then delves into the history of BBC and Koch’s role in the craft beer revolution that took place almost 30 years ago. You can read the entire piece here, by Andy Crouch. It’s a really interesting read.

We at Bald and Bearded are lovers of beer and this article struck a chord in both of us. In bold, you’ll find Conor’s questions, followed in italics by Adam’s answers, and again in bold by Conor’s response to Adam.

1) American Craft beer is defined by the following three standards:

  • Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
  • Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers

But, craft beer means so much more to the people who drink it. What does craft beer mean to you?

I agree that the real definition of craft beer exists outside of its dictionary definition, that its technical definition serves more as parameters in which craft beer exists, and that everything else is just variables. To me, craft beer signifies local and independent businesses making a product for the people around them to enjoy, a product that they, the makers, can be proud of, and a product that locals can feel good about purchasing because they’re supporting local businesses. Craft beer is about people that make beer for the simple reason of loving good beer and wanting to share that passion with others. It is equal parts designing a perfect beer that people will enjoy and also bucking market trends and making whatever the hell you want. I can tell you there isn’t a huge market for oyster stouts, but that didn’t stop the great people at O’Connors Brewing Company in Norfolk, VA from making one.

A lot of it is about ingenuity for the sake of ingenuity, which ultimately comes from a place of love. And I think that craft beer (like any good piece of art, music, food, etc.) comes from a deep love for the…er….craft.

The legal definition of “craft beer” is irrelevant to true craft brewers. True craft breweries, like Hill Farmstead, the Alchemist or Three Floyd don’t need a legal definition to prove they are a small group of passionate brewers who are challenging, and enhancing, the status quo of American beer. They prove that by their work ethic and their product. Craft beer to me comes down to artistry and identity. A true craft brewer needs an identity, a mission, a raison d’être. Some breweries are dedicated to keeping their beers organic and local (Peak Organic), some are trying to resurrect long extinct old world beers and make the weirdest stuff you can think of (Dogfish)  and some are just a bunch stoners who just like to give the finger to the big breweries (keep it up, Lagunitas). No matter what the reason, they have purpose and artfully contribute to the growth and development of the beverage we love.

What is the the Raison d’être for Sam Adams? Beyond making Mr. Koch a billionaire…I have no idea.

giphy (3)

Rare photo of Koch at Board of Directors meeting

2) Does Sam Adams still count as “craft” in either of those definitions

I guess it would fall under the dictionary’s non-definition? I don’t know. Knowing what we do about Sam Adams/Boston Beer Company, I don’t think I would count it as “craft.” Not anymore, at least. When I think about it, I imagine the only non-MBC beer at an airport Applebees. Boston Lager, it’s flagship, would probably be the beer I bought if I was stuck in a small town for a night and the only thing nearby was a Walmart. I know BBC has around 60 beers in its lineup, but I don’t see them as a brand willing to take any real chances. Koch said in the Boston Magazine article that they never brewed an IPA until 2013 because he doesn’t like that style of beer. Which, ya know, is fine I guess. You should brew what you like. I believe that’s important. But I doubt Koch is in a room everyday in his boots and overalls actively brewing, so why not let his head brewers take a stab at some new stuff that can be shared on a large scale?

The reason for existence for Sam Adams? Yeesh. Okay, well, once upon a time, Boston Lager was a good beer in a country where it was hard to get good beer. Think about your grandfather. He was probably a Miller-Budweiser-Coors man, because that’s probably what he could get his hands on. Think about people in the Midwest or East Coast going crazy over finally getting Coors outside of Colorado. Coors! But, now, you can get good beer in almost any city it seems. I can go to Martinsville, IN and I know of two breweries I can stop at. And those price points are probably going to be the same or close to those of Sam Adams.  

Boiling it down – Sam Adams seems to me like a “craft” beer for people who don’t really like craft beer, or haven’t been fully exposed to it yet. Call it snoddy me or a beer snob (Koch sure thinks we are). Dare even call us hipsters. I look at it more as being an informed consumer.

Sam Adams Boston Lager is a craft beer. Legally, I have to say that. I would also like to mention that McDonald’s is legally “food.”

A business like Boston Beer Company is so large and mass producing that it needs the standard of “craft beer” to fall back to be able to  still officially define themselves as a “little guy.” Despite his best effort, Koch doesn’t seem genuine to me. In his commercials, he comes off as a Presidential candidate wearing dungarees and rolling up his/her shirt sleeves in Iowa to prove, “I’m just like you *wink* *finger gun*.”It can help you move up in the polls and improve your likeability, but it doesn’t mean you’re not a giant billionaire who has lost touch with common people.

I feel that it is important to mention, there is nothing wrong with being a giant billionaire. But don’t pretend you are a little guy, just own who you are. People will respect you more for that.

president-obama-in-sf1

IS OBAMA THE SAM ADAMS OF PRESIDENTS? MY COLUMN:

3) Does the craft beer world owe Jim Koch and Sam Adams Boston Lager for starting it all?

There certainly is a ton of debate as to whether he “started it all” – Sierra Nevada began brewing about five years before Koch started up BBC. I do think though that the craft beer world owes him for helping legitimize the craft beer industry. The late 70s on through to even the early 90s was mostly a wasteland for good beer, with MBC beers dominating the industry. But the beer that did it all, Boston Lager, isn’t really the most sincere offering, is it? A large portion of it is brewed in Cincinnati’s old Hudepohl-Schoenling plant, Koch hired what is essentially a “taste chemist” to engineer it, and picked a different revolutionary, Paul Revere, for the label.

Koch has done amazing work to help the industry thrive though. He funds startup breweries through his Brewing the American Dream program, and he all but saved countless breweries during a hop shortage in 2008. Pretty awesome stuff in a time when InBev is looking to just buy everyone out instead of helping breweries thrive on their own.

But as Will Gordon from Deadspin says, “They’re Cheesecake Factorying it out there a little bit.”

Correct. Next question.

4) Why does Jim Koch feel he deserves a spot on that menu?

Maybe he’s upset that people think there are better beers out there than what Sam Adams is making? Because on that particular menu mentioned in the article, I can’t see how he could actually think one of his beers stands up to any of the beers on draft there. I mean, look at this beer list. That is a craft beer bar, serving new, exciting, often hard-to-get brews carefully selected by the hand bartender/owner, and possibly paired with certain menu items. If I go to a bar or restaurant, and of their 25 taps, 24 are local/regional craft beers, and the 25th is ANY Sam Adams beer, you bet your ass I’m not even going to ask which Sam Adams it is. I just don’t care. I’ve had Boston Lager/Oktoberfest/Winter Lager a billion times before. Why would I pick something that I know hasn’t changed in years. I’m almost the same way with some local breweries here – I know what a straight up wheat beer tastes like. I’m probably not going to order one up if I know nothing has changed. Now, age that wheat beer in a champagne barrel, or add some spices, or just try anything new, and I’m more than likely to at least ask for a sample.

