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Always be Mine

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CRAFT-BEERMy Dearest: It’s February so that means a “holiday” is fast approaching. You know the one, dear, cold pint of frothy love: The “Hallmark holiday” (as the jaded and apathetic folk like to refer to it).

My relationship is reaching its fourth year, two days before the 14th. I don’t fuss over anniversaries like a lot of women do, but I do like to celebrate this particular occasion. Consequently, my partner and I just combine it into one pleasant night, as we don’t have to worry about cooking, and we can sip on a few delicious beers.

But for you I could pelt out popular Shakespeare quotes. I could attempt my own sonnet, or gather some of my musically inclined associates to conduct a ballad in your honor. I could get on cable television and frantically jump on a couch, declaring my love and gratitude for you to the entire world. In the end, though, the ones who truly understand this letter know fully expressing my love for you could be summed up in a simple word: drink.

I’ve been writing a monthly column dedicated to you for over two years. In ways, I’ve been writing to you all this time, but I don’t think I’ve fully expressed my affections until now. Some may think I’m mad or just a perfect example of an oddball alcoholic. In times like these, I can really identify with the lyrics of one of my favorite bands, Gogol Bordello: “And you know that I’ll survive/Every time you come/Just to thank you one more time/For everything you’ve done…alcohol!” However, it’s not just alcohol; it’s beer. And not just beer, but, my love, the dearest of craft beer!

When I first pitched this column idea, I was hoping to stress North Carolina craft brews, and on the local businesses that supply them to our beloved Port City. I was already getting an exceptional education with my visits to Cape Fear Wine and Beer and even my neighborhood bar, The Juggling Gypsy, both of which carry a plethora of crafts from all across the globe. Through my schooling, I was able to discover other innovative breweries outside of the state, and my interest in the craft-beer industry soared further—across plains, mountains and oceans. I tasted new styles, entered and explored beer festivals, sampled experiments from courageous brewers, found out more about the relationship between these breweries and the corporate masters of beer and advertising. I just conceived a love I never thought I would feel.

It’s funny, dear—there was once a period in my life where I did not touch beer, craft or otherwise. I’d go out with friends and either order a cocktail or pretend to be classy and nurse a glass of dry red wine. I’d try to stomach popular and typical imports like Heineken, the latter being the one my dad always drank at home. It never clicked or felt right. Sure enough, after falling in love with Farmville, North Carolina, brewery, Duck-Rabbit, it suddenly began.

Since my first beer article, I have developed a great love for what you have given me. I started by enjoying the sweet, fruit beers like Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, Pyramid Apricot and pumpkin beers, before moving on to stouts and porters. It’s taken some time, but I’ve welcomed dark ales, pale ales, IPAs, sour ales, tripels and so many more I never would’ve imagined touching. I love them not just for their more well-rounded flavors and notes, but for what it overall represents. The industry reminds us the little guy can still produce a magnificent idea and product, and become quite successful.

The craft beer world exposed an art to me I never imagined pursuing: homebrewing. I suddenly learned that beers don’t just come from factories, but are often born in people’s closets as they allow their newest invention to ferment. As a writer and artist, I found a new craft that I could tackle; I could make a small batch, share it with friends and family, and call it my own. Shortly before welcoming in 2013 with the rest of the world, I made small beer-related resolutions, like utilizing different craft beers into cooking and baking, and paying visits and personal appreciation to Front Street Brewery. I love North Carolina and her beers. She really has not done us wrong here. I’ve taken my share of beers from Asheville, Greensboro, the Triangle area, Outer Banks and all over this fine state. Wilmington may not be like the Raleigh/Durham area with breweries scattered all about, but it does have a strong base.

Learning homebrewing is the top resolution for 2013—which I am still putting aside savings for my first beer kit. Yes, dear, through this I am expressing the infamous Valentine’s cliché: Be mine. When I drink a good craft beer, it’s not to get obliterated but to feel inspired by its vast flavors, to then write and learn more about its origins and the process that made the beverage so amazing. It motivates me to experience new tastes and meet brilliant homebrewers who have dedicated a part of themselves to this art. Through writing, I can share the beauty of you to others who may share my same adoration—how to support independent breweries over the bland beer overlords. How a homebrewer can become closer to his loved ones through his passion. How you bring flavor, richness, creativity and pure passion.

I shall keep writing for you, to you and of your many contributions. In the meantime, be mine dearest, especially on this silly holiday called Valentine’s. My partner and I will sit together for our fourth anniversary and we’ll toast to another of our true loves, all around.
Yours always,

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