BBQ, Beer, and the Love of Doing it the Hard Way

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I can buy really good beer, almost anywhere these days. I live in central North Carolina, I can throw a rock in any direction and hit good BBQ. I still prefer to make my own. I tell people I used to make my own beer and they say, “cool.” Back when I was doing it though my friends would come over and watch me do it and just ask, “why?” Brewing beer is not easy, it’s a pretty involved and lengthy process. Then even after you finish brewing it, it takes another 4-8 weeks before you can even taste it. BBQ is no different. I might spend 6-12 hours smoking meat, that’s all day in the heat posted up next to a grill. In both cases even after all that effort the end result might be crap. I still love it.

For me the process is the point. Sure I want to turn out mouthwatering delicious BBQ. Yes I want to craft great tasting refreshing beer. That’s not why I do it though. I love creating. I love the effort involved, the sweat, the heat, the hours of labor that no one sees. When I go out and eat great BBQ I appreciate it all the more because I know what it took, the smoke filled eyes, the burned callused hands of the smoke tender. I’ve done it. I know what went into it, and when I see people rush through it or sit there playing on their phones while that meat gets cold I want to smack them.

I have become incredibly picky about the beer I drink. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the work and effort that went into that can of Budweiser your bro just chugged. Pilsners like Budweiser and Miller are some of the hardest beers to brew there really is no room for mistakes. To do it so well and so consistently is the true sign of a Master brewer. The big breweries have gotten it down to a science. It’s the craft breweries that are churning out art. I know what its like to spend all afternoon brewing something, sitting there as the hop scented steam washes over you, tediously minding the clock, checking temperatures, density, imagining the taste, and eagerly looking forward to weeks later when you finally get to crack that first bottle open; only to discover you’ll be throwing out 5 gallons of crap that tastes like industrial waste.

I’ve never been deterred by a bad brew session, or cook. I’ve been annoyed. I’ve poured over notes trying to determine what went wrong so I can fix it next time. I never wanted to give up. I’ve always known that to get good at anything you have to be able to screw things up and learn from it. You have to be able to endure the process. Mastery is a never ending journey. It’s hard to sell the younger generation on a concept like that; you’ll never be perfect!

My grandfathers were both old school guys. They believed a man should be capable of taking care of themselves and their families. They worked on their own cars, grew their own food, built their own houses. They passed that on to me. This article is not a commentary of the shrinking ability of modern men in America. I don’t think I need to make that comment it’s pretty apparent already. This article is not about saying if you can’t BBQ or change your own oil you’re not a man(you’re not.) What it is, is an observation. Have we as a culture forgotten the satisfaction that comes from learning, from struggling, from effort and failure? Have we forgotten that good things take time? I think we have.

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