There are some BBC beers that are fresh and innovative, like their Utopia collection. But I refuse to pay $50 to fill my car with gas to get to work (model employee here, folks) – I’m not going to spend four times that much on a beer. Sorry. And they’re also extremely difficult to get. I at least have a chance of getting my hands on Zombie Dust every now and then. 

Again, the craft beer industry probably isn’t where it is today without what Koch did 20ish years ago. But if Koch wants a BBC beer on that menu, he probably should brew a beer worth a spot. Nobody is bending over backwards for the same Boston Lager that has been brewed and mass distributed for the last 20 years.

I mean, seriously, check out the menu… you tell me if Boston lager deserves a spot in here.

5) In terms of quality, location and production, what separates Sam Adams from any other yellow fizzy companies?

Don’t get me wrong – Boston Lager is still a better option than any MBC. And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with contract brewing or brewing at new locations. Lagunitas now also brews in Chicago, meaning I can get their beers in Indiana, which is cool! But I look at BBC in the same light as Heineken or Stella Artois. They’re all marketed as being higher quality, better beers, but A) they’re not, and B) they’re usually sold at the same price point as your good local options. Why would you pay $5 for a pint of Boston Lager when you can spend that same $5 and get something from Three Floyds or Triton or Flat 12 or (insert your favorite local brewery here)? AND, when you drink local, you’re supporting local businesses in your community. When I buy a Sam Adams, I’m supporting a billionaire with multiple degrees from Harvard who once worked with a younger (but probably still handsome) Mitt Romney.

So what I’m saying is, not much separates them in my eyes, except for market share. They still spend tons of money on ad space (remeber that commercial where they have a bunch of “cool” looking dudes say they were surprised to be drinking Boston Lager? I can’t imagine the commercial callout for that – “cooky facial hair required, multiple fedoras a must”), they have a carefully crafted public image, their brewery tours serve more as museum walk throughs, and they’re the makers behind stuff we didn’t know about – BBC also makes the Twisted Tea and Angry Orchard products, but you wouldn’t know that because Koch won’t put the BBC name on any of their packaging so beer fans won’t associate the two.

Does a man who makes and mass distributes a product that he refuses to put his name on sound like a man that is proud of his craft? 

Quality? Sam Adams uses better ingredients and is by far a superior tasting product than Bud Light. Fact.

Production? Boston Brewing Company produced a fraction of the beer that Anheuser-Busch can crank out. Fact.

But perhaps this question isn’t highlighting the real point. Obviously Sam Adams beers are “better” than Bush, Natty, and High Life. But is that the standard a craft brewer should hold for themselves? If that is your standard the new ad campaign should read “Sam Adams: We taste better than rams piss” or “Look for our Same old shit at the Airport Chili’s near you.” or even, “Sam Adams for Romney! 2016”

6)Do you know the muffin man?

I do. Carlos and I used to run the block in La Jolla back the day.

7) What’s love got to do with it?

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

8) Can you make any analogies to art/music/film where an innovator changed a genre/medium forever but their failure to continue to innovate left them trampled by their successor and now utterly fucking irrelevant?

I can’t speak for art much, but god it happens all the time in music. Band gets big with an innovative sound/album, doesn’t change or evolve that sound, five albums later the only people still listening are the people who just found out about said band (mostly teenagers, because teenagers are stupid). You’ve got to evolve at least a little bit if you want people to see you as new and exciting. 

Craft brewers across the country are standing on shoulders of giants. Jim Koch was part of the small handful of people who were the spark that was a burgeoning American craft beer world. But now craft brewing in America is a fire that is growing every day. Over the last 20-plus years, craft brewers arose from every corner of this country to create amazing beer. Beers inspired by local and global influences. Beers that inspire fierce loyalty from the people who drink them. At this point, Sam Adams and Boston Beer Company are just a fading ember (that happened to make a billion dollars along the way.)

9) Will you go to prom with me?

Only if Kumiko, my Japanese body pillow, can come too.

You readers have any thoughts? Shout them out in the comments below, or hit us on Facebook or Twitter @BaldGuyBeardGuy.

See you next time

-Bald & Bearded

10628151_10204145827663482_8832007425039619762_n (1)10301358_10202609972145598_2786630626959384797_n

2014 Proves That Code Orange Is King

A few weeks ago, I tweeted out that I wouldn’t give the time of day to any “end of the year/best albums of 2014” list that didn’t include Code Orange’s (formerly Code Orange Kids) I Am King on it. The Pittsburgh hardcore act’s sophomore full length is heavy, frantic, soulful, angry, and deep. It numbs your mind. It is some of the most violent music I have ever heard, and it is my favorite album of the year.

I get hard pressed to actually get excited about listening to an album. Yes, there’s the jitter and joy of the first notes of a newly purchased album, or the notification from iTunes that my pre-order has finally downloaded (forgive me – it’s been years since I’ve bought a physical CD. Apartment living, y’all). There’s the wondering of, after the release date is announced to the masses, what direction a band will take their sound in, leading to exactly half the fan base either being excited for or disappointed in the band’s new turn.

Most of the time, the luster fades. (Notice how I said MOST of the time.)

Not I Am King, though. From the opening (literal) blasts of the title track, I still get excited time and time again to listen to this album. It’s as if Code Orange is sounding the trumpets, not as heralds announcing a new leader, but as outside force warning you they’ve come to tear down your city’s walls, and fuck all that remain in the way. This is their scene now.

The album flows between traditional hardcore (“Unclean Spirit,” featuring a cameo from the godfather Scott Vogel) to grunge (“Dreams in Inertia”) to shifting, chaotic metalcore (“My World,” voted one of Alternative Press’ 10 heaviest breakdowns of 2014), without ever hitting a bump or a track feeling out of place. It simply flows about as perfectly as any album I’ve ever heard, regardless of genre.

More than just being a masterfully written album, I Am King has so much attitude. Code Orange themselves carry an attitude of, “this is how music/hardcore/the world is now. There was before us, and now there is after us.,” and I Am King echos that. It imparts on the listener that hardcore music has changed. It leaves you thinking, “what the hell did I just listen to,” before pressing play again. And the band is still so young, with the average age of the band hovering around 21 years old, that it is fair to expect even more earth shattering music out of them.

I can ask you to listen to I Am King, knowing that many of you won’t. Heavy music isn’t for everyone, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve stopped trying to change people’s minds to even accepting hardcore or heavy metal as legitimate forms of music. I am okay with that, and Code Orange is too, constantly saying things along the lines of

In a lengthy piece for Pitchfork on the rise of what some have called The New Wave of Post-Hardcore, Ian Cohen says of Code Orange, “while [TNWOPH] bands were committed to realization and cohesion, Code Orange were an uncontrolled hurricane of ideas and information, all crashing on your head at once… as exciting as the crest has been, the trough is inevitable and hopefully, more bands will take after I Am King and have the audacity to call themselves the new New Wave.”

Hopefully they do.

