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POINT OF BREW ---- Michael J. Lewis

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Plenty of beards are n evidence at annual Craft Brewers Conference Plenty of beards are n evidence at annual Craft Brewers Conference

Brewers Boast Better Beards

As many are, I am frustrated and angered by the constipated and inadequate response at the national level to the desperate needs of millions of Americans. Governors have a chance to shine and some are up to the challenge; our own governor makes me proud to be a Californian. I imagine things will get better though I know we have to pay for recovery with treasure or with lives; I hope those who make such monumental decisions will get it right. I’m not sure the metric in POTUS’ head is adequate.

But I need something else to think about during these days of the shelter-at- distance dance, so I am reading about what others are doing. Some of these reports as poems and songs and cartoons for example are truly hilarious especially about those folk locked up with children who discover it is not the teacher’s fault. Wine features greatly in these reports as does watching movies on Netflix.

During these days of shelter in place, my dear friend and I miss greatly all the things we were once free to do. For the time being, our life revolves around a few pleasures. Thank goodness for Zoom that brings us family and friends and church and classes. I rather think the on-line and Internet skills we have been forced to learn, whether we like it or not, will significantly modify the world we shall enjoy in the future.

Our life now involves three main elements that repeat each day.          

1: A morning walk. This gives us up to two hours out of the house. These springtime days are lovely and the Davis greenbelt and the campus arboretum, for example, offer miles of pleasant walking. Along the way I meet reluctant dogs who, accustomed to the empty family home when they can sleep all day on the furniture dreaming of herding or hunting or defending (depending on their breed), now detest the word “Walkies!”

Walks are made all the more pleasurable because it’s all so quiet – few cars and fewer Harleys though still too many leaf-blowers. Much less hum of traffic, howl of sirens, rumble of trucks, clatter of tractors, moan of trains and roar of planes. I can hear the birds sings and the wind rustle the leaves and the air seems cleaner.

2: The pleasure and leisure to read. Besides books, I enjoy The New York Times with plenty of time for the many opinion pieces written by truly informed professionals. That’s a great gift. I also have the NYT crossword that I expect to complete every day because I have the time and patience to settle to it. I need an hour or more from Thursday through Sunday when parts of the grid are hard to fill and unlikely words like RONFL and APERCU turn out to be correct.

3: I’m growing a beard. I have had this ambition since I first entered university half a century ago where some really admirable men (and a few women) were bearded. But beards were not a hit at the weekly dance and so I never allowed one to happen. Later the same problem arose when a sprouting beard proved to be the most effective means of birth control yet invented. Also at this stage, when I tried merely a moustache, the thing turned out ginger-colored and looked a bit odd.

The craft brewing industry emerged at about the same time that beards emerged as a male fashion statement. Beards became commonplace around breweries and at brewing conferences where they seemed particularly luxurious and full along with a flying locks. Adverts for employment opportunities often listed facial hair as optional, welcome or, occasionally, as required. I never managed to join that club. I suppose luxuriant beards implied the vast nutritional value of craft beer. What a boost it would be if beer could grow hair in the right places. The only time I saw beards in other than a positive light was at a NRA Conference that I ran into accidentally in Indianapolis. There beards kept company with too many tattoos with crosses and death heads and Teutonic script. 

Over the years, from time to time, I have persevered with growing a beard. In every case I have faltered and fallen back on the familiar and easy and safe clean-shaven look. Here the reason for failure was that beards take a long time to start looking good. Before that they have the grubby Harvey Weinstein-stubbled look that is hard to tolerate. I rarely have persevered beyond this stage. Then they grow more and look unkempt and uncared for and unwashed. Also hard to tolerate.

Note that all these latter reasons for failing to grow a beard concern appearance. Though I usually don’t much care what others think, I don’t want to walk about in public looking unwanted. And that is why now is the ideal time to try to grow a beard: I do not do much walking about in public and at a distance of six feet or more most folk cannot see an emerging beard; at other times I have my mask to cover it. So among the benefits of sheltering in place I have the privacy to attempt a beard. That’s what I am doing. I am shooting for the Hemmingway look though I’m currently passing through a Homeless stage.

I have to say its slow going and I doubt I shall be an advertisement for the hirsute potential of beer any time soon. But maybe by the time of the Craft Brewers Conference in the spring of 2021 I can blend in with that large cohort of beard-blessed brewers although my white beard will stand out among the brown ones. 


Michael J Lewis MUG Picmonkey

Michael J. Lewis, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California, Davis, and the academic director and lead instructor of UC Davis Extension’s Professional Brewing Programs. Lewis has been honored with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ Award of Merit and the Brewers Association’s Recognition Award. He is an elected fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. He is also a recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

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