It’s everyone’s favorite time of year: “The Holidays.” You know—plastic birthing scenes, deforestation, acute political correctness, and, of course, booze. Lots of booze.

What better ambassador for the season than Griz, the Santa Claus of brew making.  Griz is a very big man who runs a very little shop called Brew Craft in SF’s Richmond District. It’s an unheated space where buckets of barley spill on to the floor and wall-mounted plaques with witticisms like “Beer: It’s Not Just For Breakfast Anymore.” In the back of the store there’s an amiable dog leashed to a shelf and, every Monday night at 6, a wide, plush armchair occupied by Griz.

I arrived about ten minutes late. Griz was just getting started. “I’m a psychologist by training,” he said. “I used to work on an Indian reservation. I’m not an wannabe Indian. I hate wannabe Indians.” He lost of his train of thought, then looked up, white beard grazing his belly.

“You!” he pointed to the man to my left. “You’re anal retentive. I can spot that because of my training.”

“I am an accountant,” the man responded.

“You want to know what anal retentive beer tastes like?” Griz asked. Griz only asked rhetorical questions. That’s when I learned about sphincters.

Griz had clearly reached the pot-bellied, porch-sitting era of manhood where nostalgia, bitterness, and hope blend seamlessly into two and a half hour life lectures. We spent very little time learning how to brew. Instead, we gained insights into:

  • Toilet flushing, as it relates to political correctness
  • Gentrification and its effects on Northern California water quality
  • Why we all have Calvanist blood, and why this makes our fathers dig holes for no reason

Occasionally, Griz would break into a series of coughs, blink excessively, take a few breaths, and make a joke about us having to call an ambulance. Then he’d ask for a cue and jump right back in.

The insight of the class was an endearing anecdote involving Griz’s “main squeeze”—the women he’d loved for most of his life. Griz introduced the story by saying that it was okay if we threw up on his floor, as long as we cleaned up.

But the anecdote was life affirming, not nauseating. First there was the bit where his main squeeze told him in his early twenties that true happiness was achievable through love, not recognition or indulgence.

With that in mind, Griz went to Amsterdam to find some really good ganja. Stoned on a park bench, he began talking to a monk who shared his passion for brewing. The conversation led to a visit to a monastery, which led to an extended stay where he learned about the monks and their brewing operations. On his 39th day at the monastery, Griz decided it was time to head home. “You can visit us, or you can join us,” the monk said upon his departure.

This is where the moral of the story gets a little fuzzy. Griz turned down the monk’s offer, but drew from the story the importance of finding a creative outlet. “Even if it isn’t beer—give your kit away and find something.”

So this Holiday Season, I urge you to channel Griz, the beer-bellied brewer, and nurture that soul-sustaining creative force on a project of your own. That, or just get really high and hang out on a bench in Amsterdam.

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