“It’s Not Your Fault” – Can We Be “Manly” & Talk About Mental Health?

Good Will Hunting is an excellent movie. I don’t think I need to qualify that statement in any way, shape or form. It’s a gut wrenching look at the struggles of a boy caught between the tragedy of his youth and the promise of his adulthood; he is forced to come to terms with himself in all his complexities. There is, two-thirds of the way through the film, a particularly poignant scene of emotional and psychological importance not only to Will, but to the audience as well. In the cluttered, suburban office of psychologist Sean Maguire, the audience becomes fully aware of the horrors of Will’s past. I refer of course to the “it’s not your fault” scene, a scene saddled by the revelation of Will’s abuse within the foster system and his admittance of his own psychological trauma. While we, as men, may not all be unfairly saddled with the mental and physical burdens of a brutal beating, we all carry our own, individual burdens. To some, these feel as heavy and as viscerally painful as a blow from a wrench; mental health issues can bring just as much physical pain.

The primacy of this scene was brought all too clearly into our homes this past August. Robin Williams, the man who played Sean Maguire as a caring and experienced psychologist, lost his own battle with mental illness. It was relatively well known that Mr. Williams suffered from depression, a disease that had eaten away at his ability to cope with his own struggles in life. Depression, as some of us know, is not the flu. It has no cure, no magic bullet. You learn to deal a little better every day but sometimes, life can just beat you down until that black shadow of yourself wins, as it did with him. While Mr. William’s death was certainly an unimaginable tragedy there are lessons to be learned from the experience. Lessons about humanity, lessons about healing, and lessons about masculinity.

If you look below the surface, it should be obvious to you that something is rotten in the state of our manhood. The overwhelming majority of suicide cases in this country are men, and men suffer from much higher rates of violent death and risk taking behavior. We suffer from a range of endemic mental issues that are difficult to see if you don’t look hard. But you really don’t need to look hard. You just need to look at yourself and your peers. We, as men, suffer from a lack of openness about our mental health just as much as our physical health. We are hemmed in by a burdensome series of cultural expectations as to what it means to be a man, one where any show of distress or cry for help can be seen as a sign of weakness. A sign that we aren’t a “real man.” The image of a “real man” is of a stalwart colossus, an individual who takes everything in stride with nary a whimper.

What, then, is the best image of a “real man” in today’s society? In my esteemed opinion, John Wayne. He’s rugged, stoic, refuses to show feeling, and is unfazed by any wound, mental or physical. Any list of adjectives for John Wayne would no doubt omit “open”. In films Wayne’s character was often his own prison keeper, a trait that is equally as common in our day-to-day lives as it was on the big screen. As a result, we lash out at our loved ones, we fall into depression, we put our fist through a wall, we drink and drive. In the end, we hurt the one person we have to live with for the longest time: ourselves. This wall of stoicism and the resulting un-emotive lifestyle has the same debilitating effect on our overall health as long term smoking, eating poorly, or wallowing in alcohol: it cheats us of the ability to enjoy our time on earth and live a long, healthy, fulfilling life. If only there was a way to alleviate this pain.

Probably the only thing that John Wayne never does to fix his problems is talk about them. The wall of masculine stoicism posits that any show of emotion is a sign of weakness. Any distress or discomfort, a sign of cowardice. Would you be able to survive in any relationship without communicating your feelings? How about communicating with yourself or about yourself to another? Simply communicating what has been worrying your mind for weeks or months can be an incredibly liberating experience. Confessing your fear, your guilt, your anxiety can alleviate a good deal of the mental stressors we accumulate in life. In the right situations and with the right people, it can save your life. It saved mine.

For two-thirds of my life I’ve suffered from a diagnosed anxiety disorder. For many years I was unable to do well in school and unable to make friends. As a ten-year-old child I would routinely be unable to sleep for days on end. Anxiety was literally ruining my life before I even got a chance to live it.  I’m one of the lucky ones though. My parents and educators weren’t stuck in the unhelpful mire of our culture’s traditional masculinity. I was able to get help from a wonderful psychologist who helped me deal with these thoughts, impulses, habits, and traumas which were the root cause of my issues. For over a decade I was able to live a life with an average amount of stress; I slept well, lived well, and had fun. The overwhelming majority of my symptoms disappeared and I lived as average a life as any other. One recent exception to my “sobriety”, so to speak, has forced me to reflect on my experiences with mental health issues. Lately the stresses of graduate school have taken its tole on me, causing a near debilitating hike in my levels of anxiety. I sank low. I hated myself. For weeks I was in a severely depressive state alleviated only by the sleep which followed my half-hearted attempts at completing my school-work. Thanks to my earlier experiences with openness and communication I was able to recognize many of the signs of my anxiety that I hadn’t seen for over a decade. Critical in this process of introspection was an open emotionally communicative relationship I have with my mother. Thanks to being open and honest about my mental state I was able to get help and move forward. I’m back to being the goofy and sarcastic person I am. The critical takeaway lesson is that none of my improvement would have been achieved if I wasn’t willing to be open about it.

I’m going to ask something small of you gentlemen. It’s as labor intensive as shaving in the morning. I’m not asking you to carve a home from the wilderness or write a book on string theory. I’m just asking you to change your idea of masculinity just a little. I’m asking you to be open. Tell your mom about your stresses, talk to your best friend about your girl/boy. To be open to seeing a therapist if it affects your day-to-day life. Because you, your happiness, and your well being are worth it. Don’t be a statistic; be an emotionally open and aware man. And just as important, be an emotionally open friend, brother, father, boyfriend, or stranger. It could save a life.

 

W.H. London

Be More

We all have words we live by. We read them in novels and hear them in songs. We learn them from our parents, teachers and mentors. The words we live by become our personal mottos. Tattooed over my heart are the words, “If you see it, you are responsible for it.” Like all personal mottos, it is intentionally broad and vague (ie. “treat others as you would like to be treated,” or “Be the change you wish to see in the world” or “Everybody wang-chung tonight”).

I first heard the words that are now emblazoned on my chest when I was 15. I was on a service trip to Haiti and working on various projects for an organization that helped rehabilitate and educate street children of the city of Cap Haitien. Before I landed in Port-au-Prince for the first time, my world was small, safe and comfortable. I had heard of poverty and struggle but had no practical understanding of it. I was, for all intents and purposes, a spoiled white kid. After a few short days in Haiti, I had seen more reality than I could handle. I saw children, orphaned or abandoned by their families, involved in gangs, huffing paint thinner, fighting and killing for a place on the street to sleep…all before age 9. It wasn’t  just the things I saw that tore me apart inside; what weighed on me most was knowing that I could do nothing about it. I had seen injustice and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. On the last night of that short trip I voiced this feeling of helplessness to my teacher and mentor, Guy Simonelli. Guy is the sort of man that embodies wisdom, compassion, and masculinity (Think Ernest Hemingway, Pope Francis, and Ron Swanson). I told Guy that I wanted to help those kids on the street. I wanted to make this world a better place. Essentially, I asked him how to change the world. His response was simple. “Conor,” he said, “If you see it, you are responsible for it.” At 15, I took it on myself to adopt that simple phrase as my mantra – my guide to living a purposeful life dedicated to service of others.

