Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

We are used to June being a month in which something new begins.

June is the month of the first day of summer. The school year ends in June and we commence a summer break, or the rest of our lives.

In many places June is the month when the weather finally becomes accommodating. The sun rises earlier and the days last longer. We can sit in the evening talking with our friends.

A few years ago June was the month when I began my Craft Brewery Pilgrimages. Everyone was welcome to come along and visit a tasting room or brewery somewhere in Southern California. There were new breweries springing up all over and I wanted opportunities to visit them with my friends. Each month I would choose a different brewery or tasting room and we would meet there to try their brews and spend some time talking.

Those Craft Brewery Pilgrimages were a good way to meet new people and explore new places. In a couple of years, one month at a time, we made new friends and visited places spread over at least five different counties.

Now there are new places to visit and it might be time to begin a new pilgrimage.

This June, though, is different.

June feels much less about beginning than about finishing this year. This year June is a month in which we are working to complete a task we have set out to do, or to survive.

Many of us have been keeping ourselves to ourselves, isolated from people we love and want to protect. Some of us have lost jobs we enjoyed, or at least jobs we hoped would help us put our dreams into practice. We may know people who have gotten sick, or we may have gotten sick ourselves.

Most of us have sacrificed something, giving up something we love to try to control the damage caused by this pandemic. We do not know what the future wil hold for us.

There are people and things and experiences we know we miss and want to begin again.

I cannot complain deeply about what I have sacrificed. Yes, there are things I miss, but I am healthy and reasonably safe from the terrors of the world. I have the essentials I need to start alive and stay well.

The month of June, though, reminds me of those visits to breweries and tasting rooms on those pilgrimages. Part of their attraction was the beer, but it was more about the people who joined the exploration. The beer was very good, but it was the spiritual life which sparked my attention.

Now, this June, we do not know the next time we will be able to go exploring again. I do not know when I will be able to walk in the door of a tasting room for the first time. It is great to be able to open a bottle or can and try the results of what someone has brewed, but it is not the same as visiting the place where they brewed it.

I had hoped to be able to visit somewhere new this month, but now I am not sure this June will allow it. It is a challenge to find a satisfying substitute.

There are groups which gather online to share the friendship and information which used to be found in good craft tasting rooms in “virtual pubs.”

For example, the Campaign for Real Ale(CAMRA) launched a #PullingTogether campaign in March to help provide some of the social and spiritual benefits of tasting rooms and pubs while they are dealing with the pandemic. It includes information about brewing and other drinks through organized events. The virtual pubs hosted a live music event and encourages pubs and breweries to hold pub quizzes or beer tastings online.

I do not believe a virtual, online experience can take the place of an actual Craft Brewery Pilgrimage. Online tools can, though, allow us to share our pilgrimages with a wider variety of other people.

It might be nice to share a visit to a virtual tasting room sometime this month, at least until we can plan a real life trip together.

Maybe June, or July?

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant district attorney and an associate university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on http://www.patheos.com.

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