From Drinker to Brewer
For such a young country - young in European terms, that is - New Zealand’s drinking habits have been through a hell of a lot of changes.
From being a dry country (there are no records of Maori drinking alcohol prior to European settlement), we went through a period of massive growth of beer consumption.
Then the ‘‘binge drinking’’ culture emerged, typified in the six o’clock swill. Men packed into bars like sardines, sculling beer from jugs and small glasses, with barmen distributing the insipid drink known as New Zealand draught from hoses.
Then, despite the deregulation of the market and aggressive pricing by supermarkets and alco-pop dealers, alcohol consumption fell.
In less than a week, the way New Zealander’s drink will once again change.
The shrinking world we inhabit, with goods and information forever becoming easier to get from elsewhere, means the relationship between where we live and what we do is as irrelevant as ever.
It’s like that old cliché – the car is from Japan, my work shoes are from Italy, I play drums from the United States, listen to music by an Australian band, and the Indians who own the local fish ‘n’ chip shop (a British institution) down the road offer Chinese dishes.
If you ever want to have a fleeting experience of another culture, you can walk down the road and get a curry, or watch a movie online, or turn on the Discovery Channel and get your fix.
Beer is in the same boat. Go to the bottle shop and labels disclose the origin of many beers; Scotland, the United States and England are represented in most craft beer sections in New Zealand bottle stores these days.
Tasting those beers has, naturally, influenced how brewers here operate. Luke Nicholas of Epic is a prime example. He built his brand on the back of the highly hopped American-style IPAs that he loves to drink.
Beer festivals are, without a doubt, one of the smartest happenings invented.
While more fun than car shows - you do not get to drive the cars, but you do drink the beer - they are on par with music festivals; you get to soak in the beautiful work of people who are usually underpaid for what they do.
Having racked up as many beer festival attendances than I can count on two hands, I am somewhat qualified - badly, expertly, or somewhere between those two - to give an opinion on them.
Handily, I have one.
I believe there are three broad kinds of beer festivals: The KISS, The Big Bang, and The Inbetweener.
There are moments in your life when you realise just what is wrong with the world.
I just never thought a beer would provide one of those moments.
Apparently sold in Chinese restaurants and Asian grocers in New Zealand, I have never seen it.
So when a colleague went to China for a couple weeks, they kindly agreed to bring a bottle back for me.
Terribly-named pop-punk group Elemeno P once sang, "absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I doubt it".
But an experience I have had during the past two weeks shows that whiny vocalist, who always sounded like his voice box was in his nostrils instead of his throat, was wrong.
I did not have a beer for two weeks. Not by chance, but by choice.
There was no reason to panic. I did not need my friends to whip up an intervention banner before confronting me about my drinking habits.
Instead there was a desire to have time away from it; ignore it; reset my relationship with it.
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