For years, those words reminded me that I cannot stand idly by and wait for someone else to come along and do the right thing. It is my responsibility to act on every injustice I see. I didn’t see that responsibility as a burden, but as an opportunity to do better, to be more.

Over ten years later, I still read those words on my chest every morning. But now, something is different. I think overtime, as naivete was replaced with cynicism,  I started to ignore my “responsibility.” I began to rationalize my way out of simple actions to do the right thing. I would walk past homeless people in my neighborhood and think, “I should buy him coffee,” only to continue walking and not act on my inclination to do the right thing. I had failed to act so many times that the words on my chest were no longer my mantra to live a purposeful life. The words tattooed over my heart were simply that…words.

I didn’t truly realize that until recently. On Monday morning, I attended a lecture from a man who spent 4 years in the Swiss Guard for Pope John Paul II. His lecture was titled, I Served a Saint. During his impassioned talk about his own life and his relationship with the now-Saint Pope John Paul II,  he recounted stories of the humanity and the humility of the Pope. He told the audience about the Popes struggles and determination to serve others. But what stuck with me most was a quote from JP II. It was simple and broad (like most life mottos are). All he said was, “be more.”

Be more.

Those two words lit a fire in me. They opened my eyes. They made me see how I had fallen short in my mission to live my life in service to others. I realized that I had failed and allowed the words I live by to become just words. Without action, the words that guide me we all for naught. Change can not come from good intentions alone. I saw, then, I have to be more and do more. I have to act and take responsibility for the things I see.

We are all guilty of inaction at some point our lives. We fail to hold the door for someone or pick up trash on the street. We fail to write that thank you note, even though we had all the  intentions of doing it. We fail to make that donation to a friends charity 5k even though we “totally meant to”. Good intentions only go so far. We, as a society, can’t rest on our laurels of that “one time I did (insert good deed here).” We need to listen to the good inside us all and act. We will fail along the way, because we always do. But we need to be conscious of our failure and always strive to “be more.”

We all have mottos we live by. Words that guide us through struggles. Words that show us how to treat others. Words that help us make the world a better place. All of our mottos are different, just as our goals in life are different. But if we don’t act and live out our mottos, they will become just words.

CF O’Rourke

Why Movember Matters

Men are not the best at talking about things. I don’t think saying that is going to upset anyone. We are especially inept at discussing issues of health. I’m a prime example – I once waited to tell someone about my appendix nearly rupturing because I didn’t want to bother anyone, while trying to convince myself that I just had to poop really badly. Men grow old with “creaky knees,” “bad backs,” and “just some pain” because, generally speaking, we’re stubborn idiot children.

One-in-seven men will be diagnosed with prostate
cancer during their lifetime. ONE-IN-SEVEN!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Disregarding the signals our body sends us doesn’t make you any more of a “man,” just as waiting for my appendix to burst (sending me to an end most certainly worse than just waking my dad up to tell him something was wrong would have) didn’t show anyone how “tough” and “strong” I was. It showed how freaking stupid I was. And there are men, teens, husbands, fathers, sons, uncles, and brothers worldwide that live (and die) like that. Ridiculous.

Movember is an international organization that is working towards changing that.

Each year, men around the world shave clean the morning of November 1st (or October 31st, if you’re ambitious), and grow a mustache through the entire month. The aim is simple – people ask you about your mustache, you tell them about Movember and hit them with some cold truths about men’s health issues.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15-35 years

Along with spreading this information, they’re also encouraged to solicit donations towards the Movember organization, 83.8% of which goes directly to programs that deal with men’s health issues like prostate and testicular cancer, mental health, and even aiding in helping first time dads prepare for fatherhood. Pretty awesome, no?

Conor got us started with Movember four years ago at Wittenberg University, and to this date we talk throughout the whole year about how excited we are for November 1st to come around. Not only are we helping bring light to men’s health issues around the world, but we also get to grow awesome mustaches while we do it (okay, mine is not so awesome. Thanks, Dad, for the genetics).

In 2010, a total of 38,364 Americans died by suicide
and over three-quarters (79%) of these suicides were men

We can’t do it alone though. We need the help of our Mo Bros and Mo Sistas. So that’s why we ask you to join the Bald & Bearded Movember team this year and help us change the face of men’s health. If you can donate a little – awesome. If you can spread some info – just as awesome. We as a people can’t stay silent any longer on the issues of men’s health. There’s nothing “tough” or “cool” about an early death from a disease that could have been handled if we just were open with our doctors and families.

Shave tomorrow morning, and grow that ‘mo. We look forward to you joining us.

Cutting the Ribbon: Ending Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s Economy of Pink

In the spring of 2010, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. What followed was a pretty shitty summer that got shittier when I had to return to college for my senior year, three hours away from her and my family as she went through treatment after treatment, struggling against a disease that will claim the lives of approximately 40,000 women in 2014. It is not something I talk lightly, or even openly, about. To watch a family member struggle, and to feel helpless in alleviating their pain and heartache, is a burden I wish on no one.

Prefacing that, I must tell you: I hate October, and what we know as “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

(That is to say, I do not hate efforts made to raise awareness for breast cancer, though I do question, in 2014, how much more “awareness” do we really need?)

No, what draws my ire is the “economy of pink” that we are surrounded with for the month of October. We drape pink ribbon through the aisles of our grocery stores, we dye our city’s canals pink (it never comes out right. Ever.), energy drink companies hock special Breast Cancer-related pink lemonade flavors, and professional and collegiate athletic teams wear pink-tinged gear, all for some reason. There are allusions to “portions of all proceeds” being donated towards “research,” pleas to “join us in the fight,” and challenges to “show your support.”

What we’re being sold on is not providing direct support to programs working towards a cure for cancer, but instead supporting the pocketbooks of those that have created the culture of pink. Launched in 2002 by the group Breast Cancer Action, the Think Before You Pink project has worked hard to dispel that culture, providing consumers with evidence as to where their dollars go when they support these companies in their “support.”

EXAMPLE: In 2010, Dansko shoe company sold pink ribbon clogs. Consumers likely thought that a portion of their purchase of pink ribbon clogs went to a breast cancer program. However, purchase of the pink ribbon clogs was not connected to Dansko’s donation—none of the portion of the sales went toward their already set donation of $25,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. No matter whether or not you bought the clogs, their donation was the same.

Companies, such as Foot Locker, also state that a portion of the profits earned off of pink products are donated to various organizations that support the fight against breast cancer. What they do not make known is that they have set a cap on how much of their proceeds they will actually donate, be it $250,000 or $2,500. And, of course, they do not inform their consumers when they have hit that cap, meaning people will continue to purchase the pink items thinking they are contributing to the “fight.”

