Beer In Context (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Drink In The Moment)


The Only Bar, on the even of Sawdust City's Tap Takeover. Not pictured: Sean Norris' insane handlebar 'stache.
The Only Bar, on the eve of Sawdust City’s Tap Takeover. Not pictured: Sean Norris’ insane handlebar ‘stache.

I’m sitting at the Only having a pint. Tonight is the Sawdust City tap takeover – an event even I couldn’t wangle an excuse to not attend. I really like the vibe of the Only, in that it doesn’t know what it is. Is it a Betty’s clone crossed with Starbucks before Starbucks was cool? To me, it is a man cave-esque bar (where the philosophy of your design aesthetic is to visit Value Village to find shit to throw on your walls) leads into an equally eclectic, cozy, warmly-lit coffee bar, fully equipped with a community table and mismatched furniture. I fucking love this place.

The community table at the Only is a popular spot.
The community table at the Only is a popular spot.


I’ve touched briefly before on my opinion on the context of beer drinking. In fact, it’s one of the big reasons why the writers on this blog are charged with writing something, anything, as long as it’s about beer and it’s not a review. We’ve done them before (when the blog was one guy starved for ideas), but the more we tried to figure out what we were about and where our place was in the well-saturated Ontario Craft Beer blog scene, the more we realized how subjective and meaningless (to us) reviews were. It became obvious with some speed that we loved beer, we loved the community, we loved the exploration – but most of all, we loved opening people’s minds to the inclusivity and depth that is the Ontario beer scene.


So, off we set to launch a medium with which to find the balance between informational and fun to read. We want to include everyone, of all interest and knowledge levels, in the beer scene we love so much. There was born one of our favourite abbreviations: BIC, or Beer In Context. This, we decided, is how we’re going to speak to both the uninitiated yet curious beer fan, as well as the discerning Cicerone, and everyone in between.


Beer In Context is the idea that one’s enjoyment (inclusive of memory of nerdy things like aroma and flavor) of any given beer or beers is both related to and more memorable if recalled in the context in which it was consumed. It’s not hard to grasp; the 5 W’s of a beer simply mean an environmental recollection of an entire evening or situation.


I first went over the idea of BIC with myself when I went to Bar Hop – alone. I had a dinner to attend in a couple of hours, and with time to kill, I wanted to see what summery stuff was available at my favourite bar.   As it is on summer evenings, BH was crammed with people; the Jays game on the telly, and a lone seat at the bar awaited me. I had no book, no newspaper, no laptop – I decided to just enjoy the atmosphere, Twitter, and the 7 Weeks Of Staying Up All Night by Sawdust City that I tried for the first time that day.


For someone like me with a chronically poor memory, I sure remember those two hours really, really well. I remember the date. The Jays’ opponent. The name of the two ladies to the left me at the bar who asked me what to have. The smell of the sandwich in the hands of the guy to my right (who was jotting down notes of some kind in a notebook feverishly with his other hand for over an hour). Most of all, I remember being floored by the beer. Every ester note, every sip, every new discovery I made through my analysis of this saison. Weird, right? That a beer could stand out so much, and with such detail, that it makes one’s evening more memorable? To me, they are hand in hand, one not remembered without the other.


To you, the beer fan, I say this: try to keep the context of one’s beer in mind. Compare it to the next time you have it. Consider what you ate with it, where you were, who you were with. I dare say that you’ll never be bored of a beer again – I promise.


– Mike

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