This feels like a weird time to talk about beer. I love beer, and I think of beer as a thing in the world that brings people together. I have made some very good friends during the course of my time doing this column. I have learned a lot. I have taken part in aspects of culture I would not have otherwise been able to without having started doing this column. Regardless of all of this, now feels like a weird time to talk about beer. The coronavirus is still out there. Breweries still are being affected by the need to social distance, to limit capacity and to wear masks. Yet, our nation’s attention has been shifted to something else. With more than 100,000 Americans succumbing to the coronavirus, something very urgent must have happened to capture the nation’s attention away from this pandemic.
Protests have broken out in other places such as London and Berlin during a time of social distancing and mask-wearing about a concern that does not directly affect their country, at least not in the same way it does America. That thing must be very important, and still it feels like a weird time to write about beer.
I am choosing instead to write a simple truth. While I was not given this platform to talk about anything other than beer, writing about beer or anything else feels disingenuous. These protests, the death of George Floyd and so many others and the movement that has been taking place is all I think about, all the country thinks about now, and rightfully so. I thought the only way to look myself in the mirror, or tell my daughter when she is older if asked what I did during these times to help, is that I used my small platform to speak truth and love.
There is not much to say other than people are hurting. People are angry. Something has to give. If you were to encounter someone this upset in your personal life, what would you do? If a co-worker started yelling at work, what you would do? If your son or daughter came home from school and was deeply upset, maybe they threw their stuff down in a way you didn’t like, what would you do? If your wife calls you because someone cut her off in traffic and she just needed to let someone know but started it by screaming and cussing, not at you specifically — just to anyone who would listen — what would be your first reaction? A person on the street storms out of a business and looks upset, and you see someone inside that shop also upset, what do you do? When someone is angry, what do you do? What is your first reaction? You listen. You hear them out to see what is the matter, and if you have the power to help, you help.
Now, sometimes, it does not matter what my daughter is mad about; she cannot take it out on other people, but that is because I know whatever it is she is upset about probably isn’t that big of a deal because she is 4, and the stakes are very low. What if the stakes were very high? What if they are as high as you can imagine — life or death? Would my first reaction be to ask her to pick up her toys first or apologize for breaking her dolls? No; my first reaction would be to listen. That is the best first step. Listen, people are mad, people are real mad, and all we have to do, first, is listen.
Try to figure out what the problem is, and if we have the power to do so, help fix that problem. Nothing else comes before this need. Coronavirus or not, we have to listen, and we have to help. What you might feel on the back end of this conversation might not feel that good. In fact, I know it will not. Like the conversation with your significant other that starts with a person getting cut off in traffic that bleeds into you being implicated in the trouble because the reason they were driving in the first place was to bring you something you forgot at home — this might implicate you; I know it implicates me, too.
One part of the problem is America has not been listening. In fact, America has been doing the opposite — at the very least, ignoring the problem; at the most, causing the problem — being the problem. You might not have ever done anything anyone would consider to be a problem. Maybe you are a saint. I know I am not. You might not consider yourself to be racist. Totally fine as well, that makes you a normal person. Not a good person. That is par for the course. Don’t hate other people, especially not for stupid reasons. So, you might not be able to stop something right now you are doing that hurts, but you can start by doing something that helps. That is the what I believe these protests are asking for, help.
So, if you want to help or you want to listen, the best source I have found so far in the Craft Beer community on this topic is Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham who is the Diversity Ambassador at the Brewers Association. She has started an organization called Craft Beer for All and has written one of the best essays on this current situation. She also lists many ways you can help. Learn more at craftbeerforall.com.