The NFL itself has recently come under fire after light has been shown upon their “Crucial Catch” program, a program that actually spreads misinformation regarding breast cancer to its female viewers (shocking, I know, that the NFL is out of touch with issues that actually affect women). While the NFL sells the idea that “early detection is key,” studies exist that show early detection does not in fact save lives, along with leading to patients being over-diagnosed, and that the health programs pushed by the NFL and its “Crucial Catch” program actually spread information that is harmful to women.
Outside of the “Crucial Catch” program, the NFL also forces players to wear gear that is highlighted pink during their October games, under the guise of “raising awareness.” Fans can purchase similar gear directly from the NFL’s online shop. When clicking on an item, its description reads, “100% of the NFL’s proceeds from Pink product sales go to the American Cancer Society. For further information, please visit www.NFL.com/Pink.

If you follow the link to www.NFL.com/pink, it takes you the homepage for the “Crucial Catch” program, with some basic statistics on breast cancer and a link to donate directly to the American Cancer Society. At the bottom of the page, it reads,

All NFL Pink product is produced by official NFL licensees. As NFL licensees, such companies pay a royalty (% of wholesale sales) to the NFL when selling officially licensed products to retailers worldwide. The NFL receives payment of that wholesale royalty once licensees sell their respective NFL licensed products to distributors and retailers (i.e., the royalty is not based on retailers’ consumer-facing prices in-store or online).

What does this mean? For every $100 in pink gear sold, $12.50 goes back to the NFL. Of that $12.50, it donates $11.25 to the American Cancer Society and keeps the rest. The remaining money from that sale is then divided up between the company that makes the merchandise and the company that sells the merchandise, which, get this, is often the NFL and its individual teams. And, of that $11.25 that goes to the ACS, only 71.2$ actually goes towards research and programs. [www.businessinsider.com]

Couple that with the knowledge that the machines used in the early detection screenings the “Crucial Catch” program pushes are made by GE, an NFL corporate partner, it is easy to see how your time and dollar could be put to better use.

The NCAA’s football teams, along with several female programs, also deck their players out in pink gear, primarily under the guise of “raising awareness” and “showing support.” The official NCAA shop does not sell pink gear, and the largest retailer that does, www.cbssports.com, makes no mention of any financial support being provided to breast cancer research or programs, instead saying only, “Support pink ribbon culture and show your team’s part in the battle against breast cancer with pink ribbon T-Shirts, Hats, Sweatshirts and Accessories… Get ready for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and order your pink hat, T-Shirt, hoodie or pink ribbon bracelet and have it shipped with our low $4.99 3-day shipping.”

Now with low $4.99 3-day shipping!

The list of corporations that exploit the goodwill and dollars of its consumers in the name of “support” goes on and on, including Kohls, Living Essentials, LLC (the maker of 5-Hour Energy, which will donate only 5%, or approximately $.11, to the Living Beyond Breast Cancer program), and even KFC (whose grilled chicken includes a byproduct listed as a carcinogen in the state of California).

Instead of choosing to support (with your dollars, because in the end financial support is the only thing that will effectively make a difference towards curing cancer) these corporations, take the time to research local organizations in your area that are doing amazing, hands-on work to actually provide care and support to women, men, and their families fighting breast cancer in your area.

One such program here in Indiana is 100 Voices of Hope at the Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. In Chicago, there is the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, which works towards eliminating the gap in health care available to women who are without insurance or are living in low-income areas through advocating for increased funding to programs that provide free screenings for uninsured women, along with working with legislative officials to actively affect policy and improve healthcare for women of all race, ethnicity, and economic background.

For your hometown, www.GuideStar.org/NonprofitDirectory.aspx provides a simple and detailed listing of organizations in your area with which you can actively help in making a difference.

It is on all of our shoulders to stop buying into the economy of pink, while educating ourselves in how our money given in “support” is actually spent. It might be too much to hope that an organization like the NFL would succumb to actual social pressure, but perhaps next October, with dollars better spent, we, as the brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, and friends of breast cancer patients worldwide, can began to show the business community what support actually means.

We Are Here

Great ball players get into slumps all of the time. Many of them spend every at bat trying to dig in and swing for the fences when all they need is a single to get out of that slump and get their confidence back.

Bald & Bearded has gone silent for several months now and I have barely put pen to paper. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I was so consumed with going yard that I forgot that all it take is a little poke to get on base. So here it is, my little shot that sneaks past the shortstop and gets me on base for the first time after a long dry spell.

My whole life, I have struggled to find the simple solution of taking small steps to accomplish a goal. In my academic life, I would procrastinate until the dozen small projects I needed to accomplish were compacted into an insurmountable task that I could not finish. In my athletic life, the one thing that held me back from being a great swimmer was my own head. I would psych myself up and then psych myself out and never could reach that next level. These facts are still true about me in my professional life and my personal life.

I sat at my keyboard earlier today to write as I had done several times in the radio silence of the last few months. I began to write about all of the reasons I haven’t written and all of the things I have wanted to say. I tried to process months worth of thoughts and emotion and capture them into one blog post. After paragraph after failed paragraph, I broke. I could not tackle the insurmountable task in front of me that my procrastination had created. I couldn’t do anything but cry and think that I had psyched myself out again, and failed.

One of these days, I will tell you about the break up. I will tell you about my constant search for home. I will tell you about my struggles with depression. I will tell you about my shortcomings, but I will also tell you about my dreams. I will tell you about my goals.I will tell you about the time I watched the sunset in the intracoastal with some of the most important people in my life. I will tell you about the band that changed my life and the concert that made me feel things I never thought music could make me feel. I will tell you why I am running out of excuses to not try that open mic night at the bar down the street. I will tell you about my search to reconnect with God and my faith. I will tell you all about who am I am and who I want to be as I pick up the pieces and rebuild. I will tell you everything, but in small doses. One story at a time. We will work through it all, together.

So there it is. One swing, one hit to get the confidence back. Bald&Bearded may have gone quiet, but we are not gone. We are here.

-CF O’Rourke

“You haven’t seen all the good inside me yet, I know. Maybe I should see that in myself again.” -Augustines

Live From GnawBrew

Recently I was approached by my good friend and coworker Jon McNabb who had recently began working and writing for the great website indianaontap.com and had been asked to travel to Gnaw Bone, IN to cover the 5th Annual GnawBrew Beer, Art & Music Festival. Jon has always had a great knowledge of not just the skill and process that goes into making great craft beer but also of the history of Indiana’s breweries and what they add to the state’s beer culture, and he wanted an extra set of hands in the field to take notes, chat with the brewers and staff, and (most importantly) taste as much of the available beer as possible. I couldn’t resist. So, the morning of Saturday, July 26th, we loaded into my Ford our sleeping bags, a tent, snacks, water, and enough beer to fuel a festival of our own, and headed east on State Road 46. What follows is a recap of (I think) all the beer we drank, the great food we shared, and insight into each brewery we visited and the great people behind the scenes that are helping put Indiana on the craft beer map.

