why aren't you me? middle brow's 8 year struggle with itself.

middle brow started in a small fit of self-loathing. nick and i were both working corporate jobs. spending about every cent we made on fun beers and fake-fancy dinners on long weekend outings with our hip xennial friends. and short weekend nights getting long-buzzed at the map room with our troll childhood friends. whichever. ... and every damn time we left an overpriced beer bar or hype restaurant, we'd feel terrible about ourselves. there was a shitty imbalance that we desperately wanted to correct: we could spend gobs of money on a basic necessity, thereby transforming it into a luxury. three square luxury meals a day. ... but there were people in our city who couldn't afford even one. and there were kids whose dads were in jail due to gun violence. or who died by ricocheted bullet.
anyway, nick's idea was to start a brewery that donated half the profits to social justice orgs in the city. and so that's what we've been doing. but back to the super fun topic of self-loathing!!!

the name middle brow was born out of massive disappointment in the high brow people we sometimes encountered in all this breezy pleasure seeking. or, at least, the *pretend* high brow people. ... but we were in that clique. that high brow food and wine clique. and we were drinking beer. and we knew it was just as important as the food and wine the folks around us were consuming, but it wasn't packaged all that way. and so we started wearing it as a badge of honor. we were middle brow. we weren't high brow, and we didn't want to be.

now, what is high brow, really? high brow, as far as we're concerned, represents super smart consumption. note: high brow has nothing to do with *production*; just consumption. virginia woolf was a straight-up *bad person* for calling out middle class people the way she did. (coining the term middlebrow to apply to middle class folks who tried to gain status through cultural consumption.) because high brow people *have always* gained status through consumption. not through doing anything productive. and so high brow people consume things like free jazz and classical music and fancy trad wines and liquors and opera and theatre and susan sontag essays and documentaries and foreign films and art films and trendy art. and in consuming all the formers and latters, rich people set themselves apart from other classes. 

but fuck that!!!! why do they want to separate themselves from less wealthy jacks and jills? what terrible living! what horrible humans!

well, we were thankful for two things: first, beer had come along. and it was immediately accessible to all classes. and it was well-made: the producers were their friends and neighbors. often their smart, hard-working friends and neighbors. and so this painstaking production represented something special that the rich couldn't get because they didn't want it. and second, high brow consumption was becoming more democratic. to wit: netflix is loaded with documentaries, and they're popular as f with our middle class friends and family. susan sontag essays are online for everyone to read; you don't need to go to a university or highfalutin bookstore to read them. (though are they really all that special? methinks not, in the main.) and my uncle, who's a union painter, listens to classical music while he's painting. because he simply likes music. and super narrow faux-wood floorboards are cheaper than ever! high brow people can no longer set themselves apart through their consumption. 

in any event, we had been in the clique. and had seen that the chef and the somm had had no clothes. and we were happy to wear our background on our sleeves. and to celebrate the middle. but then we were suddenly on the other side of that clique. on the production side. and whoa... we felt the joy of the pleased and the wrath of the displeased. very immediately. 

my good pal joe tweeted something in the last year or two. just a phrase that he'd clearly come up with himself. but that i can't help thinking about all the time. *why aren't you me?* 

in our increasingly stratified social environment, that question always seems to be on everyone's mind. we felt it early in beer, when we'd get a comment about how one of our saisons "isn't a saison". or hmmm. "not enough oats in your witbier". or that our hazy ipa was "a decent attempt at the style". and it blew us away. in what world could someone think that they knew more about how our beer should taste? the presumption, clearly, is that anyone making anything that didn't taste exactly how the taster wanted it to taste was clearly an amateur. and looking for advice on how to improve said thing. "why aren't you me?!?!?!"

and it happens all the time at bungalow. mostly, people are very happy at our new brewpub. if you haven't been in to try our new row of beers. or our happy-ass pizzas or our delightful bread, get here soon! you're wasting time! ... but occasionally we'll get a comment that there's "too much wheat" in our crust. which always makes me think, "we put it there!!! it wasn't an accident!!!!" so much thought has gone into every last detail in the space. every drop of beer. ever bit of pizza or bread or salad. every customer interaction. if there's wheat and acidity in our pizza crust, we obviously don't think it's too much. we're totally on board with you not loving our pizza as neapolitan pizza. but unless you hate wheat and light acidity, you'll enjoy our pizza. and then, if you hate wheat and light acidity, you most definitely should not eat our pizza! there's tons of other places to find pizza crust that's blander and more of a vehicle for the ingredients. and we *love* those pizza places too, when we're looking for that kind of pie. "why aren't you me?!?!"

and the same phrase sort of imbues our politics these days, doesn't it? it's the echo chambers we live in. where 90% of our day is spent consuming information that confirms our underlying ethics and beliefs and opinions about how the world is and should be. and then when we encounter someone outside that echo chamber, we're sort of shocked they exist. and we ask them snarky questions. (or listen to a clever NPR or fox news reporter do so.) in fact, this is the context in which joe d first uttered the phrase "why aren't you me?!?!"

nobody on either side of the political line is willing to consider for a second that the other side ain't, somehow, dumb. there's that terrible no-good wird. stupid republicans are religious and allow their religious beliefs to influence who they vote for???!?!?!?! idiots. don't they know there's no god? ... stupid liberals spend all their time worrying about the earth. humans are small. i'm gonna water my lawn *twice* as hard. and don't they know money-in-the-moment is more important anyway? idiots.

"why aren't you me?!?!?!"

we make things that people have opinions about. that's great! we're lucky! really lucky! because people really really care about the things we make. enough to put effort into reviewing them. but everyone everywhere should take a more generous approach to the things about which they opine. 

there's a long tradition in restaurant work of complaining about customers. and i do my best to forbid it, or at least strongly discourage it. its ugly behavior. and it falls into the "why aren't you me?!" category. when someone tells you they're gluten free, don't roll your eyes that they came to a brewery. when someone asks for their pizza to be cooked a particular way, don't stomp your feet and huff and puff in the pizza kitchen. when someone brings all their mom friends into the joint with a bunch of strollers and unruly kids, find life in the moment! don't complain about how they're taking up too much space. or how they're super demanding on behalf of their *most important in the world* kids. ... there are lots of ways to be *good*. not everyone will be exactly your kind of *good* all the time. these are mostly good people with what servers might interpret as weird, annoying customer quirks. but only because they're behaving outside of server expectations. i try to tell them to have an open mind. and to stop wondering "why aren't you me?!?!?!"

and that's a good mentality to have generally speaking. because nobody's you. or, because nobody's anybody. including you.

starter home.

starter home.