a blog.

middle brow | citizen how \ 3 nov 17 /

this particular hypocrisy is taxing.

i used to work as a tax lawyer. i knew i needed to quit when i was told that a massive company had forgotten to report $700M of income over half a decade. and that i had to find a way for them to avoid paying taxes on that money. and there was a perfectly legal way to do it! gruesome work. ... i know it's not cool in craft beer to have been a lawyer. but if you want to argue with me about paying dues, please don't hesitate. i have lots to say. you can reach me at this email address. for now, i digress.

so i was particularly intrigued by the republican tax bill that came out yesterday. finally: a republican just came out. too many republicans just pretend. anyway, there's lots and lots to say about the bill. there's some good: e.g., lowering the cap on the mortgage interest deduction is a good thing, since the MID distorts home-buying behavior. in other words, if a gay republican is able to deduct a whole walk-in closet full of mortgage interest from his income every year, but he's not able to deduct *any* of his rent, he'd be more likely to buy than rent. this makes more gay republicans buy homes than should. and it benefits people who buy really big homes.

it also proposes a fairer international tax system called a *territorial* system. for complex reasons, some US companies don't pay taxes on income they make in other countries until that money is brought back into their country. this closeted income totals somewhere around $2.5T. that's a fuckload of money! the new system incentivizes US companies who make money in other countries to bring their money back!

but there's also some bad: the poorest 35% of americans would get no relief from the bill whatsoever. some very, very rich people--like, your friend from the north shore's mom who drinks nice whiskey and pretends to drink nice wine but for some weird fucking reason never has anything but macro lagers stocked in her third fridge and makes $650K/yr--would get a tax cut that they do not need. 

generally people who live in blue states would pay more (lots of gay people in blue states, you know), the reason being that state and local tax deductions would be eliminated. and all the gay cities and states have higher local tax rates. and, for most liberal people, these higher rates aren't offset by the overall federal tax cuts being proposed. 

two examples. a straight, american man in wyoming who rides a horse to his mailbox cuz it gives him a little boner (but it's ok cuz the horse is a gal): he'll get a big tax cut from the fancy boys and sexual harassers in washington dc. but he'll have to start paying his state income tax which is a whopping... 0%. but the gay high school football coach and sexually assaultive priest in new jersey: they'll get a break from the feds. but then they have to pay 9% in state income taxes. it's only slightly more complex than this. but still: ouch!!

but the biggest bad thing: it increases the deficit by $1.5T. and we haven't heard a peep from the republican house no. the house, in fact, *introduced* the fucking deficit-creating bill. this is the same house that wouldn't vote to spend a penny during the *second biggest economic crisis in the history of our country* unless it was offset by a spending cut elsewhere. this is the same house that screamed bloody murder about obama and his deficits for 8 years. which makes me laugh a bit.

to wit: republicans always yell about spending when they're in the minority. but they never vote to rein in government spending when they have power. why? because it would make too many of their totally straight constituents upset. so they just vote to cut taxes. and then: everyone's as happy as a bucktown couple's toddler! everyone gets what they want! low taxes and lots of government spending! on the other hand: when democrats are in power they admittedly vote for higher government spending. but they also vote for ways to pay for it--i.e., higher taxes. 

somehow republicans aren't afraid hypocrisy on this issue. they long ago figured out what guides donald trump: the american people have a three-day attention span. and so we easily forget what they used to purport to believe. or who they used to sexually assault. or what they once voted for. or what they once said. ... remember what happened in las vegas? are some of you thinking about your own trip to las vegas right now? because i almost used the phrase "what happens in vegas" and that made you think of the ad and then your trip and all the gambling and drugs and tasteful decor? have you ever met anyone *from* vegas? ... anyway. i was talking about the mass shooting. remember that? remember the policy response you demanded from your congresswoman and senator? no? because you started reading stories about kevin spacey instead? 

are you the average american voter? don't be.

new beer notice \ 3 nov 17 /


after our release on tuesday night, we'll prepare for another release thursday night, november the ninth. can you say FoBaB OvErLoAd?!?!?!?!?! but guess what? this beer is not barrel-aged! thank god. we'll need a break from that. and you will too. promise us.


the wonderful folks at bangers and lace approached us earlier this year about making a beer whose profits were dedicated to an animal charity. as we always are whenever a retail partner shows interest in the charitable side of our efforts, we were bowled over. we decided together to make a double dry-hopped milkshake ipa with raspberries, blackberries, vanilla beans and lactose. like our other double dry-hopped ipas, this one was fermented with four different yeast strains. it sings with berries and fruity esters. and rounds out with vanilla and a hint of sweetness. oh! and it's a beautiful beer-purple in color. come on thursday night; you'll see what we mean.

profits from the beer will be donated to one tail at a time, who will be in attendance with a mother fecking puppy in tow. come pet it. and maybe even adopt it. i mean, unless you peach-plum forget to bring your heart with you.

hangnails \ 3 nov 17 /

in avondale.

i told you last week 'bout the barrel-aged beauty that we're releasing at the beer temple thiscoming tuesday night. it's a koval whiskey barrel-aged rendition of *THE MILK-EYED MENDER*. i delivered the cases to those fly cats in avondale yesterday. this is a very limited release, so please make sure to get there as early as you can. also: there's a limit of one bottle per customer. 

there's something super special about delayed gratification. it's something brewers and vintners and distillers and picklers know a lot about: you have a creative moment. and then you work and work and work to make the object of your creativity. and then you wait. and you turn knobs this way and that. and then you work again finally to taste the thing. and it's not what you wanted. and fuck!! you waited a whole month for this! but, nevertheless, you get to it again. and eventually it works out. 

and then there's barrel aging. that takes a special kind of patience. the beer we're releasing was made nearly three years ago. it sat in oat whiskey barrels that we stuck in the closet for 2+ years. and we had no idea what it was doing in there. and we bit our hangnails in anticipation. and we put our ears on the barrel staves. and we smelled the area near the bunghole. (!) and it seemed... fine? but we had really had no way of knowing what it would be like.

and then we took the barrel out of the closet. and then we took the beer our of the barrel. and then we let it condition for 6 months more in the bottles. and then we drank one casually. and were happy that our shirts had holes in them. and that we'd been eating beans and rice for years. it was all worth it. this single, beautiful, rich, deep beer is something we never knew we could create.

please make plans to come buy one on tuesday night. we promise it will make you happy, too.

in the meantime, we'll kill our dinner with karate. which mostly means we'll eat vegetables and fruits and grains and legumes. and, if we're really lucky, a small fish. 


middle brow | citizen how \ 27 oct 17 /

sex, much simpler.

this week, a very well-liked and talented guy was fired from a very well-liked and successful and, by all accounts, fair-minded restaurant group. the guy was 28, but started with the group at 23 or 24 and catapulted into a position of power by 26 or 27. and has done some truly great work in the chicago restaurant scene. and he didn't personally harass anyone. but he didn't act to stop obvious harassment. but still. it got me thinking. about why people sexually assault other people.

