Friday, April 27, 2012

Simplicity

One of my favourite words is "simplicity".

Looking at the dictionary definitions, the word means:
  • the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
  • freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity
  • absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity
  • freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner
  • lack of mental acuteness or shrewdness: Politics is not a field for simplicity about human nature
While it is true that beer can seem like an ever changing kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and aromas, beer is ultimately a very simple drink, possible to brew with just four ingredients. Given my bias toward Czech pale lagers, you can't really get much more simple and beautiful than Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, yeast and water.


I like to think that beer is the very essence of the third definition above. It is not a luxury item, there is no pretension with it, it is not an ornament to get out when vicar comes for tea, it is an integral part of life. You could call it a commodity, and indeed in many parts of Europe that's exactly what it is, along with bread, butter, and salt, it is an essential. I like that way of thinking about beer, it is the everyman drink, from lords to layabouts, the majority of people drink beer.

Many of the folks I have met as a result of beer would qualify for definition number four, good, honest, down to earth working people who enjoy pints afterwards. I remember a story about the word "sincere" which literally means, or so I recall, "without wax". A sculptor made a bust of a Roman dignitary, it might have been one of the Caesars, and accidentally broke off the nose, which he re-attached with a blob of wax. In the heat of the midday sun the wax melted and the nose fell off, revealing the sculptor's fraud. It seems to me that the people who most "get" beer are not the ones making all the noise about the latest, greatest trend in beer styles, beer cocktails or fad breweries, it's the ones in the pub drinking with their mates, or sat reading the paper, passing the time with a pint.


Perhaps then we should celebrate more of the simple beers, the Pilsners, Stouts and Pale Ales, instead of being blown about by the winds of fashion, looking for the next great thing and in doing so miss the very heart of beer.

4 comments:

  1. The last sentence says "we", but I can't help thinking you actually mean "you".

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  2. ah the joys of reader response theory in action!

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  3. This is something I have been thinking for a while now. We spend so much time local for the next big thing, we tend to forget the greatness that we already have.

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  4. "... you can't really get much more simple and beautiful than Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, yeast and water... "

    Or, in my case, Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter, Challenger Hops, yeast and water. Oh, and a wedge of Stichelton. And some bacon.

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