Putting beer into context

19:44, Jan 06 2014

Terrible things can become the most perfect things, as long as context is present.

Think Oasis, but at a karaoke bar full of drunk expat Brits who were present at Knebworth House in 1996.

MC Hammer pants, but at a bad taste party.

Or tofu, but cooked with all manner of deliciousness by a street vendor at a night market in Malaysia.

All those things are terrible on their own, but are made great by context.

Beer, of course, falls into the same category. 


Beer writer Neil Miller once told me one of his more memorable beer drinking moments involved a Ranfurly going down like manna from heaven, after he had to wear a suit during an outdoor funeral.

For me, context managed to transform a beer I deride more than all others into exactly what I wanted. 

Christmas Day, for me, is never about eating and drinking myself silly in one place.

Instead, I do what my partner's brother calls my Christmas Dance.

I leave the house early on Christmas morning to drive around the Wellington region, popping in on as many family members I can.

But the large amount of driving miles means the number of beers I should drink can be counted on my thumbs.

Not that it matters, of course. Christmas is - for non-Christians, at least - about catching up with family and friends, and us humans seem to do it best around a table full of food and drink. 

Those two things, food and drink, somehow give people who may not see each other for a year something to talk about.

But while the food is similar for most - turkey, ham (and ham every which way for every meal following) and peas - the drink is anything but.

Especially if you are driving.

But there is always room for a single beer, especially when the sun pops out to burn my arm as it hangs out of the window while I drive the Corolla - no air conditioning in that beast - along the Wellington motorway.

The first stop for my 2013 Christmas Dance is a flat my sister is at, where she is helping host a bit of an orphan's Christmas for a few people.

''Want a beer?'' 

With Wellington having one of its good days, I can't say no. So I don't, and am met with a Tui.

For the briefest of seconds, this blog post flashes through my mind.

But you know what? Screw that.

Ignore me. Ignore all of that. Pretend you never saw it.

Because there is a time when beer should not be about being labelled with the correct style, or the hop aromas, or tastebuds, or even trendbuds.

Because, sometimes, beer can serve the social role all food and drink does so well. 

It can be the thing that cools us off after being roasted in summer's sun, either with or sans suit.

It can refresh, revitalise, restore and relax, which is exactly what that Tui did.

It seems Christmas is the day to remind me how important context is to beer, as the exact same thing happened in 2012.

Again the burning driver's arm, but this time driving into Silverstream.

Again that question - ''want a beer?'' - but then from my uncle.

And again, presented with something I would never buy for myself in a bar - a can of Lion Brown.

After pressing the cold can to my head - the condensation mixing with my perspiration to all the relaxation I need - that sweet amber liquid works like an internal fridge.

A can of cold Lion Brown, sitting in a wooden chair, looking out over the Hutt Valley - I can think of nothing more glorious.

Some people get the same present each year: socks, underwear, Scorched Almonds.

Me? I get context, and I can't get enough of it.

Follow Jono on Twitter here, or From Drinker to Brewer on Facebook here.