is it because they're so unable to get a little rub-rub from any other source, and so they have to go steal one in the night? or in broad daylight? or on a bus? or on a train? or in the rain? or from dr seuss?

yes. sometimes yes. sometimes that's the exact reason. and in those case, women should punch men. sorry to promote violence. ... or at the very least, women should yell at that man very loudly. and shame him. and lock him up on a boat. or with a moat. or, naked, near a hungry, hungry goat.

but most of the time it's not about that. shit. i'd bet the supermajority of the time it's not. mostly it's about exerting power over someone else. males (and sometimes females) get off on this. females have been telling us this for decades! and they're obviously right! and in most cases, it's easy to see: when a male executive brings a female employee into his office and tells her to describe her last sexual encounter in detail, it's about power. the man isn't bringing a fellow executive into his office and forcing her to do that. he's dominating a female *employee* instead. and when a man with a wife grazes the chest of a random girl on the train, it's not simply about touching some tit (;P) with the back of your forearm. it's about committing a social transgression and getting away with it. because he could touch his wife that way any time he wanted.

other times it's maybe a little subtler: when your best bro in senior year of high school told the whole locker room that a particular girl was "easy", was he doing a public service? or did he want you to go pursue her? no. the answer to both of those questions is no. he wanted you to think he was cool. he wanted to feel more powerful for a minute, or a month. and he likely did.

so if it's *mostly* about power, is it any surprise that we're seeing so many men in power fall so gracelessly right now? (and thank goddess we are.)

but what this means is that we have to be very careful about who we give power to. for example, we should not allow people with a clear record of sexual assault to be teachers (generally speaking). and most states already do this! and for good reason! ... so let's apply that logic elsewhere. let's not let anyone likely to commit sexual assault into any position of power (like, for example, the presidency). deal? ok. great. glad that's all taken care of. ......... 

jk. because obv we can't always know who is likely to commit sexual assault. because many women are not supported when they try to report sexual assault. and so the record is wiped. and many women just plain don't report it. and so the record is thin to begin with. and we usually can't (and shouldn't try to) predict who might commit sexual assault if they were in a position of power. so what then?

well. this is where organizations come in. companies big and small often build frameworks for decision-making in the face of sexual harassment and assault. i'm not sure how effective they've been. (seems like not very.) but if older, wiser executives and managers used the framework so frequently that it provided quickly-and-easily referenced examples to mid-level employees and, shit, other folks in upper management of how to behave in the face of sexual harassment and assault. then we might see a lot less of it. at least in the workplace.

and then, if an organization wanted to give lots of power to a 26-year-old wunderkind with fuckloads of talent at, say, cooking vegetarian food. it can! because most 26-year-old wunderkinds, while very talented in this field or that, and while often very honorable people, lack the wisdom and natural tools to respond appropriately to sexual harassment and assault. and when they see it go unpunished constantly (like they would in, say, the restaurant industry), they freeze up. and forget it happened. and hope it just goes away. 

but with the right framework and examples, wunderkinds and wunderadults would know exactly how to respond in the face of this shit. and look. none of this framework talk reflects any bit of cleverness at all, really. it's just top of mind now that so many goofy-looking dudes are getting their comeuppance. but somehow, these frameworks and examples have been sorely lacking in the food and beverage industry. where the high school harassment culture is alive and well and thriving. and so, kudos to that restaurant group for providing the first big example in chicago. the older and wiser folks in the industry have to keep the dipshit kinds in line. even the kindhearted ones. and hopefully this particular wunderkind will pay his hard-learned lesson forward. 


my cousin made a really strong point last night. the whole #metoo campaign is wild. because almost every woman has a story. and so, as sheer math alone suggests that an enormous number of men engage in sexual assault, many women hate all men. she also acknowledged very quickly that the math doesn't work that way. and that something like 30%, say, of men actually engage in sexual assault. just, a lot of it. 

but, she reminded me, that's 3 of your 10 male friends! that's a lot of men! and so we all need the same kind of framework mentioned above to use in our everyday lives. outside of work.

what's the framework? i don't know. maybe, since power is mostly at the root of this type of behavior, guys should play the same game back to the dickhead dude they're in the presence of. e.g., if you see a guy grab the ass of a girl on a train, take your bag and start poking him in the ass. and when he looks at you, give him a little smirk. or when your buddy shows you a naked picture of a girl, start taking pictures of him in unflattering positions and posting them, one after the other, on facebook. or shit. even just smile and tell him to "get that insecure shit out of here". 

never mind. these are all probably way off. don't listen to me. i don't know shit about this. 

but if i come across any handy sort of guide for how to counter sexual harassment or assault on the street, i'll pass it on. promise. cuz we 70% of guys should be joining the 100% of women in the fight against the scuzzy, cowardly 30%.

middle brow | new beer notice \ 20 oct 17 /



so we tweak. and we massage. and we finesse. and we botch. and we discover. and we make some beers over and over and over again. and this is good. this is part of making good beer. or, when it's already good, better beer. ... so naturally, this is what we chose to do with our #sellsout series. where we sell out and make IPAs.

sells out is our double dry-hopped ipa. "double dry-hopped", or DDH, is the term that seems to be forming around beers that derive from the newish new englander tradition of making really juicy, aromatic, sweeter-than-average IPAs. sometimes you'll see NEIPA instead of DDH. 

anyhow. sells out is our take on this new move. but, as we're wont to do, we couldn't get comfortable making a simple DDH IPA. instead, we experimented a bit by fermenting our pilots with several yeast strains. in the end, we settled on using *four* different yeast strains. a wallonian saison strain, two ipa strains, and a faux wild strain. and now that we've landed our base DDH IPA recipe, our rhythm section. we search for a charismatic duet partner. one who's sweet. and whose voice has curves. and earth. and light. that is to say: we change the hops from beer to beer. e.g., sells out mosaic. sells out vic. etc.

and so here we are. noticing all of you. about our newest beer. *SELLS OUT VIC*. it's a DDH IPA, and it's arguably our proudest weird beer yet. it's puzzlingly heavy with vic secret, pacifica and mandarina hops. which together make you feel like you're walking through a valley in oaxaca, harvesting papaya, trimming pineapple stalks and drinking a guava jumex out of one of those blue cardboard liters. as ever with our sells out series: it's got a soft and very moderately sweet finish. so you can drink two. 6.5%.

please go buy it and drink it this weekend. while it's still fresh. available at any number of bars and shops. the green lady and bitter pops in rosko village, to beermiscuous in lakeview. the beer temple in avondale. warehouse liquors in the city city. or the open bottle or beer cellar in the suburbs.

middle brow | citizen how \ 13 oct 17 /

big trust.

we were super excited to have released *EDDIE* this past week at lucky dorr at the park at wrigley. did they win last night? hope so. even as a bunch of sox fans. this coming monday, dat park will be showing let's play two, the documentary about pearl jam's shows at wrigley field last year. and our beer, which is named after pearl jam, will be on tap just there. only there. just over there. around the corner in that little corridor next to the stadium. and only there. so got get it.

