Recently, I’ve taken to the use of click-baiting bullshit titles. It’s fun, semi-ironic and does seem to drive a few additional hits, which I feel is a sad indictment on society. Shame on you. However, it’s not all hyperbole and GIFs. This post really is about a word that beer writers should use more.
I first came across the word “grok” in a Bloomberg interview with some Silicon Valley entrepreneur or other. He just casually tossed in there that he didn’t grok something. Huh, that’s a funny word.
I searched and the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, pointed me to Robert Heinlein’s classic novel Stranger in a Strange Land. The man has had a profound but quiet impact on Western civilisation, from water beds to hippies. This coming from the author of Starship Troopers, which was the basis for a movie most will recall for mixed gender showering and Barney playing a Nazi psychic.
So what does one of the seminal works of science fiction have to do with beer?
The word grok is a central theme of the narrative. It derives from the Martian verb (the protagonist is Martian, that seems like an important detail) meaning to drink. However, grokking has deeper connotations still, not all of which are analogous to early 60s American culture.
Grokking combines not only the literal act of drinking but also of enjoyment, empathy and merging spiritually and physically. Water is rare on Mars so two people sharing water is something of a sacrament; the sharing is symbolic of the understanding achieved between the drinkers, or “water brothers”. As when one drinks water, it becomes part of you and you part of it: you grok each other.
So we, as in people who write about beer, should use this word more often. How can we not? It means drinking and understanding in the same four letter word. That’s pretty much the name of the game. By way of explanation, I wanted to give you some examples of how one groks, doesn’t grok or is yet to grok.
In a land not very far from here called the past, I had tried a couple of bottles of Bridge Road Brewers’ collaboration with Nøgne Ø called India Saison. It didn’t stand out to me as being much more than a flavourless beery mouthwash. Particularly, old bottles had little hop character that one would expect from “India” and none of the yeast funk that “Saison” implied. While I’d drunk the beer, I didn’t grok it. What was the intent and why had it been executed this way?
At a small festival known as Brewsvegas, I had India Saison on tap at Super Whatnot. I was pretty well floored. India Saison had gone from dental hygiene product to being a rich, creamy farmhouse ale with a well balanced aroma and bitterness derived from a generous hopping regime. From a 2.5 in my mind, it jumped up to 4, which I can’t remember that ever happening before or since. I drank, I understood and I enjoyed it. Grokking achieved.
On the other hand, there’s things I may never grok. For example, I’ve been hanging on to these two quotes from Stouts & Stilettos because they exemplify something completely foreign to me.
In Cellaring Craft Beer –
To me, hoarding beer isn’t about creating a cellar or aging beers to see how they differ later, but rather gathering them just to say you have them. To show to friends that you snagged it and they didn’t. While we all delight in the child-like giddiness of getting our hands on something we’ve been coveting for ages, for a select few there is no intention of enjoying the product. Much like the collector of comic books sealed in their original plastic, these beer hoarders will show you their beer, but never share it with you.
And in Vermont Beer Trail: Day 3 of 4 –
HILL FARMSTEAD BREWERY
The destination of all beer destinations… for me, anyway. I have fallen in love with their IPAs. So it’s well worth the 1-2 hour wait in line to get the growlers filled… The retail shop does not open until Noon. I would recommend eating lunch before you go or bring lunch with you to eat while you stand in line.
I don’t want to pick on the ladies at Stouts & Stilettos (I quite like the blog) but I don’t and probably never will understand that kind of behaviour. Why would you show off a beer you have that others don’t and not share it with them? Who the hell wants to wait in line for hours for a growler fill?
If I was Valentine Michael Smith, I’d have to discorporate (just, just go read the book) because I simply cannot grok what goes through those people’s minds and I don’t think I ever will grok that.
Next week in my new series on words you need to use: qualia*.
*This shit is hard, I’m not really doing it again.