(UPDATE: You can read Jon’s article for Indiana On Tap here! Give it a read!)

1:00 PM – We stop for lunch at Big Woods Brewing Company in Nashville, IN. This brewery and restaurant has been on the recent uptick, purchasing the whole of a second building to run their brewery, accessory shop, classroom, and an additional pizza shop out of, to go with their standalone restaurant across the alleyway (they call the compound Big Woods Village). Jon and I split an order of BBQ pulled pork nachos, followed by an order of seared ahi-tuna tacos with a sriracha cream sauce (perfect for a humid summer day) for me and some “whammies,” their take on sliders, for Jon. Paired with my lunch were two pints of their Hair Trigger IPA, a hoppy and crispy beer that is fast growing one my favorite IPAs around, and which also served the hair of the dog for me (I had spent the previous night “prepping” for the beer fest, duh).

2:45 PM – We arrive at eXplore Brown County at the Valley Branch Retreat, home of this year’s GnawBrew. After locating the check-in booth, we pick up our (what I liked to call) VIP bands, letting those around us know that the “media” had arrived (no one cared about this more than I did).

3:00 PM – A short trail hike (where Jon drinks the popular orange variant of Sun King’s Fistful of Hops and I a can of Rocket Girl Golden Lager from Asheville [N.C.] Brewing Company) leads us into the heart of the festival, but not before passing the hundreds of tents, campers, and RVs set up by the festival goers who were in it for the long haul. Jon and I both remark that we have never seen a festival quite like this: Woodstock-meets-beerfest-meets-backwoods-hippie-commune. Carharts, camo, dreadlocks, beards, tattoos, couples, college kids – this place has it all. At that point, being our first GnawBrew experience, we are not nearly sure what to expect.

When we finally make it the entrance of the festival, we’re taken aback. At the entrance sits a stage where the day’s musical acts will be performing well into the night. The vendors themselves are set up along a loop around the outside of the grounds, mixing some of the state’s big name breweries with up-and-comers and homebrewers, as well as food trucks, artists, and vendors alike. What better way than to start at the beginning, we decide.

3:02 PM – It is horrifyingly humid, we’ve just realized. See?

IMG_1722

Only a little hot…

3:05 PM – First brewery up: Power House Brewing Co. out of Columbus, IN. We both go for the Ceraline Cream Ale, named for the old Ceraline Mill in Columbus where, as legend has it, the corn flake was first produced. Keeping with tradition, Power House brews this beer with flaked corn, adding to the beer a crisp and sweet finish. We talked with Assistant Brewer Ritch Mettert about their process, providing good craft beer to their area of southeastern Indiana, and even the tale of “Jack the Bum,” the old legend of a man in the 1930s who lived in a shack by a local river who would save local children from drowning, and who also serves as the namesake for their award winning Ale.

IMG_1706

Power House Brewing Co., Columbus, IN

3:15 PM – We move down the line to Three Pints Brewing Co., who hail from Plainfield, IN and are in the midst of opening a second location in Martinsville, IN. I ask for a Meager Giant IPA from the attending sales associate, who is in fact himself a giant (I don’t think the humor was lost on him). As IPAs go, this was a really good IPA – hoppy, a diverse and full flavor, and refreshing in the patented southeastern Indiana humidity.

IMG_1707

Three Pints Brewing Co., Plainfield & Martinsville, IN

3:20 PM – We stick around the Three Pints tent and talk to their employees about their expansion to Martinsville, a small town between Bloomington and Indianapolis that hasn’t really been known for its arts or craft beer scene. Being small town Indiana folks themselves, they saw a perfect chance to fill a niche in Martinsville for its citizens, as well as create a reason for people driving past on SR-37 to stop and visit a town often forgotten outside of a place for gas or Starbucks (what a great mission, honestly). Jon and I both try a beer called Yoshi’s Nectar, their take on a California Common, a beer popularized in the 1800s through the use of lager yeasts that, due to the lack of refrigeration, had been adapted to the warmer ale fermentation temperatures, resulting in a smooth, not overly-hoppy blend of ale and lager flavors. We both agree that we could stay and drink Yoshi’s Nectar all day, if not for the other brewers.

3:30 PM – We arrive at the tent of a brewery that Jon is very excited for: Taxman Brewing Company from Bargersville, IN. Easily some of the coolest marketing of not just the festival but any brewery I’ve seen,

IMG_1708

Taxman prides itself on making beers in the vein of the small-batch artisanal brews you’d find around Europe and the Americas. I opt for Deduction, a Belgian Dubbel, which is a stretch for me as I don’t favor the usual bitterness of Belgian beers too much. Deduction, however, was a really pleasant surprise, with a bitterness and sweetness that hits you on the front of your tongue, but doesn’t linger long leaving for a light finish, even at 7.8% ABV.

We linger again around Taxman after we’ve met a gentlemen that used to work the Indiana University Foundation, both Jon’s and my current employer. After name dropping people we’ve both had the chance to work with through the foundation, we part ways, but are left with the lasting impression that the Indiana craft beer scene truly is a homegrown one, made up of people born with a passion for making the best local beer possible and finding avenues to share their work with everyone they can.

3:35 PM – Jon and I move one over to Cutters Brewing Company. After starting a small production brewery in Bloomington, the company moved to Avon, IN in 2012 to expand their production and their reach through the state. Cutters lives its slogan to a tee: “Hard Working Beer.” They don’t set out to be the mad scientists of the craft beer world, instead opting to focus on perfecting a few recipes that leave you with the same satisfied feeling after each sip. I choose my favorite of theirs, the Half Court IPA, a nod to the rich basketball tradition of Indiana. A moderate bodied beer, Half Court is balanced enough to appease both newcomers and IPA veterans alike. Though we don’t linger long, the associates from Cutters make it sound like they’re headed for big things across the state in the near future, and even offered us space next to them to set up our tents and kill their kegs with them post-festival. Definitely a brewery to keep your eye on.

IMG_1709

The beer choice from Cutters Brewing Company, Avon, IN

3:37 PM – I’m now feeling the results of what happens when you pour multiple types of beer on top of each other. I am beginning to embrace my backwoods-ness, and may never leave. Is that “Dueling Banjos” I hear?

3:40 PM – We’ve now reached a table we’re both excited for – Bloomington Hop Jockeys. A club devoted to the specific art of homebrewing (and one that Jon and his father, Dan, belong to), this is a true homegrown operation that welcomes both beginners and experts to help in its initiatives. We both opt for the Liz Lemongrass Ale, and are knocked back immediately. Easily the best beer of the day, this Ale has a light and grassy sweetness I’ve never encountered in a beer. When I say I could drink 100 of these beers, I don’t speak in exaggerations. If they were in the production stages, I would always make sure my fridge would have it in stock. Bloomington Hop Jockeys is just another example of the ingenuity of everyday Hoosiers adding to and diversifying an already strong and ever-growing craft beer scene.