but thinking about pearl jam and beer made us think about ticketmaster and the 90s.

the pearl jam-ticketmaster story is sorta infamous. but i'll break it down for you hee-er.

it all started when pearl jam threw a **free** thank-you concert for 30K fans in seattle. and ticketmaster charged each fan a $1 service fee. which ain't a lot of money. yeah. i know. we know. they knew. but shit. if you're throwing a "free" show that costs a dollar. that might make you push your checkered-hot-dog-boat filled with french fries across the diner table in disgust. you just can't eat anymore. you just can't. f'ing greed. ... and so pearl jam started sticking their fingers in the many eyes and up the many noses of ticketmaster. and it all eventually came to many heads.

anyway. the more serious and sober story is this: ticketmaster signed a bunch of contracts with venues across woody guthrie's great land. these contracts made them the exclusive ticket provider for any event staged in any such venue. with this long-term exclusivity, ticketmaster could do what it wah-nid. and what else would a massive corporation do in such a scenario but stoke its greed?!? so, perfectly in step and tune, they started adding surcharges to tickets. for shit like parking. and services. and "conveniences". read: bull shit. apparently, these fees would sometimes reach 25% of the headline ticket price. 

and fuckin'-a man!!! eddie vedder was pissed!!! and so was stone gossard!! and mike mcready!! but not jeff ament. he was busy perfecting his bass-player sways and jumps and jimmies. what a bass performer!

so anyway. when pearl jam demanded that their tickets be kept under $20. with surcharges no higher than $1.80. ticketmaster told them to go suck an egg. so they did. they boycotted ticketmaster. and they filed a motion with the federal government dude! you're trying to tell me kurt cobain was cooler than eddie vedder? this vedder dude took on a giant, greedy, one-track-mind-one-trick-pony corporation. and convinced a bunch of crotchety white senators with train-loads of power to investigate it. and they found something shitty... ticketmaster, go figure, was likely engaging in anti-competitive practices by entering these contracts and then inflating ticket prices for unjustifiable reasons.

now this (and other radical behavior by the band) all angered the big foul giant. so ticketmaster even leaned on lots of venues where they didn't have these exclusive contracts. in some unsavory ways. and made it near impossible for pearl jam to play in the summer.

but nevertheless. the superbly sonic seattle crew designed a national tour through a hodgepodge of self-made, rural, outdoor venues and a smattering of non-ticketmaster venues and other similar such. and boy! was it a fucking bear to get tickets to those shows! we remember. cuz this was right around the time that we started waiting in line for tickets to shows. at the local carson pirie scott. for hours in the rain. and the fake pigs (mall security) would drive by. and everyone would laugh at their geo trackers. and the girl with the bells would give you an eye or two. and you'd ask her for a lighter. and she'd have one. and you'd sit down next to her and tell her all about andrew wood. and she'd tell you all about david byrne. and then you'd invite her to your 12th birthday party.

but we could never find pearl jam tickets! how the f were we supposed to without the internet? pearl jam didn't have a number in the goddess-forsaken phone book! 

it turns out: most of the pearl jam fan folk felt the same pains. there were too many ticket tricks. and nobody in woody guthrie's great land could figure them out. pearl jam just couldn't beat the horned beast. and so they cancelled their tour. and their boycott. (and. go figure. now they sell tickets at three digit prices through their old foe.)

and then. a short bit after pearl jam lost their stomach for the fight. the justice department ran out of resources and stopped investigating ticketmaster. but we learned something interesting from the 'fuffle: that ticketmaster was using part of the "service" fees to pay concert venues for exclusivity. that is, ticketmaster was paying venues to refuse to use any other ticket provider.


now, this is pretty perfect as beer fan fodder. didn't we just talk about how it should make the heavens roar and the hells lech when a business wins not because they offer a better product and not because they brand their product better and not because they deliver it more efficiently but instead because they have lots of cash flow and they use that cash flow to lick-and-pinch-out the newly burning flames of smaller, competitive businesses?

well that's what ticketmaster was doing. and still does. (and it's what lots of beer distributors and some big craft beer companies do.) and it should not be allowed. and you should care about it. because it tends to reduce choices. and raise prices. and lay off your brother-in-law. and bankrupt your neighbor's small business. and enrich a few wealthy executives and stockholders. and make the world a worse place.

what does this say about consolidation in the beer industry? watch lagunitas and goose island and ballast point. i guess we'll see. and what does it say about consolidation in the grocery industry? watch amazonian foods. i guess we'll see. but the history of the healthcare industry. and the media industry. and the telecom industry. and the ticketing industry. and the retail industry. and the airline industry. suggest some not very good things.

middle brow | new beer notice \ 6 oct 17 /


last week we told you about our collaboration with lucky dorr. well... this week it's here! come to l'park at wrigley this sunday in the early evening and grab a little slug of #eddie, our blended yeast, rye saison with ginger. it's got everything a girl could want: ginger. it's also got everything a boy could want: ginger. it's also simultaneously autumnal and crushable and not an oktoberfest. go figure! and it'll make you hum a pearl jam song. just please check that awful cubs tribute at the lucky dorr's door.

oh. and we'll be donating half our profits from the beer to the logan square farmers market. so as to help them. in some #modest fashion. to continue their cool work on the boulevards and in the barrios. and because real food is culture.


ad astra.

in stores near you. now. go grab some. and then eat dinner. and then crack a can. caramel in your nose. light chocolate and smoke on your tongue. salt to round out the sweetness. it'll remind you of the depth of your favorite HBO characters. or the fresh tobacco smoke of your uncle's truck or den. or the richness of your grandma's old fashioned. 

how very autumnal, these things. the time for richness and depth and memory is upon us! let's all celebrate it.


middle brow | citizen how \ 6 oct 17 /


i didn't want to rap about gun control this week. 'cuz i've already typed my heart out on facebook twenty times over the past ten years about it. but i had a few thoughts this week that hadn't really occurred to me before. so, we share.

another white man mowed down his fellow citizens monday. this time in a particularly gruesome fashion. (did you read about the 22yo who got shot? and his 21yo girlfriend? the new mother of their child? who laid over his body to shield him from more bullets? she was shot too. and what bout the teacher who died holding her fiance's hand? go read his facebook post. the stories don't stop. and you should share every last one of them. but i digress.)

it's likely he was mentally ill. but i'm tired of blaming mental illness. and, frankly, giving a bad name to the many mentally ill people who work every fucking day of their lives to be "normal". to have "normal" interactions. to feel ok. and who, 99.9% of the time, do a great job. 

it's time we instead blame something else... 

ok. look. unsurprisingly. as soon as the first body dropped. two dozen gun advocates were already booked on fox news. and facebook was filled with excuse after excuse that deflected blame on guns. but it was the same shit you always see. the same badbadnotgood arguments against gun control that are so easily debunked: 

if we ban or restrict gun ownership, only the bad guys will get them. (who said anything about banning guns? and then, what's the point of speed limits?)

it's the people, not the guns. (ok. then if we have so many such people, how about, instead of making it easy for them to kill others, we make it harder?)

