For better or for worse, I’m a Millennial. In some circles, Millennial might as well be a four-letter word. I have mixed feelings about my generation.
A few of us Millennials spent some time together this weekend, and the topic of our generation came up during the ride from one brewery to another. Gene, of TalkBeer fame, pointed out that we are a cohort within the Millennial cohort. Gene and I were born in 1986, as was the good Dr. Dan, our fellow traveler who had just flown in earlier that morning from Portland, Oregon.
The three of us can remember a time before mobile phones and high-speed internet -- moreover, before internet itself. We remember having to call our friends, faced with the prospect of having to make conversation with an adult. We also remember the more terrifying prospect of calling a girlfriend, and having to ask their older brother, or worse, their father, to put our significant other on the line.
As the years passed, the few high school teachers we stayed in touch with began to tell us about the changes they were witnessing in the teens and children. The human skill of face-to-face conversation had become an atrophied muscle. The convenience and relative social ease of the text message and instant message had taken precedence.
We Millennials deserve a great deal of the criticism we receive. Nowhere is this more apparent in our reluctance to act. I’m guilty of this, too. As a generation, we’ve retreated to the safety of our own heads and are prone to over analyzing, which has a stalling effect. We don’t decide, we don’t act, because we’re not sure what the true choice, the most authentic choice, is.
But when we do act, when we do decide, we tend to do it in meaningful ways. I just got done watching the documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, and while I was put off by its apparent cult of golden bro mentality, as well as the distorted ease and logistics of living a minimalist lifestyle (it’s definitely easier to quit your job, work on your own terms, and buy yourself a tiny house when you’ve been socking away your six-figure salary for the better part of a decade), watching this documentary affirms the feeling that Millennials are onto something.
Yes, we’re hyper critical and analytical to our own detriment. But we give a shit. And we don’t just give a shit about the global, world-saving, life-altering things. We give a shit about the small things, too.
I realized this as we toured the second brewery of the day: the Referend Bier Blendery, which specializes in the ancient tradition of spontaneously fermented beers. The tasting area, which doubles as a working space when the brewery is closed to the public, is lined with racks of oak barrels arranged and stacked with care. The signs that mark the self-guided brewery tour are part of an art installation. The sculpture that hangs from the entrance ceiling can be found on the owner’s business card. Everything in the brewery exudes a sense of thoughtfulness and purposefulness. The only thing left up to chance -- to a certain degree -- in the entire place is the fermentation.
All effort in that brewery is funneled into one thing and one thing only: the beer. Let’s consider for a moment what that beer represents.
Yes, beer is a consumable good. In some ways, it has even less permanence than disposable H&M clothes or the latest smartphone. It’s here one moment and pissed out the next. But when we drink beer, particularly beer made with such thoughtfulness and care, we’re making a value statement. We acknowledge the craft, care and creativity that has gone into making it by saying, this is the beer for this moment, for this experience, with these friends.
I know craft beer isn’t going to save us from ourselves. But the thought, the attitude and the effort that go into it can, if they indeed represent the thoughts, attitudes and efforts of a generation.