For many of you January will perhaps signal a period of extended abstinence. Maybe that means cutting out meat or dairy from your diet, or simply eating less. Perhaps you’ll try to quit smoking, or you’ll decide to cut down on your alcohol consumption, even to the point of giving it up entirely. You may even decide to supplement this by doing some exercise. You got that Fitbit for Christmas after all, so it’s surely time to don those shorts and head out for a gut-busting lap or two of the local park. You got this, champ.
For some people January is also a month of trying new things. That could be investing your time in something such as Tryanuary, which encourages folks to try new beers and support pubs in what is commonly their most challenging month. It’s also a time for starting new hobbies— perhaps knitting, writing that novel, or even starting that beer blog you’ve been daydreaming about for months on end now? Go on, you know you want to...
Whatever you path choose to hopefully make you mentally or physically fitter, happier and more productive in 2019, no one—absolutely no one—has the right to chastise you for that based on their own point of view. If someone wants to invest their time in improving their fitness, or lose a little weight, that’s a positive. Conversely if someone wants to spend time sampling new delights and furthering their culinary world view, this is also a good decision. We are all merely trying to avoid becoming a pig in a cage on antibiotics, after all.
After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to cut alcohol out of my diet for the majority of January, (up until the 22nd when a trip months in the planning will unavoidably put me in the path of a lot of rum.) I’m in my mid-thirties now, and despite running being a hobby of mine, I’m considerably less active now that I work from home and my desk is a few metres from my bedside.
I’ve put on weight, and my hangovers last twice as long as they did a decade ago. 3 weeks might not be a very long, or even challenging length of time to quit drinking. But here’s the thing: I’ve been in the beer industry for only 3 years and I’ve already noticed the change it has had on my body. I am slower and heavier, and this has made me unhappy.
I also really like drinking, not just because it tastes nice, but because I like the way alcohol makes me feel. (That we enjoy alcohol for its inebriating effects and not just for its flavour is another conversation I’d like to have more often in the new year.) I want to work in the beer industry for a long time and enjoy alcohol for the rest of my life. Regular breaks like this one feel like a necessary step for the longevity of both of these things which I enjoy.
In 2019 we should be increasingly mindful of not just what we drink but also why we drink. It’s something that, I feel, needs to be talked about in the industry a whole lot more.
Each year I see friends and industry peers alike put their bodies through a great deal. Especially in the autumn, when there’s seemingly a three or four day long beer festival every weekend. I know some people that work every session at these festivals. I know they drink a lot at them, eat plenty of greasy food to sustain themselves throughout, and don’t get enough sleep. In order to support the people who put themselves through this I think that as an industry we need to be more open about why we do it to ourselves. I love to party as much as any of you but I would very much like to still be partying with everyone in 10, 20 or 30 years time.
So I’m going to be a little more mindful of my intake this year, and have a couple weeks off at this, the quietest part of the year for me socially, to see how, or if, my body actually appreciates it. I think no one who enjoys alcohol and wants to cut down should be chastised for doing so. However, I also think that if you’re doing ‘Dry January’ and you start making out like cutting down on alcohol is a Herculean feat worthy of titles like ‘Dryathlete’ (seriously, fuck off) then you need a reality check. Being mindful about alcohol consumption shouldn’t be an ego boost—you’re just trying to look after yourself after all.
The hardest part for me will be the Friday night ritual, that first beer that signifies the working week is over. So I have a contingency plan in Jarr Kombucha and Square Root soda. I’m also partial to a Bloody Mary, which are still delicious without vodka—how I make them anyway. As well as resting my body I’m also looking forward to giving my palate a chance to recalibrate. There’s a lot of great beer to look forward to and I want to be ready for it, this year and the next.