but most people like me who propose gun control don't ever face the argument that many gun deaths can't be stopped by the simple measures they propose. small gun control measures wouldn't change the story very much on suicides. or gang violence. or domestic violence. and those three things make up the bulk of gun violence. there was even a viral washington post article about it. it's a tough point to counter. 

vox, unsurprisingly, took a whack at it by zooming out and addressing a different point: does gun control save lives? the answer is, generally, yes

but how can you square those two circles?

is it so obviously culture? yes. but bear with me. the point might not be as boring or obvious as it sounds. 

so, what makes a culture? culture isn't a word with a clear definition, but we can all agree that our food. and our sports. and our music. and our language. and our stories. and our religion. and our weather-coping mechanisms. these things are all culture. how do they become culture? through practice. through repetition. if we habitually cook with peppers (because, say, they're plentiful on our land), our culture becomes defined by spicy food. if we ritually sacrifice goats or good times to some god, animal sacrifice or pleasure deprivation become part of our culture. stories we tell again and again, and the motifs that go along with them, define our culture. how many ways has shakespeare been interpreted?

so then what if we make guns marginally harder to acquire? even the staunchest republican must agree that as things become marginally harder to do, people do less of them. it's the entire rationale for their tax policy. (the higher we tax income, the less people will work.) so, likewise, if we tax guns. or restrict gun access. or regulate bullet purchases. or whatever. we should see marginally less gun activity. and marginally fewer gun deaths. but this is just rational actor stuff. where does culture come in?

right now. think about the copycat effect—the tendency of sensational publicity about violent murders or suicides to result in more of the same through imitation. think about how mass shooters often are mimicking the assholes who came before them. and think about how "practices" make a culture. if you're gonna lose your mind and terrorize and traumatize a bunch of people, how should you do it? well, a mass shooting seems like the best way for white american males! it's in our culture.

or think about gang shootings and other gun activity on the south side of chicago. if your neighbor shot a kid who glanced at his girl, what are you gonna do when someone glances at yours? you're gonna find a gun and respond the way people in your america respond. 

but also think about availability heuristic—the psychological phenomenon whereby decisions are made by referencing examples that are easy to recall, either because of their recency or sensational nature. this can oddly be used to understand gun activity in ganglands and in las vegas hotel rooms. but it can equally be used to explain the tendency for average janes and joes to buy up every gun in their walmart. the more gun crime you're exposed to, the more you think you'll be victim to it, and the more likely you are to want a gun for "protection". (good luck with that, by the way.)

so look. the point is this: the NRA always blames our people and our culture for gun violence. not guns. and sure, maybe the problem is with our people and our culture. but if guns became harder to get. and therefore fewer people had them. and gun activity dropped generally. then our gun culture would change—that is, we'd see fewer copycat mass shootings, and fewer shootings in our cities, and fewer people buying up every gun they can to "defend" themselves. so, as i see it, fuck all those arguments about the true effect of this policy or that policy. fewer guns means less gun activity means less of a gun culture.

if the NRA wants to blame our culture, then fine. let's do something about it. let's change our culture. let's enact some gun control.

middle brow | slavery \ 29 sep 17 /

birth of a nation.

have you seen birth of a nation yet? we see fewer movies these days. (nick and bryan of mb met in the romantic comedy section of a hollywood video. pete was there, providing color commentary.) but we recommend this movie bigly. we'll reserve judgment on its acting and script and cinematography and story. the only four things we know how to judge in a movie. (wtf does a director do anyway? a producer? how do we really know whether an editor was good or the director was just really, really efficient?) and instead we'll judge it based on it's social commentary. is this the first movie about slavery that lacks a white savior? are there any redeeming white people in this movie? finally. a movie about slavery lacks a white hero for us to get all squishy over. ... either we need to watch more movies. or this one was really refreshing in that regard.

this foe-toe was taken from indiewire. they're cool. cuz they're indie.

this foe-toe was taken from indiewire. they're cool. cuz they're indie.

middle brow | heroin \ 29 sep 17 /

a wasted metaphor. 

middle brow has a very, very modest orbit. but even in our tiny orbit. big pharma, the single most evil "big" in the world, wreaks havoc.

while we're mostly powerless up against them, there are still things we can do to try to limit the number of young men and women who fall victim to heroin and other addictions. i mean, we ain't doctors. and we ain't experts on addiction. but we've seen a lot of it first hand. and from our experience, we've learned a child's handful of things. first: treat addiction like the disease it is. do not shame addicts. insist, instead, that they're not weak or bad. that they're simply sick. insist that they get to a doctor. or fuck getting to a doctor. insist that they take the phone from you when you call a doctor for them. just to chat. second: treat addiction like a disease. stop glorifying it. stop showering positive attention on heroin (and other) addicts. be constructive with and demanding of them. but don't look at them with star-crossed eyes. don't make excuses for them. don't myth-make on their behalf. being a good friend. a good human. requires that.

ad astra aspera. it's a charming metaphor. but such a waste of one on people who are chasing something they can't catch. #pfuckpfizer. and fuck heroin. it's evil.

middle brow | citizen how \ 22 sep 17 /

let's have a date.

how many years ago was it that born-on dates were born? it makes sense: you want customers to know how fresh your beer is. but you don't want to put expiration dates on beers. because it's not really clear when a beer expires. and that's a really inefficient, backwards way of emphasizing freshness anyway. so i get it. i get why budweiser (or was it miller?) launched their born-on date campaign so many years ago.

but even then i wondered: how am i supposed to know what the f a born-on date means? that is. without some education. without knowing how long a beer generally lasts. how am i supposed to interpret a born-on date? it seemed like an equally inefficient way to emphasize freshness. because it required so much education. and modern men and women. especially the beer drinking kind. don't take easily to education.

but eventually i learned a little something about beer. in fact, a little too much. ... i learned that a fresh ipa was a game changer. and that freshness started to fade from ipas after a few weeks. and so i became a total snob. and started looking at every packaged beer i bought. to make sure it was packaged within that month. browns, lagers, ipas, saisons, sours. ciders even! (jk. i never did this. but so many beer drinkers do.)

and then i learned even more!!!! i learned that hops are sensitive to time. and that the more time that passes, the less hop aroma and flavor make it into your mouth. and that that detracts from a beer. and then i learned that as time passes, many adjunct spices change aroma and flavor and intensity. and some of the time that enhances a beer. but then i finally learned the truth: that born-on dates are much, much less important when a beer is not heavily hopped or spiced. that is, when the beer is malt or yeast forward. now, nobody wants to drink a six-year-old saison. but a six-month-old saison might be beautiful. where it's ipa sister might be shit.

and so i became more discerning with born-on dates.

i hope you all do too.

this all reminds me of birthdays. for humans. the smaller the number, the more exciting the birthday. for the subject human. and for all her friends and family. but over time, that excitement fades. ... should it always? don't some of us get wiser and more interesting with age? i've met a few ipas in my life. but i've met many more saisons. and i'd sure as shit hate for people to presume i was an ipa. and not a saison. and put me down for the lines around my eyes.


