There is a different kind of drinking, one that forces you to slow down, to take your time and think about it … not to gulp or swig, but to let yourself give in to the experience.
To drink with your hands, your eyes, your nose, your tongue, your palate, your throat, and your mind …
The sensory receptors on your fingertips, the retina in your eye, the olfactory bulb in your nose, the taste buds on your tongue, are all sending signals to the cortex of your brain. Your brain is processing those signals based on how your brain has been programmed. That programming is partly the result of our DNA as humans, and partly the result of years of experiences, memories and training.
We humans have an incredible ability to deal with information and to manipulate our mind and body to subconsciously deal with the most intricate or dynamic actions.
Think about the skills and coordination required to operate a motor vehicle. Think back to the first time you sat behind the wheel of a car and started to come to grips with how to operate it. The gears, the clutch, the accelerator, the brakes, indicators, the mirrors, the instrument dials. Then add in dealing with the traffic, hills, corners, the road rules, watching for street signs, and variances created by different speeds. Then to make the whole thing even more difficult, let’s throw in operating the radio, listening to the news or music, or maybe talking on the phone, and then keeping one eye on or controlling the kids in the back seat, or dealing with the “feedback” from the person in the passenger seat. How do we pull that off? It’s an incredible feat!
Now think about your journey to the office or to the shops, it’s probably a journey you have made many times. What about those times when you pull up at the office, and think wow, I can’t actually remember a thing about this journey. How did I get here? I was so caught up in the interview on the radio, or the conversation on the phone, or just so deeply thinking about the chat I just had with my friend last night, that I can’t even remember how I got here.
Yet all those things you need to be aware of and be able to do in an amazingly coordinated way, all those things that when you had your L plates on, you were so focussed on, all those things that you were just not even conscious of when you drove to the office that morning.
That is proof of how powerful our human brain really is. It can process, learn, absorb, commit to memory the most incredible things. It can harness all of that and let you operate subconsciously through the most difficult or complex tasks.
Ok, let’s get back to drinking and beer.
So compared to operating a motor vehicle, drinking is a relatively easy task. Grab a glass, bend the elbow, tilt the head, twist the wrist and pour, swallow and repeat.
How many times have you done that in your life?
And the great thing is, that it’s the same action regardless if you are drinking a glass of cold water on really hot day for refreshment, or you’re in the beer garden with your friends drinking a beer.
You can drink without even thinking about it. But are you really drinking, or are subconsciously going through the motions?
Is your brain just running on cruise control?
Sometimes it’s worth just breaking that habit, and bringing it all back into stark consciousness. Take a chance to slow down, and think about what you’re actually doing. Be alert to what your senses are detecting, and how your brain is processing it all. Take time to feel the temperature of the glass, look at the formation of the head on the beer, the colour from the malt, the aroma from the hops and the malt, the attack of all those flavours on your tongue and palate, and the residual after taste. Take the time to mentally appreciate the drink you just poured into your mouth.
We humans have a natural aversion to bitterness unless you are a freak of nature, so we have to train ourselves to overcome that and appreciate it.
It’s all part of thinking about what we are drinking.
You don’t have to do it every time you drink a beer, but sometimes it’s worth turning off the muscle and sensory memory, and bringing it all back to the front of your mind to really enjoy it.
Just like driving to the office, sometimes it’s worth taking the scenic twisty road. You get to appreciate the whole experience, and remember how much fun it is to drive a car.
Teach yourself to detect and appreciate the flavour components of the various elements of a beer, and how they knit together, or not.
You don’t need to turn into a raving beer geek, but you can easily become a discerning and conscious drinker.
So remember, take it slow and enjoy what each beer has to offer.