What does beer mean to you?

Posted by Jason Gladfelter, M.A. on July 08, 2016  /   Posted in Articles

What does beer mean to you? Sounds like a silly question. After all, beer is just a beverage. Sure, water means life…but beer? It’s just water with extra stuff in it.

Yet it’s so much more. You don’t just throw the ingredients in a blender and hit “puree”. Brewing beer is a science. Dr. Paul Ogg was instrumental in teaching me that. He took the time to explain the many nuances in brewing chemistry and biology in both scientific and layman’s terms. He didn’t have to, but he started in on me the first time I met him. We were taste testing Jeff Griffith’s beers at Golden City Brewing when Jeff was head brewer there. I sat next to some guy—Paul—and started in on the beers. Jeff wanted honest feedback, and Paul gave it to him and explained what his feedback meant and where it came from. His main questions were, “what do you smell?” and “what do you taste?”. Sounds simple, right? But the answers were not easy to articulate, and he helped me understand what I was smelling and tasting and why. I was overwhelmed by his knowledge then, 10+ years ago, and now.

Paul died today. A knockdown, drag-out fight with a rare cancer took him. A couple months ago, some mutual friends of Paul decided that if we couldn’t help him, we’ll help his family. Medical bills, travel expenses, lost salary and financial support for his two girls, at least, needed attention. The scientific lessons Paul schooled me on years ago gave way to social lessons today. His friends started where they knew they could: Beer.

Within days the #BiggestSmallBeerEvPaul Halloweener campaign was underway. Over a hundred breweries from all 50 states joined in to brew a beer based on a recipe drafted by Paul. The goal was to raise awareness; awareness for several things. That craft beer is alive and well.  That cancer can strike anyone, anytime without remorse, discrimination, or humility. That beer is powerful communal tool. The fact that over 100 breweries participated in that campaign, with very little notice and by those who never met Paul, says something about the latent power behind beer. It’s a common bond, a similarity between people separated by great distances, that can bring them together without reservation, question or hesitation.

What does beer mean to me? It means togetherness: “Let’s go grab a beer.”  It’s Hospitality: “Come on in, want a beer?” It’s familiarity: “Game’s on Sunday. We’ll have beer.” It’s relaxation: “Calm down. Have a beer.” It’s so many other things and in a few days it will be a celebration of Paul’s life: “Cheers, my friend. Godspeed.” 

To help support Paul’s family, follow the link below and donate:




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