The single most memorable beer article I came across during the past week didn’t so much as mention beer, not even once.
Instead, the article in question is a brief rumination on the message to be gleaned from a new book by David Sax called The Revenge Of Analog: Real Things And Why They Matter.
In consideration of this book, Oliver Burkeman conjures a killer paragraph.
Get real: why analogue refuses to die; In all sorts of industries, analogue products are making a comeback, by Oliver Burkeman (The Guardian)
… Analogue, in short, demands that you make a decision – to read this one book, write this sentence, take this photo – while digital keeps luring us on with the promise of perfection and infinite choice. So it’s not just that Apple hasn’t got fingerprint recognition (or whatever) right just yet; it’s that the trajectory it’s on – toward a device that does everything, perfectly – is unattainable, and thus doomed never to satisfy.
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times review of Sax’s book.
In his captivating new book, “The Revenge of Analog,” the reporter David Sax provides an insightful and entertaining account of this phenomenon, creating a powerful counternarrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world. Mr. Sax argues that analog isn’t going anywhere, but is experiencing a bracing revival that is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.
You’re no doubt saying to yourself:
“Wait. What does beer have to do with this? Hasn’t beer always been analog? It comes in some sort of container. It is liquid. We drink it. By definition, beer isn’t digital.”
True, but the expansive forward march of beer’s digital presence mirrors Burkeman’s point about the false lure of “perfection and infinite choice.” To me, the digital realm once seemed to offer a panacea of information and enhanced knowledge, but now it strikes me as having sucked the joy of discovery from the pursuit of the perfect pint.
And like Michael “Beer Hunter” Jackson, I intend this quest to last a lifetime. Maybe the perfect pint isn’t the next best-seller. It might be a golden oldie.
To me, a disproportionate amount of time is spent photographing, rating and quantifying the act of drinking beer, with all of these tasks achieved digitally, such that we risk completely overshadowing the pure analog experience of appreciating beer by suffocating it beneath a digital veneration that borders on narcissism.
Let’s put it this way: Not once can I recall allowing my opinion of a good beer bar to be influenced by the availability or absence of Wi-Fi. Rather, everything about drinking a good beer in a clean, well-lighted place (or for that matter, a dismal dive) is analog. It’s tactile. It’s about being out in public, interacting with humans. It’s talking, smelling, laughing, tasting, breathing and pursuing timelessness.
Obviously, I’m not advocating the death of digital, as I’m fully cognizant of the potential irony attendant to explaining analog’s revenge by means of an electronic blog post viewed by many readers via a smart phone. So be it. Document beer and drink it as you please, because I may not be addressing you, anyway, but if you’re nodding your head in analog agreement … well, maybe the inspiration is guiding me nearer that pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel.
My pub project in development was hinted at just last year:
ON THE AVENUES: An imaginary exercise tentatively called The Curmudgeon Free House.
I believe in fundamentals and essentials; as you may recall from the 2015 campaign, these strike me as vital every single day, as opposed to every now and then. Can better beer be repurposed this way, and taken back to the future?
AFTER THE FIRE: Before the deluge, or knowing how this whole beer business started.
Rather, my contrarian instincts tell me that the beer climate is ripe for a modest, thoughtful return to basics, emblemized by a relatively small list of classics on draft, and in bottles and cans, to be accompanied by some good, old-fashioned beer education, which seems to have been tossed aside in the era of mile-wide, inch-deep “craft” fandom.
I wrote at the time that a key element to my project is opportunism, and this hasn’t changed. You should know that I’ve never been very good about rushing into things without the operational rationale being clearly mapped in my brain — not so much the details, which are mutable and forever capable of being negotiated, but the governing mission statement.
The Curmudgeon needs a cause, and this notion of analog’s revenge as it pertains to the appreciation of better beer is another useful piece in the puzzle. My imagined project finally begins to seem possible in the real world.
I’ll keep you posted.