A Beer Drinker’s Manifesto

An old aphorism claims beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. And when one adds to Montana’s world-class beer offerings the breathtaking diversity of our landscape, from the eastern prairies to the western mountains, one could be forgiven for believing that Providence has especially favored our state.

If the state legislature maintains its sometimes wavering support of our homegrown microbreweries, Montana will be well on its way to establishing itself as the Napa Valley of beer within a few short years. Boasting the second most breweries per capita in the nation, we already have 38 breweries — with nearly 10 more in the works — that are adding value to the agricultural products that comprise the backbone of the state’s industry.

That’s why we need a beer manifesto, written by some half-drunken idiot who loves Montana so much that he’d pack a couple local microbrews to the top of Granite Peak. That half-drunken idiot is me, and this is a manifesto for Montana beer.

Drink the local, good stuff; don’t drink cheap corporate swill. Life is too short to eat bad food and drink bad beer. As gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson once quipped, “Good men drink good beer.”

As self-respecting residents of this state, it’s also our duty to support our neighbors and friends who own local microbreweries. In fact, it’s your duty as a Montanan to finish that beer in your hand right now. If you don’t drink it, the brewery workers might be out of work, shattering their dreams, so drink it and let their dreams come true.

Develop your palate. If you’re new to beer, start by contrasting light and dark beers, but develop the complexity of your tastes and preferences so you can discern the nuances between being in a hefeweizen mood and an amber ale mood.

Learn to appreciate a good beer for what it is. Even if you don’t like IPAs, can you still enjoy and recognize a good one?

Always try new beers — especially seasonals, which come and go and sometimes never reappear. Make sure, however, that you keep a favorite beer or two close to your heart. You never know when you’ll need a taste of home.

Brew your own brew at least once. I guarantee that, regardless of how it actually turns out, it’ll be the best beer you’ve ever tasted. If, understandably, you don’t want to drop $100 on all the start-up equipment, find a friend who homebrews or attend a meeting (or weekend brew session) with the Bridger Brew Crew. Homebrewers are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet and most would love to show you a thing or two about brewing if you ask.

Take everything in moderation — even moderation. Drink responsibly, but understand that sometimes it’s OK to get drunk at a house party or knock a few back to forget about the fluid dynamics exam you hope you just passed. If you decide to overindulge, make sure you have a safe ride and a friend to keep an eye on you so you don’t do something you’ll later regret.

I’ve written before about the possibility of a SUB Pub on campus that would function as a community-focused gathering place for students, professors and administrators of all stripes. When MSU’s newly formed commission on alcohol, spearheaded by Dean of Students Matt Caires and outgoing student government president Kiah Abbey, decide to stake out various bars to observe how students overindulge, they should also look to the alternative model represented by the state’s many brewpubs as examples of responsible drinking that promote community engagement.

Beer does act as a social lubricant and might make it easier to approach that cute girl who sits by you in lecture when you see her at a house party or facilitate an otherwise-tense business deal, but it is also so much more. Beer deserves to be celebrated in its own right as a bevy of well-crafted, complex flavors.

Over the past few years, I have spent many nights sitting around the living room with friends and roommates, arguing, discussing and bullshitting about a wide range of topics fueled by a growler or two. On the back of my Red Lodge Ales growler, the brewers warn that sharing the beer inside with friends “has been known to inspire conversation, keen political insight, rousing song and temporary brilliance.”

And that’s not a bad way to spend a weekend.

The Exponent’s designated beer-drinker, Brent Zundel, graduates this May. To fill the gaping hole in your heart left by the culmination of the Brewponent, follow him at www.brentzundel.com.