IMG_1714

The best beer of the day by Bloomington Hop Jockeys, Bloomington, IN

3:45 PM – After opting for a few more Liz Lemongrass Ales, Jon and I decide to survey the campgrounds found at the back end of the festival. On the other side of a 40 ft. hill, we find what I think to be a game changer – a lake. Already filled with patrons and revelers, I vow, in my beer-and-humidity-induced haze to return for a cool off (I didn’t pack swim trunks, so who knew how that would happen).

3:50 PM – We head back to the homebrew section of the festival and try the Moose Knuckle Brown Ale, an (obviously) Brown Ale that tastes surprisingly refreshing for as hot a day as it was. Again, I’m floored by the clean quality and diversity of flavor in these locally brewed beers.

IMG_1721

A member of Team Moose Knuckle pouring a delicious Brown Ale

We’ve now been at GnawBrew for around and hour and patrons are still pouring into the gates. There are more chairs being set up in front of the stage by people coming to enjoy the shows, and you can see more tents and campsites popping up around the grounds. What has resonated with both Jon and I though is that, because of the small amount of tickets sold for the festival overall (around 800), there isn’t an overwhelming amount of people there. This afforded us and every person who wished the opportunity to talk personally one-on-one with the brewers and associates. This is an integral piece of craft brewing anywhere you go: it’s important to drinkers to know what makes their beer and where it comes from, but craft beer drinkers also want to know the hands that made their beer. And brewers, as much as any other artist, want to be known and be integral parts of the communities that they serve. And GnawBrew is working to make that happen.

4:00 PM – Time for another one of my favorite breweries – Fountain Square Brewery, out of Indianapolis, IN, pouring one of my favorites, Hop for Teacher Pale Ale. An American Pale Ale that is more aggressively hopped than you would expect, as they put it, “the slightly bitter finish will keep the hop heads coming back.” As we lingered at their tent for a few minutes, Travis Wilkinson, an associate with Fountain Square Brewing introduced himself to Jon and me. We began a long (well, to be honest, it felt long. Time was a foreign concept at this point) discussion about the culture of craft beer in Indiana, why homegrown events like GnawBrew are important to help advance the breweries that haven’t found their reach yet, what the heavy hitters of Indiana brewing (Sun King Brewing and 3 Floyds Brewing Co. for example) can do to advance Indiana beer on a national scale while shining light on the smaller operations as well, along with the philosophies behind beards and curly-q mustaches. Again, these aren’t conversations you’d be able to have at a Chicago or Indianapolis beerfest.

IMG_1724

Marketing for Fountain Square Brewing Co., obviously

4:05 PM – I’m sure more than five minutes passed, but we found the bottom of the keg of Hop for Teacher, which prompted brewer Shawn Byrnes to bring out pitchers of Preacher’s Daughter Amber Ale, brewed with a balance of caramel and biscuit malts. Byrnes sees to it that our cups are never empty. Hoosier hospitality, y’all.

4:10 PM – I felt it important to note here that I got a high five. Not sure why, or from who. But I got one.

4:35 PM – We head over the tent for Zwanzigs, a restaurant and pizzeria in Columbus, IN, and another beer that Jon couldn’t wait to try. Though they didn’t have the beer brewed with ghost peppers that he was looking forward to, they did bring with them a great Porter, as well as a delicious Gose (I underlined it in my notes, so it was obviously pretty great) brewed with sea salt and coriander (surprising I know, but that speaks to the ingenuity of Indiana brewers).

IMG_1726

Beer list for Zwanzigz, from Columbus, IN

4:40 PM – We move next door to one of my new favorite breweries – New Albanian Brewing, from New Albany, IN. I again reach out for my comfort zone and go for their Bitter, Beak’s Best (the best individually marketed beer of the day, in my opinion), and am floored. A fruity balance that wasn’t overly sweet, this beer goes down with Liz Lemongrass from BHJ as two of my favorites on the day. The employees from New Albanian make sure to fill us in on some upcoming pop-up events they’ll be throwing, as well as some new chefs coming to their Pizzeria & Public House.

IMG_1729

My favorite poster of the day by New Albanian Brewing Co.

4:50 PM – I took time here to note how young and energetic the crowd is here. Most larger festivals you attend, there’s a large contingency of people there just to consume beer and get drunk. And yes, people at GnawBrew were having a great time, but they were taking their time like we were to chat with the brewers, learn about their beers, and make note of other events throughout the state they should attend.

5:25 PM – After another round with the New Albanian vendors, we moved on to Bloomington Brewing Co., one of the best brewers the Midwest has to offer. We shared a few of their signature 10 Speeds, a hoppy wheat beer, and Rooftops, their IPA (named for the Rooftop quarry made famous in the best sports movie ever, Breaking Away). We chatted again with some of the folks that had come over from BHJ before moving down once more.

IMG_1730

Bloomington Brewing Co., Bloomington, IN

5:55 PM – Next up was Twisted Crew from Seymour, IN. We were both looking forward to this one after sharing a few tweets back in forth in the days leading up with co-owner Joshua Lakins, and their beer did not disappoint. We drank more at this tent and Fountain Square than at any other, as we stuck around to talk with Laskins and his partner Elizabeth Eaken, a craft beer fan and Iron Man triathlete, again about beer, the philosophy of craft beer in Indiana, and comparing Lakins’ beard to mine (his wins – he has a coin to prove it). Jon and I are already arranging a trip to Seymour, IN just to see their facilities, taste more of their beer, and hang out with Lakins and Eaken some more.

IMG_1969

Merch from Twister Crew Brewing Company, Seymour, IN

IMG_1732

See? I told you Lakins had a coin.

6:20 PM – Following Twisted Crew was Brew Link Brewing and Supply, a brewery and craft beer equipment supplier from Plainfield, IN. I tasted their 21 Guns American IPA, and made VERY BIG NOTES to tell you that it was the best IPA I’d had all day, and they had even decorated their table with some of their hops, giving patrons an opportunity to feel and smell for themselves the ingredients in the beers they were drinking.Their website also features a shop to buy brewing equipment online, along with your grains, hops, extracts, and flavorings, and includes a “brewscussion” forum, for brewers and fans alike to gather and ask questions and bounce ideas off of each other. Quite a resource for anybody involved with or starting out in the brewing process!

IMG_1734

Beer list from Brew Link, including the festival’s best IPA

6:40 PM – We moved on to Tow Yard Brewing from Indianapolis. They brought with them a beer they were currently working on that was a blend between a Radler and a Shandy. Heavy on the citrus and soda flavors, they admitted the recipe was still a work in progress, but Jon and I agreed that what they had so far was delicious and in line with the traditions of Radlers everywhere.