middle brow | rex \ 22 sep 17 /

middle brow rex.

after 25 years of supporting wxrt. chicago's finest rock. i finally removed it from my presets yesterday. and, out of respect for our 25 year one-sided relationship, i don't think i'll ever call it again. it's over. ... it's been years since i heard a song on xrt that i really cared about. and even longer since i discovered something new there. (but, of course, long live the big beat!) i kept it on preset #2. (2, for peace, obv.) in every car i ever drove. since i was 16. ... the last 5 years or so, it was out of respect. and when you realize that the only thing keeping you steady is "respect", you know you're really disrespecting your pal. and yourself.

here's a few tunes that x r t made for me.
low brow.

the b52s - rock lobster. shit. is there a band i hate more than the b52s? scratch that. is there a song i hate more than love shack? it's a song that makes you really pity a band. like gotye's somebody that i used to know. clearly the songwriters in both cases have a talent. some kind of talent. ... anyway, love shack is the kind of tune that reminds you of your friend's aunt at a wedding. doesn't matter anymore the merits of the song. you can't help but picture your friend's aunt. not her lame aunt. or her cool aunt. but her average aunt. the one who's name you can never remember. but whose socks are always bunching up near her ankles when she's not at weddings.  funky little shack.

but i digress. rock lobster is about the goofiest song that any radio station ever could play. but have you ever really listened to it? or heard the extended version? "it wasn't a rock." listen here... careful. you might lose it when they start listing sea creatures. "there goes a narwahl."

wilco - california stars. remember this one?! it was your song! with your girl/boyfriend! in 9th grade! gag me. but wait. let me listen all the way through first... 

high brow.

suicide dream - baby dream. - my old man did some work as a contractor when i was young. i have many vivid memories of tagging along to his project homes and buildings on the weekends. or jumping in a paint van with my uncles to grab hot dogs for lunch. and most of that time was xrt time. one particularly vivid memory came to me about 10 years ago, a few bits after moving to chicago. while i was riding my bike past the morton salt shed. ... the memory's of driving around the elston corridor with phil when i was 10 years old or so. and him running into this supply shop and that. and me tagging along with him. short, and so close-as-f to the dirty, oily floor. drawn to the loud ass light that would pour in through the one or two windows in this warehouse or that mechanic shop. sometimes i'd sit in the car. and once, dream baby dream by suicide came on the radio. and he ran into a light supply shop. and i sat there listening to this terrifically redundant, beautifully ugly song. it was weird and unforgettable. like i hope some of our beers sometimes are. and i didn't know how to find it. and my dad jumped back in the car. and it was still on. but he didn't recognize it. and we turned onto I-94. toward the ryan. and i heard the word "suicide". but didn't know how to spell it. and didn't think to ask my old man. and a decade later, i stumbled upon it again. thank goddess.

talking heads - once in a lifetime. another high brow ditty. turned on to me by x r t. for this one. i was standing on my parents bed. while my ma folded clothes. and julia child was on pbs. and i had chlorine in my fucking nose. and the 80s were everywhere. in the 80s. my ma, the leading 80s lady. david byrne, her unlikely hero. to this day, she may not even know his name.

middle brow. 

built to spill - strange. one night in 2001. as summer was ending. and we were learning about middle brow's future home, logan square. and i ventured back home from lula cafe. and we snuck into a bar. and i told stories about fancy farmy foods in my ambitiously blue collar town. about how my per plate price averaged $25 (whoa!!!!). and everyone pointed and laughed at me. and we wandered back to my parents' garage. to finish our underage drinking session. and listened to a taped episode of the big beat. and built to spill's "strange" came on. we all felt like we better start liking that super-cool, pavement-ready shit. lest we lose our edge.

st. vincent - marry me john. another big beat discovery, i believe. made while driving back to my hyde park apartment. this was around when i realized that the big beat was the only program worth listening to on the radio. and the only thing that kept xrt interesting. i went to her show at the empty bottle later that night. and locked eyes with her a few times. since i was one of twelve other people in the audience. and i ignored my gut-take on my favorite radio station of all time. for another ten years. tapping it the second i sat down in the driver's seat. or the second i jumped in the car at midway arrivals. only to tap away seconds later.

so long, pal. you were cool once. maybe in your next life, instead of just hearing neil young, you'll really listen to what he's saying. and burn out instead.

middle brow | citizen how \ 15 sep 17 /

real, adult love. 

i heard someone slap their tongue somethin' stupid this week. saying that the hypocrisy of the left is on full display with the kaepernick (taking a knee during the national anthem) and confederate statue issues. liberals will defend free speech, they argued, when it's critical of america. but seek to destroy any "non-speech" expression that promotes or honors or glorifies america. 

but even ignoring that confederate statues *do not* honor america and instead promote, honor and glorify racism and oppression, there's no hypocrisy here. certain folks show love for their country by questioning it. by asking whether it's actually a great country. and who it's great for. and when those same certain folks notice that it's not a great place to live if you're a young black man, some of them ask people in the black community how to best improve the lot of young black men. in an attempt to make their country a little better. and when a member of the young-black-man community expresses to those same certain folks his discontent with his country, they listen. they try to empathize. and when that member decides that he views the flag. that symbol of powerful, wealthy, comfortable americans. as a symbol of marginalization. and hardship. and death-in-the-streets. and therefore refuses to honor it. those same certain people are reminded of the ways in which their country has been wrong before. and the ways they worked to try to improve it. and eventually did improve it. and so they listen to that man and respond with hope. hope that their country can still be greater. for more of its people. 

certain other folks. well. when they're precious eyes are put upon to behold such disrespect for their *the american flag*: how daaaaaaaaare you disrespect that symbol! we don't care how well it represents your interests, you must show it respect because you were born here! and if you want to complain about how you're treated, please find another way. something other than kneeling during the national anthem. it's just. i don't know. it's just. it's just the wrong way. ... ... ... oooooh. no no. wait. wait but. no. but also not that way! those certain other folks say. no no no. DO NOT attend a protest and speak eloquently (or ineloquently, even) about how this country has wronged your community. about how the powers that be give you reason to fear for your physical integrity. every waking hour. ... ... ... and halt! stop where you are! DO NOT MOVE ANOTHER INCH. those certain other folks plead. marching in the streets is completely inappropriate when all these comfortable people are trying to get to their dinner dates. please find another way to protest your ill treatment. please find another way to remind us that your great grandfather may have been a slave. and that your father may have been kicked in the teeth by a white cop. all for looking too long at that young white woman at the five-and-dime with the pretty poems and shapely thighs. we don't want to think about that. we only want to think about our symbols our founding fathers and world war ii. ... and DON'T YOU DARE go on cable news and explain how your child was shot in the street by a cop because he was black. how pitiful! those certain other folks shout. how dare you play politics with your child's death. your own child! ugh. the shame. and on my news station. somebody please switch it to pat sajak. ... please?!

