As some of you are aware, I have been a bit under the weather. The multitudes of infectious agents that have invaded my body have kept me from being able to enjoy my most treasured bottles of beer and to share those experiences with my terrific readers.
OK OK, I’m sorry. I… uh, kind of only had a cold. I feel horrible for blaming the germs. To be honest, I just never know when the best time is to break out all the bottles that I have earmarked for storage. *sigh* *deep breath*
I deserve good things. I am entitled to my share of happiness. I refuse to beat myself up. I am attractive person. I am fun to be with. I'm going to do a terrific blog post today! And I'm gonna help people! Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!
Welcome readers old and new. I have been watching you recently. Not like “stalker” watching, but observing. I use Google Analytics. I see the way you enter. I sometimes wonder how you can read a whole blog post in less than thirty seconds, but that is O-K. Maybe you all just read faster than me.
Today I want to talk to a subsection of my fellow beer connoisseurs. Not so much those of you that enjoy a fine malted beverage every now and again. Not so much those of you that actively seek craft beers previously untried. I am speaking to those of you, just like me, who have more than one refrigerator dedicated to beverages.
You are not alone, but is time to break free. We have a common problem, and today we will work through this hoarding malady together. Friends, quite simply we import more than we export. When on a vacation, visiting a brewery, or lining up outside of a store pending the release of some exclusive beer, we take home these treasured bottles with the best of intentions.
Stop and repeat after me: Trace it, face it, and erase it!
Our problem is potiomania*: the collecting or hoarding of drinks. To triumph over our dysfunction, we must break our behavior down in steps and conquer the problem. The only amount of steps I have ever found useful are twelve. Friends, follow these steps together with me and we shall prosper!
* I Googled potiomania and it looks like I made up that word… it’s mine now!
Step 1: Admit that you are powerless over your cellaring habit and that your beer storage has become unmanageable.
It is perfectly understandable to have a refrigerator dedicated to beverages. To be honest, you are probably only “at risk” for a cellaring addiction if you have two refrigerators. However, if you find yourself living around your collections or apologizing to friends and family about why there is no longer a bed in the guest bedroom, it probably time to admit that you are trying to solve problems with solutions that are not working. That frightened feeling you just got inside when I suggested you may be a potiomaniac means you are ready for Step 1. This step is just a change in attitude, but this very self acknowledgment will lead you to Step 2.
Step 2: Believe that a power greater than your refrigerators can restore you to sanity.
Friends, I know what you are thinking: “The answer is just more refrigerators” -- “this post is too verbose, I mean seriously are there really 10 more steps?” -- “how did they let you host this session?” I understand your frustration. It happens to a lot of Step 2’ers.
More storage is the safe solution, but the purpose of this step is for you to seek new solutions. The power is not in the storage. The power is in the bottles. Open a special bottle and take another step with me.
Step 3: Make a decision to turn your will and your cellared collection over to the care of your five senses.
The more bottles you store, the less it feels wrong to buy and store more. But when the beer is inside the bottle, you cannot admire its color, hear the bubbles as the scurry to surface, sniff the enchanting aroma, enjoy the sensation of the beer in your mouth as the carbonation makes it jump on your tongue, or taste the brewer’s arrangement of malty base and hoppy balance (or imbalance).
Taste is the definitely the front-runner in Step 3 of the program, because it is the most intimate of all your senses. Feeling the beer dance in your mouth is great and all, but the beer must become part of you for it to be tasted. Taste is what stimulates your appetite and cravings, thus they are essential to your passion for beer AND your health!
As an added bonus, drinking your beer will enable you to let go of your domestic or work related problems. That neighbor who came into your back yard uninvited because she thought your faucet was leaking? Who cares! As you finish entertaining your senses, you will probably feel more satisfied with your life and will be much more likely to commit to other changes that people ask of you. Little by little, you will become more proud of the person you are and where you are in your life.
**Please note: Staying too long in Step 3 will end up having a negative effect on your life, similar to (but not exactly like) what happened to Smeagol in Lord of the Rings.
Step 4: Take an honest look at the effects of your cellaring habits on others and on yourself.
Against my counsel, if you have spent too much time in Step 3, or if you are bitter about moving to Step 4, now is not the time to jump back on the wagon and get defensive of your lifestyle. Take a leap of faith… plus, there are still eight more steps.
This step asks you to consider what you are doing to your friends by excessively cellaring beers. Drinking should be a social activity for you; otherwise you are in the wrong twelve step class. We beer enthusiasts are passionate about beer, and by sharing you will have the opportunity to introduce your friends or family to unique new beer styles and flavors. Converting them into beer enthusiasts will also open up opportunities for your friends to share their rare beer collection with you. The whole process is as feel good as the movie Pay It Forward, but only if that movie had been titled Pay It Back. I think you know what I'm getting at here.
Step 5: Admit to yourself (and the Internet if you have a blog) the exact nature of your wrongs.
You made an important step when you admitted that you have a problem, but now it is also time for the big R: “Responsibility.” If you are like me, you find it difficult to admit your problems. I suggest going to your beer fridge and opening up something really good. If doing this is still hard for you, have a friend or significant other go grab “whatever they want.” No more excuses! Just do it.
