The enthusiasm we bring to our beer exploration encourages us to try all varieties of beer from a seemingly endless source of breweries. In the beginning we come across flavors we do not enjoy but having just begun our journey, and being honest about our ignorance, cannot easily tell if our lack of appreciation has to do with us or the beer. If others are enjoying the beer perhaps it is our palate that is at fault. With time and experience we may also turn into one of the initiates who can appreciate the beer on the correct level. Alternatively, our taste is a highly developed biological apparatus.
In time our enthusiasm subsides from its fever pitch and our experience helps to ground our understanding. Eventually we may be forced to perform an act that only a short while ago would have been anathema to our newfound worship of real beer, pouring out the liquid. Be not worried, embarrassed, nor pained for long young grasshopper. The drain pour is part of the progression of learning and it also signifies a certain level of respect for quality beers, yourself and your time.
Huh, wait what? That’s right, I’m talking about walking over to the kitchen sink and pouring the contents of your glass down the drain because this action is preferable to continuing drinking any further. It is a dismissal. When first embarking on the craft beer journey we tend to explore far and wide. We routinely run into beers we do not fully appreciate and styles we are less fond of. With time our discernment increases to the point where we better understand what we like, even if putting it into words remains a challenge. With increased experience we calibrate our taste and standards. Over time beers that may have added to the journey, had they been met earlier on, no longer meet the bar. At this point the choice is yours. Choose to move on. Choose to pour out the unfulfilling brew and move onto one better suited for you.
Drink long enough, read long enough, just live long enough and you realize that many things can be measured quite quickly. Exploring a field long enough to develop some feel and intuition allows one to begin identifying dead ends prior to having to go all the way down them. When it comes to drinking good beer, and by definition we will say that anything the person enjoys is good (there being no accounting for taste), knowing you do not have a winner on hand means you have a choice instead. Either continue with the beverage or simply discard it. The idea of leaving behind (purportedly) good beer, actually walking over and pouring it down the drain, strikes most people, the first time they hear it anyway, as something of a joke. It sounds silly, weird and unlikely. However, a little reflection shows that continuing down the path you know is worthless, for no other reason than because you have started down it, is all those things, the bad joke, and worse. Drain pours happen all the time, whether we call them by that name or some more appropriate label for the situation. We see drain pours when we end a relationship, quit a job, decide to no longer follow an athlete, sport, or sports in general. With experience drain pours in all walks, though perhaps not always easy, become increasingly viable options.
Drain pours are particularly difficult for me when it comes to books. I will stick it out with a title long after I know it is not delivering the goods and/or I am no longer intrigued by the subject. It must have something to do with sunken cost and also of thinking it some kind of shame to not complete a book. With beers it is not anywhere near as difficult. Two, three sips and that glass is liable to be tipped over into the sink. Everything is limited, with some things becoming increasingly so and more precious with the passage of time. This includes time itself and the capacity to put up with bullshit. Once you understand yourself well and know what you like there become fewer reasons to deviate from your path. A little exploration here and there can help ensure you are not blindly following along, missing out on new opportunities, but overall with increased experience you can be more certain of what will provide you the bigger payoffs.
A drain pour is about two things, at least. The beer being spilled and your opportunity cost. At the center of all this is you and your preferences which tie it all together. A beer may or may not be discarded because of a particular drinker’s preferences and/or their alternatives. Stuck on a beach with no options you may welcome a cold yellow fizzy pop. More so anyway than if you were at a house party with dozens of choices. Years back at a boxing event my friend and I had our beers “supersized” at no charge (something to do with running out of the regular cups). The choice was between Bud Light and Heineken. I made my choice without hesitation as did he. Three steps away from the concession stand this friend could not help criticizing my choice but I was unfazed. I knew that I had correctly chosen the lesser of two evils. For me. I am practically certain I never bought that beer ever again, nor my friends choice either.
“D is for lots of things.” - John Dee, All Fools’ Day 1989 (The Sandman, Neil Gaiman) 1
In these instances you must remember to put yourself first. For God’s sake, if you are drinking, reading, or watching a movie you are doing these things for yourself. Granted you may be on a date or in a certain social situation. Of course, adapt. The vast majority of time however we are talking about our own discretionary time, money, and general leisure. Don’t waste any of those precious gifts (see Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness2). Some people drain pour, others do not, some occasions call for it, others not so much, certain styles are more likely to fall into one category or another depending on the imbiber. I recommend not hesitating. Drain pour as often as needed and as soon as possible. Ironically, unless you get a kick out of wasting your gifts (aka “being a dick”), partaking in drain pours makes you less likely to do it moving forward. This is primarily achieved on the front end of the experience. Knowing your preferences more fully you are increasingly less likely to choose something not up to your standards.
One might be tempted to suggest no-fault to anyone. A beer, movie, book was put out there. Some people liked it and others did not. It was for some and many more could not be bothered (it is always many more, whether through active rejection, passive avoidance, or simply being unaware of the object). One could be tempted indeed. Many times, most people have been wrong about an artist or simply unaware of them only for that same artist to be discovered and revered decades later. These are exceptions that prove the rule. Unquestionably, there are many more items that have deservedly been deemed substandard which require no further consideration.
You can dismiss an object with different degrees of confidence as to whether it will ever be better esteemed. This title falls very far into the “no way” zone of the spectrum. It is better not to say anything if you cannot say anything nice and for the most part I have avoided addressing the book specifically. A few points before signing off. The author can write. This is clear from the dialogue, the character formation, and the movement of the story. That we have a beer fairy is absolutely wonderful considering this is a children’s book for adults and an adult book for children. It’s a touch of magical realism and fanciful creation, all in line with a fairytale. Where it all goes wrong is in the plot. Most noticeably, the story completely falls apart at the end when different storylines are presented, brought together, and frequently dropped with no further mention. The forced, disjointed and incomplete story leaves the reader with the impression of reading the book equivalent of an all-nighter college paper.
I did not stop myself from completing this book. Writing this entry aside, this was a mistake. The regret of not drain pouring, knowing full well the time spent was wasted and, worse still, that the time to come would be equally unrewarding, never went away. In this instance I had an alibi, this post, but I have persisted far too often on other titles, pints, and flicks. Drain pouring should be like voting, done early and often. Though, again, the action itself is not the point. Unless you enjoy wasting time, energy, money or wish to tie your personality to a contrarian perspective (again, being a dick) a drain pour is not the goal, it is a tool. The goal is to find the best fit between yourself and the available beers. That there are so many means exploration will be necessary. Trying new things by definition means we do not know exactly what we are getting into. The risk, and this goes especially for books given the upfront and persistent effort required, is offset by a possible reward, as well as a bit more information about the options and ourselves.
A beer need not be drunk to the bottom, a book read to the end, or a relationship extended until death do us part for us to get a good idea on the likelihood of our compatibility. If that relationship leans toward incompatibility jump ship.
1 “D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh.” - Gashlycrumb Tinnies ↩
2 “Leisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was rendered possible only by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technic it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.” ↩