and so it seems that both the certain folks and the certain other folks are being entirely consistent--i.e. non-hypocritical--on the kaepernick/confederate issue. the certain folks who defend one's right not to honor the flag while simultaneously supporting the destruction of symbols of *slavery* simply aim to make america better for more and more americans. the certain other folks simply aim to ignore any flaws in the things they love. they're like little boys and girls. unable to understand or acknowledge the complexity and sore-elbow work of real, adult love.

but that's not the only point to make on the kaepernick issue. 

consider the democrats "hamburger problem". which goes like this: if democrats want to start winning elections again, they have to stop making fun of people in rural areas for eating hamburgers and driving american made cars and shooting clay pigeons. aside from guns and abortion, rural america by and large agrees with liberal policies: they're pro-union and pro-universal healthcare. they're pro-gay marriage. they favor legalizing marijuana. they're vastly more pro-immigrant than the republican party is. but they vote for republicans because republicans don't make fun of their way of life.

but this strikes me as totally ass backwards. republicans as usual are projecting onto democrats. nobody told any white, republican football player or fan that they should kneel during the national anthem. and most definitely nobody made fun of any republican for standing during it. a young black man just decided that he didn't feel right standing for that flag-and-song. and so he didn't. and then REPUBLICANS turned around and ripped him to shreds for it. republicans made fun of him for it. skewered him in the media for it. called him a bad person. wished ill upon him. laughed as his career ended.

likewise, just because someone is eating a fucking salad for lunch doesn't mean they look down at you for eating chicken cordon bleu (two "meats" in one meal-sit!). or, you know, maybe they do! but so fucking what! they aren't actually harassing you for eating meat. or, at worst, one in every 400 vegetarians actually harangues you about the way your pig meat was got. but sheesh... get over it. ain't you supposed to be "real" americans? ain't you supposed to be tough? thick-necked-and-skinned? and devastatingly passive-aggressive? why are you so in need of protection from a bunch of shit-stick republican politicians? can't you defend your choices and your way of life?

we did a beer tasting last week in trump country. and most of the people we met were lovely. and "real" men and women in that some of them looked us in the eye and told us they loved our beer, and others of them looked us in the eye and told us they didn't, and still others looked us in the eye and said, "no thanks, buddy" and walked directly over to the tower of "not your mothers rhubarb pie" beer. but one guy stuck out as rather non-lovely. when his friend suggested he try our beer because he likes belgian beers, he scoffed, looked away, and said as loud as he could: "i already know i won't like that shit based on that fuckin' label". and stormed off without making eye contact with me. total coward. 

it reminds me of this whole "cuck" thing we heard a lot about during election season. the word "cuck" stands for "cuckold", which is a guy whose wife is cheating on him. by calling liberals cucks, republicans were calling them weak fools. but those very same people are afraid of what a pink can of beer might say about them. and so they begged and pleaded for someone like trump to come save them from all the scary mexicans and women with hairy armpits. cucks, indeed.

anyway. how about we comfortable folks stop complaining about the manner in which some very uncomfortable folks are expressing their discomfort with the general unfairness of the system we're all living under and contributing to. and how about instead we honor the work that was done before us to make our communities better. by finding problems to fix and working together to fix them. seems easy... and it is! if you check your persecution complex at the door.

middle brow | citizen how \ 8 sep 17 /

a different homo economicus.

ain't it funny how all this DACA lump is happening at the same time that hurricane irma is bearing down on america the bellyful? no? well, i think it is. speaking of bears, maybe just bear with me...

ok. so. piles and piles of people are appalled that donald trump has rescinded DACA, calling it unconstitutional. some background: DACA was a program that said, "if you were brought here as a child by your parents, we won't deport you". hopefully you can see why its revocation is appalling to so many people. (including churchgoers. for some reason they decided to listen to their gospel on this issue. goddess knows why. but i digress.) anyway. it's appalling because these kids were brought here through no will of their own. they didn't decide to up and cross the border illegally in search of a better life; their parents made that decision for them. their parents, in other words, forced them to break our border laws. 

and so the intelligent among us have gone intelligently to twitter and facebook and cnn and newsletter and have intelligently made the admittedly intelligent points that: DACA recipients pay taxes; they start companies; they get married and have children; they aren't allowed to receive welfare; they commit crimes at a much lower rate than the rest of the population. in other words: they benefit our country so much! and we're turning our backs on them!

and like i said: this is an intelligent point that must be made time and time again. especially to moderates and republicans. because folks in those parties understand the world most readily through economic-citizen-colored raybans. i.e., folks who live within their means, pay taxes, obey laws, cut their grass twice a month, stay off welfare and otherwise contribute to society are good. are american. and thus are america. why would anyone want to deport someone who makes america great?!

but that's the fat. here's the funny.

consider: two weeks ago. hurricane harvey had houston in its crosshairs. the whole country was prepared for massive devastation of our fourth largest city. and the devastation, we knew from katrina and sandy, would be indiscriminate. 

imagine hearing the following on the news. or seeing it on twitter, in that context: "oh lord of light and sound! how terrible that those poor houstonians are about to be crushed by hurricane harvey! it really couldn't happen to better people. please spare them! they don't deserve to lose their homes! they don't deserve to lose friends and neighbors! they don't deserve to lose their farms! and mechanics garages! they don't deserve to lose their schools and churches! and small, socially-conscious craft breweries! they don't deserve to be forced to flee to another city. and to live there for an indeterminate length of time. on a mattress. in some gymnasium. because. becausebecause... they obey laws at a higher rate than the rest of the country! they don't dip into the federal purse! oh lord! these are good people who start businesses and contribute to society! and so it would be beyond cruel if their 10-year-old dogs drowned in a rainflood! please spare them. because, above all, they pay taxes. for that reason alone is sufficient to spare their lives and livings."

if you're a DACA recipient, this must be what all the intelligents sound like. hurricane trump is coming for them. without discrimination. and they could be lasso'd up by his ICE agents at any moment. in front of their child. or their girlfriend's family. and they'll go straight to jail and never see their girlfriend again. or their bed again. or their home. or their bike. or their guitar. or their favorite ice cream spoon. or that street with all the apricot trees on it. or the lake at 5am on a cold winter morning. and they'll be sent soon from jail to some foreign country. to live with some distant family members who speak a different language from their natural tongue. their life is over. as they know it. for no reason that's justifiable to any conscience human being. because they did not break any laws of their own volition. 

hurricane trump is coming for them. and we're defending them by referencing their economic and societal value. how about their humanity?

remember when you were in college and you were dating a really cute girl and she was really mysterious and funny and had dark eyes and careless hair and she was fashionably sensitive but too cool to care? and you were flipped-up in love with her. and you guys were both looking for your first jobs in the same town and you were really excited 'cuz you were gonna keep your relationship going but you were also kinda nervous about her getting a job with this pharmaceutical company because you knew she'd be going on sales calls with really charming, witty dudes in minneapolis and she'd be meeting doctors and taking them out to dinner and the wit-charm of her co-worker luke or the money and intellectual heft of her customer dr howard would eventually slay her silly and she'd end up getting drunk and having wild sex in a sheraton with him or him and then she'd pretend it never happened but then 4 months later she'd cross paths with luke again in grand rapids and the same thing would happen and then slowly but surely it'd become a practice for her like meditation or yoga or avocado toast and she'd be sleeping with all these amazing dudes while you were still working on story number one in your short story collection and also on the customer service desk at CDW in skokie with roseanne? remember that? how certain you were that you'd lose her? that your life would never be the same? that you'd never recover? that you've never find your true love and you'd end up settling for someone half as good as her and you wouldn't think your kids were cute or even that interesting?

yeah. you remember that. unless you are now or ever have been or ever will be an undocumented immigrant. in which case you remember much less trivial things.


