It is funny what you can find in the morning around downtown Kent. Without getting into more scatological categories, one thing that is particularly prevalent is discarded beer containers.
Living downtown, where hundreds are attracted to various drinking establishments on the average weekend evening, we are greeted by many gifts from the would-be gregarious, discards on their way to watering holes where the price of beer is high, or unattainable.
Unlike water buffalo, however, the gifts left behind by the migrant merry-makers do not naturally decompose, and if one doesn't pick them up immediately .... well, you get the picture.
On one recent morning I found a beautiful green aluminum can of a brand of which heretofore I was ignorant. As with all good brands, it has a catchy tagline, way too ambitious for the product, but relevant nonetheless: "Beer is Culture."
Upon further examination I discovered that its manufacturer makes "Craft Ales" and that its ABV, alcohol by volume, is 9.1%. "Ah?!%," I thought to myself, as I am prone to do earlier rather than later in the day, "Now I get it! Beer is culture!"
Having a particular fondness myself for a well-made craft beer, I had to smile at the providential nature of my discovery. Something to blog about that would be fun, relevant and even edgy.
Indeed, I was overwhelmed by the thought that either the drinker of the contents of my wrinkled discard had consumed its contents for the alcohol content, for certainly they had no appreciation for the fact that it is anti-cultural to litter on random people's property. Or the alcohol had somehow changed their perception of culture, focusing on their own short-term interest and neglecting the fact that my yard is indeed not a recycling bin. (Or they gained incredible powers of perception that indeed, the can would be recycled anyway – by me.)
Which I really doubt because my hunch is that they, like so many before them, are interested in that particular beer for its lubricious benefits, not its painstakingly fastidious construction. (In case you are wondering, "lubricious" is a 42-point triple word, assuming you have help to do it.)
I'm not trying to discourage anyone from thinking "beer is culture," but rather merely pointing out that not all "beer culture" is created equal. Of course I am thinking about culture in the local sense, that locally crafted beers using local water and perhaps some locally available ingredients do have a cultural dynamic.
It is a product that has historically been made locally and, in recent years, the craft of local, small-batch beers is starting to replace part of the market for the national brands, so much so that they are starting to create and promote their own "craft ales."
At the very least though, the culture in the "beer is culture" is at best as small "c" culture. As in the definition of culture as "the behaviors and beliefs of a particular social, ethnic or age group," as Dictionary.Com describes it.
So our fine city, known throughout the region for its prodigious consumption of beer, has in the last decade become known for the availability of very good beer, as well as for its "beer caves" that fuel loud and sometimes destructive street parties.
With the word that we will soon have our first "gastropub" and the promise that more than one brew pub will locate here, we will need to become more thoughtful about the clash of beer cultures, between those whose fondness for beer becomes abuse and abuses the lives of our neighborhoods.
As I've written here before, the prohibition of the drinking of "adult beverages" for otherwise 18- to 20-year-old adults is absurd and counter productive. It creates an underground beer culture that, especially in a town with thousands of college kids, has no other choice than to clash with the culture of those who go to bed and get up early.
Wouldn't it be more productive, especially as we are witnessing the construction of many new dining establishments, to integrate the young, creative and eager generation into our town before they turn 21?
In one sense, beer is culture: you need civilization to make it and people to enjoy it. Finding that can in my garden border suggests to me that as we rebuild our town, along with it we ought to create a culture where beer is useful and is enjoyed in a way that is constructive and creative.