a day out

Today I left the house and associated with people. In the flesh. The idea of a flesh meeting sounds rather dangerous and subversive in these strange times. People not my family, not in the supermarket.

Sydney is slowly reopening, venues moving from takeaway to sittings to “please stay”. Last week I had brekky in a cafe and not in the car. Radical.

This week I went to a brewery. So many people in one place, relaxing. Oddly. Mobile details at the entry for tracking – weirdly it feels ok and not like the State is tracking my movements. To be fair I suspect the State could do that easily via other means. Right now, it seems an easy entry point for hanging in a bar with friends.

Beers with friends. A simple thing.

a little booze…

…is better than a lot of booze, and occasionally abstinence is even better. I was reading the thoughts on alcohol from one of the organisers of the next iteration of the New Librarians’ Symposium in Canberra in a couple of weeks and really like that they made a conscious decision for non boozy social events. There’s a bunch of reasons why this is a good thing which she covers, not least about ensuring a comfortable, inclusive environment.

Drinking at professional events is a bit of a tightope at times mixing with concerns about mixing and social engagement, yet ensuring that you remain professional and the old chestnut of the grey areas around the overlaps of personal and professional. Different people have different tolerances for alcohol and behave differently after a few drinks. I used to argue that I needed to have several drinks before I could be comfortable enough to dance :)

abseiling down a canyon in CreteLooking back over my own history of booze, in my early days of conferencing, my attitude was along the lines of “free booze, yes please!”. I didn’t get full on drunk very often but I liked to be tipsy and maintaining tipsy is a tricky thing and it’s too easy to tip over beyond tipsy. I think mostly I did okay and as far as I’m aware didn’t do anything too  stupid…I tend to do the really stupid stuff sober. At the same time I’m now conscious that I don’t need to drink and stay to the end of the festivities; staying for a while and then leaving can be rather healthy.

At a personal level, sometimes my drinking has been good and sometimes bad. I used to argue that wine should be an essential part of every meal and would always have a glass or two. Then I’d like to have glass while cooking, in those rare times I actually cooked (I hate cooking but cook well enough to get by) and I eventually noticed that I was moving from a glass or two a night, to half a bottle, to most of the bottle…thinking so long as there’s one glass left all is well. That’s not healthy nor sustainable, and I did manage to ease back from that direction when I took stock.

A few years ago, I stopped drinking entirely for several months. I’d been concerned for some time about my sleeping and partners reported that I was often restless and snored horribly; they expressed concerns re sleep apnea too. Following a breakup, I saw a sleep specialist and had an overnight sleeping test with lots of diodes on my head. Slacker that I am it took me a couple of years to get round to finding out the results. I didn’t have sleep apnea however that was a period when I was drinking more and when I went back for the diagnosis I was drinking less and sleeping better.

As a result of my decision to stop drinking altogether I found that I slept a lot better and lost a significant amount of weight. I’d like to say that it stopped my snoring, however it remained the case that like my father, I am a world-class snoring champion. These days, I try to avoid wine on weekday evenings though I occasionally lapse and when I do, it does affect my sleeping. I do enjoy a dram of whisky in the late evening, preferably around 9pm, after 10pm is too late and might affect my sleep.

On the weekends, I like a nice beer or two in the afternoon while spending a few hours on the couch engaged with the playstation. Catch-ups with friends usually involves an afternoon of drinking at one of the many craft distilleries in the inner west. Serving sizes are small and the environment is more conducive to chatting than bingeing. I still like to drink but try to ensure that I don’t drink too much these days.

on beer

I grew up not really liking beer much. Particularly the basic beers in Sydney. Wasn’t fond of pubs either. I even went to Belgium and had no beer. Afterall, Brugges was the mecca for good chocolate. On my last night there, I had a taste of dad’s beer and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve come a long way since then.

I tend to prefer darker, stronger beers, though I’m slowly coming around to hoppier flavours and particularly good american brown beers. Or at least tasty Australian interpretations of american brown beers. Current favourites in that respect include Perth based Nail and Sydney based Batch.

My favourite beer however is stout: a strong, black beer. The most well known example of which is probably the standard Guinness. I don’t mind Guinness but not fond of the bitter aftertaste. When travelling around Ireland far too long ago, I discovered other irish stouts that I preferred, my favourite of which was Beamish, followed by Kilkenny. Closer to home, I’ve also had a soft spot for Cooper’s Best Extra Stout and recently Batch’s “Elsie the Milk Stout“.

I’ve slowly become aware in recent times, that there’s a subset of stout called imperial stouts, or russian imperial stouts. These are even heavier stouts, with a higher alcohol content (Batch’s Russian Imperial Stout was 8.7%). I’ve been trying these out of late and unfortunately, I really like them. Unfortunate as in they’re very expensive; prices seem to start around $25 or so for a 640ml bottle.

Pouring a russian imperial stout is a little like pouring treacle. It seems to ooze slowly from the bottle to coat the innards of the glass. It takes time to drink and it’s certainly not an everyday sort of beer. But oh so yum. Full of flavour, almost a meal in and of itself.