"quotes" generally bug me. but i'll leave you with one that's stuck over the years:

"[some humans] were well known for their disposition to provide help in emergencies. this disposition went to the heart of their conception of society, as a duty-bound relation between strangers. their charitable behavior was a way of emphasizing that strangers are just as important as friends -- because all of us, in the end, are nobodies. by devoting yourself to the distressed stranger you make it clear that you too are a stranger in this world. you reaffirm the distance between yourself and others, by showing that the motive that binds you to society is one of impartial justice and objective duty. the charitable relief of strangers was simply another aspect of [human] reserve."

middle brow | citizen how \ 4 aug 17 /

ballast point.

we spent some time discussing brewery ownership a few weeks back. so we won't spend much time on it today.

but some recent news bears discussing. as some of you may have heard (and as many others of you may have not because you have many better things to do than to stay abreast of what restaurant is opening where and when), ballast point is opening a massive brewpub in the increasingly overbuilt fulton market district.

ballast point is owned by constellation. constellation owns corona and several other very popular beer and spirits brands. ballast point also makes delicious beer. that said, its dictates do not come from family women and men interested in connecting with a community. instead, they come from shareholders. the executives at constellation and ab inbev (bud) and every other publicly-held company have a duty to maximize shareholder value. a straight-up duty; they'd be sued by their shareholders if they didn't do so.

and, as such, the decision to "capture the craft market" by placing a massive brewpub in the middle of a major-money neighborhood in the middle of the country isn't all that exciting. unless you get excited by short-term financial success.

... because that's all that this represents. short-term financial success. big beer brands tired to ignore "craft beer" for years. then they derided it. then, when they couldn't stem the bleeding, they decided to join the fun! haayyyyyyyy!!!! and now bud and corona and heineken and millercoors are furiously acquiring craft breweries. some such acquisitions are strokes of genius. others, strokes of hilarity. others, just strokes.

and what are they doing with these brands? they're using them to "capture the craft market", as mentioned above. but it's merely a medium-term move: with such forays into "normals" neighborhoods in cities like chicago, they're introducing craft beer to the masses. and the masses will quickly wet their pants over how delicious beer can be. and then? 

and then, since normals always follow in the footsteps of weirdos (see: gentrification. sports. music.): ballast point and lagunitas and brooklyn brewery and goose island (our hearts! our souls! we'll love you forever!) will become very tired and boring to normals. and the little-guy breweries living and brewing on the edge will quickly become exciting to normals!!

thanks yet again to the big guys at constellation and "the high end" (?) for hastening the process. in the meantime, make sure the beer you drink is made with some concern for stakeholder, not just shareholder, value.

drink good. do better.

middle brow | citizen how \ 28 jul 17 /


we saw dunkirk in 70mm at the music box theatre last weekend. we don't like to review movies unless we've seen them more than once. but obviously it checks a whole bunch of *good* boxes. being beautifully shot not the least among them.

instead, briefly about beaches: virtually, if not actually, everywhere that water transitions to land, you find sand. and while there've been many land invasions over the course of human history, invasions by sea are inevitably quite common.

see: the greeks invaded the other greeks. the brits invaded the states. the states stormed normandy, as they say. but only after the germans took dunkirk. the states invaded vietnam. the states invaded grenada. and cuba. and wait! the other states, too! and let's not pretend the polynesians are perfectly peaceful people.

that is, war is pretty sandy. and likely quite beautiful. but imagine if you were a warrior in such a sea-placed war. and after your war ended, your family wanted to spend a weekend at the beach. next time you're crushing a copacetic on the beach, think about fighting a war with sand in your shoes.

middle brow | citizen how \ 28 jul 17 /

*transgender in the military*

"we can't do transgender in the military." this week, our president decided before his twitter following to ban transgender american citizens from serving their country.


first, there he goes mixing up nouns and adjectives again. his pronouncement sounds like "we can't have citrus in the compost". we can't have "subordination" in the military, sure. or "mutiny" on the [b]ounty. (or can we?) but "transgender in the military" doesn't make sense. and that's not just a commentary on his intelligence. it's a commentary on his complete nihilism. the man cares about nothing at all in the world. not even getting discriminatory grammar correct. he has no views. but i digress w/r/t that point.

so, trump's transgender ban is serious issue number one. this week. and every week. while this and other such policies stand. and i don't care how much it detracts from "trump russia", as he calls it. or the second most important issue (see below).

why? quite simply, it comes down to gender v sex v love.

sex: fine. your god (because your goddess would never) commands that gay sex is immoral and should be outlawed by federal, state and local governments. while i might question your god's priorities, and while i would definitely call such a view "bigoted" (sorry, but the definition is clear), at least you could pass blame to your religion.

love: again, you refer to your god for your insistence that a man/woman cannot be allowed to love another man/woman the way you love your woman/man. what a weird god you have! if you believe (and he believes) that the world is better with less love in it, you're going to a very unique church. ... we know something of jesus, having gone to catholic schools our whole lives. and that god-kid hipster was hardly concerned with anything *BUT* love.

but if you want to give someone a hard time about the gender that they feel with every inch of their body and brain? well... if you believe any of the above, we believe you're a dick. but let's just be clear: being transgender isn't about *having sex* with anyone. and it isn't about *loving* anyone either. except for yourself. it's about being comfortable in your own skin. about being happy with yourself. about feeling *right*. at least that's what we've learned so far.

we have so much more to learn about it. and many of you do, too. but, in the meantime, if you want to make our transgender friends feel like they have no place. if you want to add to the shoulder-shattering stress they must feel everyday of their lives. well, let's just say we'd gladly be passed over by you for coors or yuengling.

and anyway. as i said above. this president doesn't even care about the issue. he cares about nothing. he's been such a massive loser so far (see, again, healthcare last night), that he's just desperate for a win. and he chose to discriminate against a bunch of americans as a means to score a partial budget vote win in the house. for a budget that he knows full well won't make it through the senate.

but it's hard to win when you don't work hard.

middle brow | citizen how \ 21 jul 17 /


at middle brow we constantly think about the social ramifications of our actions. brewing beer is very water intensive, for example. there's no way around it. that sucks. ... we try to balance it out by conserving as much water at home as we can. and we intend to build a brewpub ecosystem that minimizes water waste.