IMG_1743

Tow Yard Brewing, Indianapolis, IN

Jon and I at this point felt it important to get some more food in our stomachs. Enter Big Daddy’s Donuts and BBQ Truck. While splitting some grilled tenderloin sandwiches in a spicy BBQ sauce and bag of mini donuts (and salivating over watching a brick-sized piece of lard melt in frying oil), we decided it’d be a great time to make a lap around the festival and take a look at the artists and vendors that had set up shop. We bought some shirts from River City Craft Wear, Jon picked up a new snifter glass, and we watched a man carve a family of bears into the stump of a tree with a chainsaw. Sure, why not?

Small note: this man also carved about a 4.5 foot tall beer bottle of of wood just for GnawBrew. I think I missed my calling in life.

IMG_1745

Melting lard – the most beautiful I have ever seen

IMG_1715

Hell of a marketing tool

7:05 PM – At this point, we decided to take a seat and listen to some of the performers. Bluegrass, southern rock, and country filled the air as we snacked on beef jerkey, nuts, and the rest of our mini donuts with some water. Clouds had begun to roll in, and text messages from my parents in Bloomington began to turn darker with news of approaching inclement weather. At this point we decided to finish out with the last brewery on the list.

As we stood up, we found ourselves in front of Douglas Talley, the man behind GnawBrew. He let us chew his ear for around 20 minutes as we asked about where GnawBrew came from, who he was trying to serve, and why we as craft beer fans appreciated what he was hosting. What started as a reason to drink good beer with his friends in his backyard and listen to good music, along with play with his own band Gravel Mouth, grew into a festival that all of Indiana could embrace, and that would bring the culture of craft brewing to a small pocket in southern Indiana that has for the last five years embraced it and helped it grow.

IMG_1747

Talley (in the black) addressing the GnawBrew crowd

7:35 PM – Fresh off our conversation with Talley, we finished where we began: Big Woods Brewing Company’s tent. We polished off a few more Yellow Dwarf Wheats and Hair Trigger IPAs before calling it an evening and making the hike back to my car (but not before another visit with our new best friends from Twisted Crew

When we arrived at my car, we opened up the back, had a seat, and shared some waters and more snacks while the tunes of The Menzingers played behind us from my car speakers. The winds had grown more cold and the clouds more ominous, so we decided for our own well being that camping was not in our best interest (when I was woken up at 2:30 AM by the sound of thunder rolling over my home, I was pleased with the decision). We packed up the beer, and through sheets of rain drove back west on SR-46 on to Bloomington.

GnawBrew is an event unlike any we’d ever been to. Credit goes to Douglas Talley for assembling such an array of brewers, from homegrown operations to some of the biggest names in the state, teamed with a great display of vendors and artists in a beautiful setting that separates itself from any other festival you’ll attend. Mark your calendar for the final Saturday in July of 2015 for the 6th annual GnawBrew Festival.

Cheers!

IMG_1755

Jon (right) and myself clearly enjoying ourselves

Part 3 : Closer to Fine

I was headed to New Hampshire. The state where I spent 9 summers as a boy.

I have so many memories of those summers on Lake Winnipesaukee. As the landmarks became familiar, I began to feel a rush of different emotions. I passed the Old Country Store in Moultonboro, where my brother and I would drink root beer from dark brown bottles and pretend to smoke candy cigarettes when I was 8 and he was 10. I felt the first real rush of nostalgia. I passed Pier 19, the ice cream stand and grocery we would stop at after we got out of camp for all of those summers. I could see the main lodge and the dock of my summer camp from Pier 19 and my heart began to pump with anxiety and excitement.

I had not been back to my camp since the summer of 2005. It has always been one of the most important places in the world to me. It is a sacred space and I could see it again, across the lake.

Nostalgia is hard to trust. It can give you an idea of what was and can allow you to create a new history. It can glorify a place long gone and leave it as perfection in your mind. I feared that when I returned to camp after so many years the feelings would have changed, the connection would have faded, and the magic would be dead.

I turned right at the YMCA Camp Belknap sign and drove down the dirt road and smelled the familiar spruce and dirt in the air. I heard the sounds of the youngest group of campers practicing the camp cheers and I felt something I had not felt in almost 9 years. I felt the same joy I felt in 1996 when I pulled onto that dirt road for the first time.

I walked all around camp. I saw all the cabins I lived in all of those years ago. I sat in the chapel under the great white pines as I looked down on the lake. I walked down to the lake as the newest crop of campers were taking their swim tests to see two old friends. We were campers together back in the 90’s and leaders together in the early oughts. It had been 9 years since I had seen these two, but it felt like only a few months had passed. The spirit of friendship had rekindled as if the fire had never gone out. I continued to meander through the centuries old pine groves and through the woods where I learned some of life’s greatest lessons. I made my way to the the main lodge that has stood at the shores of Winnipesaukee for almost 100 years. I sat on the railings of the porch and looked over the water at the sailboats and at Farm Island in the distance. On the porch, a metal ring suspended by string hung down from overhead. I would spend hours as a kid trying to catch that ring on the nail hammered into the post of the porch railing. The simplicity of the game brought me back to some of the happiest days of my life. I entered the lodge and was overtaken by the smell of summers past. It was an old, piney, smokey and musty smell that lived for generations. Nostalgia hadn’t deceived me. This place was the same, and the magic was still alive.

In the lodge, I heard the sound of guitars strumming. A tune I had not head in years, “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo girls. I heard a group of 10 or so young men singing the song, as I once had. I stood in the doorway looking out on the lake as the boys played on and I sang quietly to myself as the memories for the past and hopes of my future flooded through my heart and mind. As I sang the final lines, “There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine…”, I walked through the pines one last time touched the bark with my palm, bent down, and collected a pine cone and walked to my car. I drove away from camp with the dirt road behind me, like I had in summers past, with a tear in my eye.

I headed North to get away and to breathe cool mountain air. I went to drink the best beer in the world with great people. I went to find my own quiet, a new experience and to feel the nostalgia of the bliss of my youth. I found something in the mountains, nostalgia and in the quiet. Something I have needed to find for a while but was too afraid to look. I found the person I used to be, the person and I am and the person I want to be living together in a single moment. I longed to be the child in the past swimming in the lake or tossing a ring on a nail. I looked to the person I want to be and the person I am now and I, for the life of me, am too afraid to do what it takes to connect those two selves.

I felt something real on the road. However, that moment where past, present and future selves aligned for a single moment did not provide some great clarity or direction. In fact, it only presented overgrown crooked paths to my unknown future. I can’t see down those roads, but each one is an adventure. How do I become that person I dream of being in the future while maintaining the integrity and passion of the person I used to be? How do I know which path to follow? How do I know if I am making the best or worst decision of my life?

I arrived home Sunday night with a full heart and a mind full of questions. I might not have it all figured out and I still have a long road ahead, but after all of it, I truly am, closer to fine.

Pack your bag with the essentials. Pack your car. Be alone with yourself. Be alone with the thoughts in your head and the feelings in your gut. Take the time to get away from the mundane and follow your compass to your next great adventure.

-CF O’Rourke