In Step 3, you introduced your senses to a beer that you have been keeping. In Step 5, you are once again unleashing the power inside the bottle. As it becomes one with you again, focus on ways to get everything you always wanted in life. It is time for a better you. Make sure to jot these things down, because you may not remember them after this session.
Blog, tweet, and/or update your Facebook status to publicize the new you. The nice thing about the Internet age is you can do everything in life with minimal face-to-face human interaction. Acknowledging your problems this way is not cheating however, because you drank something from your cellar as part of this step. Well done!
Step 6: Be ready to have the blog commenters point out all your defects, including ones you are pretty sure that you do not have.
In life, people complain more than they compliment. On the Internet, things aren’t that different. Once you’ve laid your road to a better you out there for people to see in Step 5, don’t let your natural knee-jerk reaction to a hateful comment be to scrap this program that you have only half finished (or half started, if you are the pessimistic type).
Most importantly, don’t let haters be your excuse for spiraling back into your potiomania. The importance of Step 6 is for you to realize you don’t need to be ashamed or defensive of your beer cellaring habits. The comments you receive, even the clever ones that appear to be innocuous, will make you realize how important your problem is and why it is so important to break free. You need pitch black to understand the light, you need chocolate to understand vanilla, and you need Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout to understand Russian River Pliny the Elder. Just saying.
Step 7: Humbly ask St. Augustine of Hippo, patron saint of brewers, to lower your inhibitions.
Despite your best intentions, you may still be finding it difficult to open up your good stuff. The motivation to cellar is conflicting. On the one hand you are collecting great beers to drink. On the other, you are never actually drinking that beer. Sheer will may not help, and the devices you used in previous steps (e.g. let the wife pick whatever she wants) have not yet produced permanent change.
St. Augustine once dealt with an addiction of his own. His particular vice was that of “loose living,” but he turned it around and became a Saint y'all! The changes he made to his lifestyle and a quick little post-mortem miracle earned him the “patron saint of brewers” title.
The Beer Gods help those who help themselves. Open something up to honor St. Augustine of Hippo.
Step 8: Make a list of all the beers you are saving and record the day they were cellared.
It is time to shift focus slightly. The less you know about the contents of your cellar, the easier it is for you to hide behind ignorance when it comes to drinking some of your best bottles. This step will help you begin the road to breaking free.
Start with an inventory list. Make sure to estimate a maturity date as well as comment on your expectations for the beer once it hits maturity.
Seeing a list of your beer treasures will help remind you of why you tucked the beer away in the first place.
Step 9: Make specific estimates of when your cellared beer is to be consumed (carefully noting which beers would offend friends if you drank the beer without them).
The difference between Step 8 and Step 9 is the latter specifies when you will actually drink the beer. The drinking experience is best done socially, but you must be careful not to offend your drinking buddies by not sharing your cellared beer with them. Work hard to limit the amount of beers that have several stipulations before they can be opened. These stipulations are the root of the habit you are working to break. However, as you share more and more of your best bottles, you will in fact feel closer to your cellared collection and be well on your way to conversion.
Step 10: Continue to update your inventory of cellared beer and when the refrigerators become over filled again, promptly admit it and open up a good bottle (or two).
The key to thriving as a recovering potiomaniac is staying conscious of your cellaring. Step 10 is not about preventing you from your mistakes, but about noticing when you go off course and getting you back on the right track. If you find yourself teetering on the edge of needing three beer fridges again, go back and read Steps 1-9. Nothing in life comes easy… except failure. And let’s be honest about the definition of failure here. When you are at your absolute worst and have hit rock bottom, you just have a whole lot of great beer.
Step 11: Stay in tune with the teachings of Saint Arnold of Metz, having them lead you to what you really want.
Saint Arnold of Metz, concerned about the dangers of drinking impure water, preached "don't drink the water, drink beer.” According to legend, Saint Arnold blessed a brew kettle by dipping in his crucifix and ended a plague by encouraging people to drink from that kettle. (Miracle: check.)
Step 11 is asking you to disregard logic and do what feels right. Beer is made from the fermentation of grains, hops, and a lot of water. It’s like eating bread and vegetables while washing them down with a big glass of water. Don’t question this. Just drink up. (Beer: It’s what’s for dinner.)
Saint Arnold of Metz was reported to have said: “From man's sweat and God's love, beer came into the world.”
Step 12: After getting your cellaring habits under control, you will try to carry this message to other beer cellaring addicts, and to practice these principles in all your personal and online affairs.
It is time to help others break free of potiomania. You are not powerless anymore.
The purpose of the twelve steps is a motivate you to stay on course. Remember that if you stop drinking your stash, you will begin to feel powerless again. You need not keep a fixed amount of beers in your cellar, just remember the power is in the bottles.
Hopefully this post has helped you acquire better cellaring habits. It is important to stay altruistic, not only with your best beers but with your advice to others that have fallen victim to potiomania.
Friends, you know what? I think this may be the BEST blog post I've ever done! And you know what else? I deserve it! I’m going to go pull something good out of the beer fridge. Cheers!
Information on "The Session" from Brookston Beer Bulletin: The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.