waste. how about that? how often are our actions wasteful. think about the last time you grabbed a bunch of paper towels to clean up a light spill. did you really need that many? could you designate a kitchen towel for spills instead of creating unnecessary paper towel waste? 

or think about the last car you purchased. did you really need to purchase a brand new car? could you have purchased something used instead? these days, you can purchase a used car with all the same after-purchase service benefits as a new car. so what's the excuse in buying brand new? in being marginally responsible for adding another "thing" to the world?

our friend meegan czop owns and runs great lakes yard--the best reclaimed lumber yard in chicago. she taught us a lot about really subtle instances of waste. e.g., think about how we built the city of chicago: we ripped up forests all over the midwest. and when it's time for a house or a church or a school to come down, what do we do with all those former forests? we chop them up and send them back to *other* midwestern cities' landfills. why not build more, new things out of those materials? they should be preserved and reused.

or, take bicycles. you can go buy a brand new road bike for $300. or you can go to working bikes in pilsen and spend $250 on a really cool schwinn from the 80s. true, it's not much cheaper. but you're not putting new shit into the world that'll one day be trashed. what's more, in the case of working bikes, you're supporting their amazing mission of providing bicycles to underprivileged people in developing countries.

all to say: let's be mindful about our actions that create waste. let's bring our own coffee mugs to the cafe and give 'em a soapless rinse right when we're done drinking. let's buy used jeans, cuz new jeans are poorly made anyhow. let's all get a nalgene for water!!!!!! let's build breweries and restaurants out of once-used materials. and let's make sure our processes reduce waste. ... 

now. can someone in the upper midwest create a compostable beer can?


counterpoint: don't judge me every time i'm brushing my fucking teeth. 

counter-counterpoint: yeah yeah yeah ... of course we wouldn't. we try to be less wasteful ourselves. but if that doesn't fit your lifestyle, or your life patterns, we still love you. maybe you can find some small, easy way to reduce waste in your own way. and if not, come trade smiles with us some day or night anyway. and let's have a really fucking human moment.

middle brow | citizen how \ 14 jul 17 /

the great unmooring. 

no doubt. life in america has changed in the past 20-30 years. we know: that's not interesting. but still, it relates to beer. so, if you will, bear with us for the rest of your commute.

in these modern times, we feel increasingly less tied to our communities. you see it in the higher frequency with which people "leave home" to live in a different city. in the urbanization of suburban millennials coupled with the reduction in the tendency to know your neighbors. in the shift from an IRL social life to an online one whereby you connect with your own "virtual" community with such high frequency that you hardly have time to spend talking to your friends and neighbors. nothing new. heard it before. yadda.

and how did this happen? well, obviously social media played a big role. facebook focuses our attention on status. and so what. maybe it's human nature to size up your neighbor. but at least ten years ago you were sizing up your actual neighbor. and not someone you knew 6 years ago who now like 350 miles away.

instagram offer visual beauty! but always elsewhere or from another time. and there's so much visual beauty in front of you. right now. look! oh. too late. it's gone. back to your phone. 

twitter encourages the constant news chase. granted, this is often news about the world. but it's usually snarky news about the world. it's like one big average joke. nobody should make time for that. and nobody needs that much news about other places. about the coasts and the elites and communities of which *we all* are most definitely not participants.

also, though, things like reduction in church attendance have played a role in this unmooring. we're not religious people (in fact, we're pretty strongly anti-religious), but even we can acknowledge that church belongs to a certain category of things that strengthen communities. religious services, school board meetings, park districts, little league, community theater, public libraries: all of these things used to work together to help establish and grow a community. increasingly, though, we spend less time at religious services. we also spend less time in public libraries. and less time seeking out art in our communities. and less time actually attending school board meetings. so it's no surprise that we feel less connection to a given community or place.

this can be both a good thing and a bad thing. for instance, since we're not so tied to our community's needs from and expectations for us, we have more courage and energy for individual growth. we can be ourselves. and self-expansion is an important driver of happiness. on the other hand, though, people are generally happier in stronger communities to which they belong and contribute. 

so it would be wise to try to find new ways to make community. goddess knows food and beverages have become a much bigger part of our day-to-day and weekends in recent years. so restaurants and bars and breweries and bakeries and farmers' markets can help in that role. if one owns such an establishment, one should do her best to open that space up to the community. to hire from the community. to host free community-related events (like school board meetings or town halls). to offer free breakfast to folks (especially children) in the community with fewer resources. and on and on. owners of such establishments should also do their best to engender as much interest as possible in the *old* ways of community organizing, too. those ways worked for hundreds if not thousands of years for good reason. let's not let a few dozen tubes under the ocean change that.

we donate 50% of our profits to local charities. and we'll continue to do so for the foreseeable future. but that doesn't feel sufficient. as we continue to build our brewery, we constantly ask ourselves how to do more than simply write a check. we have to use our bodies and minds and mouths to change our shareholder culture into a stakeholder culture. and we'll be damned if we don't.

so anyway, require (and ***ask***) more from your favorite breweries and bakeries and restaurants and markets. they should be focused on more than making a food or beverage widget. it's become their responsibility.

middle brow | citizen how \ 10 jul 17 /

a brief few words on brewery ownership. 

the vast majority of beer drinkers (and humans) don't know or care about who owns the company that produces the beer they drink. and so the vast majority of beer drinkers likely have not been privy to the many big news breaks in craft beer over the past several months. in sum: big, evil macro breweries are buying up craft breweries like they're kit-kats. (should i hyperlink kit-kats? how i love thee.)

should this matter? eh. we don't know. but we do know that the better question to ask is: should this not matter? and we think the answer to that question is a resounding "no". we shouldn't simply ignore brewery ownership when making decisions about what beers to buy.

here's our two cents: beer is so much more than a product. "beer is labor", as some friends of our friends might say. beer is art. beer is the combination of so many communities: brewing, farming, metalworking, engineering, architecture, food and beverage service. beer is cultural. beer is social. but not just social in the get-drunk-with-your-friends way. it's social in that it can touch (and thereby help and harm) society in so many ways.

this is true of many products other than beer, of course. and, therefore, when you buy such products, you're making a social decision. and you should consider everything that goes into that product, and everything that comes out of it. it's so much more than simply the liquid in the can or bottle or keg.

so: does this mean nobody should drink beer brewed by any "craft brewery" that was purchased by ab inbev or heineken? that's your call to make. how much influence do you believe stockholders in a company have over the decisions of their managers? if you believe the answer is "not necessarily any", i think you're being too clever by half. sure: "not necessarily any" is technically true. but "usually significant" is the less naive, better answer. and any human who's ever owed anything to anyone else knows this. only a sociopath would ignore an entity that enriched him or her.

but ... does this mean those newly-purchased, formerly "craft" (ha!) breweries now make bad beer, or are run by evil people? most definitely not. but if you chose to buy slightly fewer of their beers, and instead spent slightly more of your money on less well-funded breweries whose social inputs and outputs that were more in line with your preferences, we wouldn't call you crazy.

we just hope the craft beer tweeterati STFU about this topic soon. we will now. unless we're forced into such discussions by any clever responders.