Whatever I’m doing, there is a good chance I am the fourth Floyd. My very first brew, an American wheat, was boss, and I am stone cold optimistic on the pale ale I get to crack open the second day of Lent (unless I stupidly give up beer). And this dubbel? Oh boy. When I racked—[brewer slang, means “moved”]—this to the secondary it smelled so good I almost cried.
I’ve read about old construction workers—several times; feels like a cliché—who take pride in being able drive around their town and point at houses, schools and hospitals, saying, “I built that.” (I assume this mythic construction worker keeps it quiet when passing strip clubs and Papa Johns locations.) That’s why I cook—to be able to claim some kind of role in what philosophers call The Good.
Since I cook a lot and love beer, it was a logical progression to eventually brewing. And since I like to carve out time on the weekends to write, it was a logical progression to brewing each weekend instead.
I read recently that writers are especially prone to procrastination. Well, I read the headline. It was by a writer I can’t stand and in one of those online commentary-only journals I hate, so fuck it. But anyway, I agree. We do procrastinate.
Today it is beer holding me back from chasing the dream. For a decade it was improv. Often it’s exercise and reading. It’s always easier to read than write, and usually a lot more pleasurable. (I do not understand how people find reading a chore. Watching TV? Now that’s agony. Anyway…) It’s not the blank page I fear. It’s the page that’s not worth biting into and crying over, the page not worth driving past, lifting an arthritic finger to point yonder, and wheezing at a backseat crammed with grandchildren, “I wrote that.”
But who would? Julia Child biting into a dish she made and crying at the taste is moving, but T.S. Eliot crying while reading Prufrock is arrogant. An old man driving past a school for the blind and pridefully noting “I built that” is touching, but Sylvia Plath bragging, “Oh, you’re a fan of Daddy? I wrote that, Holmes,” is not. To be fair, she probably never did.
The dubbel spent ten days in the primary and will now spend another 30 in the secondary. Maybe, this being a Trappist style, the rationale for such a long fermentation is not scientific but theological: Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, so a good beer should likewise spend 40 days in stillness and quiet before giving its gifts to the world.
I’m not a dubbel and I am definitely not Jesus, so the reasons for my periods of inactivity are less noble. I want clear goals and a method to get there. I want an assurance of success before I start. Writing does not provide that. Cooking does. And yet the sense of accomplishment is usually false. This Belgian smells great not because of my skills but because of some guy I’ve never heard of named Phil Keener. It’s his contest winning recipe, which makes him the only person who can pridefully claim agency in the creation.
But I’m cool with that. I’ll be content enough in mid-April when I can finally point at an empty bottle, let out a hearty belch, and say, “I drank that.”