"The most necessary disposition to relish pleasures is to know how to be without them," Marquise de Lambert says in her missive A Mother’s Advice to Her Son, and while this 1726 tome might feel like a pre-Revolution guilt trip to some, it’s also a lesson in being humble and honorable (though, admittedly, as humble as honorable as you can be as a wealthy young male heir in the 1700s).
The thought is simple enough: moderation leads to greater love. A person who eats cheeseburgers every day will no longer understand how special a good cheeseburger is. But restrict cheeseburgers to once a week, and only cheeseburgers worth eating? That’s a recipe for a better appreciation and love for cheeseburgers.
Over the year and a half I’ve been writing this column, I have tried every kind of beer from every place I visited. I tried beers when I didn’t feel like beers. I tried beers for lunch and dinner. I’ve gone out of my way to get rare beers, and travelled to small breweries just to add another beer to Untappd. I did it for you, a little, but really I did it because the discovery and quest are just as important as the drink itself.
It’s only natural for a bit of fatigue to set in. My eyes roll at another hop bomb. My mind wanders as someone describes their latest red IPA. The prospect of new breweries flies over my head and the racks of Russian imperials are ignored. I’m in a beer rut, everyone. And I’ve got the expanding waistline to prove it.
Time for a break. Time to change my disposition. Time to go without.
Time for a beer fast.
This month, Jim of Beer & Whisky Brothers undertook No-Drink January, a mini-self-Prohibition suggested in a surprisingly serious Gawker article. Jim’s reasons aren’t as serious, but just as important: October to January is a gluttonous time, and it’s worthwhile to take a break. Halloween leads to Thanksgiving leads to the holidays and new year, each milestone studded with promises to “just make it through” and begin anew.
I read Jim’s post a few weeks into the year, so I wasn’t able to start on day one, but I - bolstered by an “are you sure you can do that” look from Kerrie - promised myself a beer fast. It was for my health. It was for my taste buds. It was for the good of the state of beer itself.
The idea: no beer for however long I can handle it, or at least until January 31, when I will be within blocks of Dangerous Man Brewing and I cannot be held accountable for my actions.
Has it been successful? Yes. Well, no. I mean, I went a week - one week without, until I gave in and had a couple of beers while watching football on Sunday. (What did you expect? Two of my favorite beers - Schell’s Bock and Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye - were finally released!)
Will it continue? Yes. I’ve made it over the first hurdle already: that nagging voice that suggests when you’ve failed once, you’ve failed completely. My slip-up bolstered me - I am twice as dedicated now, and look forward to continuing even after I return from Minneapolis at the end of the month.
There is no moral posturing. There is no judgement or pity. There is only my attempt to drop a few pounds and reenergize my love for hops and grain. There is a promise of a better disposition. To relish pleasures. To know how to be without them. And to understand the right times to make that decision.
- Corey Vilhauer