The Session #42: A Special Place, A Special Beer

The Session is a monthly collaboration of beer bloggers and writers who write from their own perspective on a single topic. Each participant posts their contribution on their site on the first Friday of the month, with The Session host picking the topic and summarizing all the contributions. This month's topic is 'A Special Place, A Special Beer'.

What could be easier than writing about beery places that are special to me? I’m finding them all the time. Last week may be atypical but still memorable; the brewery at Orval with beer tasted straight off the bottling line. Chimay Dorée in the Auberge de Poteaupre. The Westvleteren trio sat outside In de Vred. They were great beers in great locations, true enough, But what made them great places?

For me, a sense of place is greater than just physical location. It’s about interaction – who you’re with (or not); what’s happening (or not); what you choose to do (or not). Straining to hear Orval’s Francois de Harenne make himself heard above the grind of the bottling line. Laughing with friends as Chimay corks went literally ballistic around the gardens. Looking out over the flat Flanders fields and experiencing a sense of calm even when surrounded by a hundred plus drinkers. There's a true sense of place for me, something I’ll be reminded of whenever I drink those beers again.

But I’ve found a certain special place in the last few years that has revolutionised my attitude to beer. It’s the place that led me indirectly to those great Belgian beer experiences. It’s a place that enhances nearly all the beers I drink. It’s a place I love, a place I visit every day. In fact, you’re in that place right now. That place is the internet.

Not a physical location but a shifting network, an ebb and flow of information and attitude. An ethereal presence at my desk, my dining table, at the bar, in the festival tent, on a hillside. It’s all about the interaction noted above, only the assembly of likeminds and dialogue is via social media rather than face-to-face. It’s the virtualisation of latter-day café culture, where the sense of place is bound no longer by walls but by bandwidth.

When I drink a beer and mention it on my Twitter feed, on Facebook, on Ratebeer, on this blog, I get a response. Some want to share their enjoyment (or disappointment). Some want to enjoy a vicarious drinking experience. Sometimes I ask questions about the beer; sometimes they get answered. By loudmouths, by drunkards, by brewers, by drinkers. Sometimes by all four. Sometimes all four are the same person. I am drinking a beer within a community; that community is a place for debate and discussion and knowledge transfer and argument and agreement. It just happens to be on a phone or laptop rather than crowded around a table.

I’d like to think that Baudalaire would approve; "To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world". I bet he'd be LOL over Twitter. The internet is indeed a special beery place for me; perhaps because it augments the beer experience so much. Perhaps also because it's a place I can choose to leave at the push of a button. But not before I hit 'Publish Post'...


  1. This is a brilliant articulation of why the internet is beer's medium. Great, great post.

  2. What an unexpected and insightful definition of "place". Thanks a lot for your post!