The Fight Against Sensory Overload Temporary Amnesia
When I was growing up there were a couple of places that I used to frequent that are slowly starting to disappear. One was the record store, and the other was the video store. Both of these brick and mortar businesses had something in common for me: they induced sensory overload temporary amnesia (SOTA). Here is how it worked: before I went to the record store I thought of at least ten albums I wanted (for those of you that only know iTunes, an album is a collection of songs by the same artist that is sometimes thematic and should be listened to in order from start to finish – see Beach Boys Pet Sounds, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd Animals, The Clash London Calling, Radiohead OK Computer as examples) but never wrote them down. After all I was young and had all my brain cells so I should have been able to remember a simple list. Then I would walk into the record store (closest one to me that was selling something other than Dionne Warwick records was 50 miles away so it was a commitment) and completely blank out and forget what I wanted. This was later diagnosed (by me) as SOTA, and temporary brain lock caused by being overwhelmed by choices. Same thing would happen when I went to rent a movie. Go in, blank out, walk out with Slapshot and Strange Brew for the 20th time. When SOTA hit back then I only really had 3 choices; buy/rent something that you were not sure about, walk out with nothing, or buy/rent something you already saw/owned. Technology has essentially cured SOTA when it relates to music and movies thanks to streaming but now SOTA is striking in a whole new place – the beer store.
SOTA works the same way in my local bottle shop as it did when I was a lad. Now I think of a beer I want to try or a new release I want to hunt down. I still don’t write it down (moving forward I will be using the SommBeer mobile app for my wish list) and I head to my local bottle shop and BAM; tabula rasa – blank slate and white noise in my brain. I wander the aisles in a haze looking at all the labels and bottles and cans and it seems endless. Adult onset beer store SOTA has one difference in that you can’t leave a beer store empty handed so you end up buying something you already have tried or you buy something that ends up being a bad move, like a 22 ounce IPA brewed with coriander and elderberries or even worse, something with hot peppers in it. Thankfully my local allows singles to be purchased for any beer in the entire store. This minimizes the severity of the mistakes, but does not cure the disease. Yes, I said disease. The opposite of ease. Ease used to be going in to a beer store and being able to make a choice without needing too much help or time. Now I simply have too many choices.
I am all for creativity and artistry (even though I pretty much refuse to use the word “craft” in front of beer unless I cannot think of another adjective and have to describe what I am looking for) but there has to be a point where there are too many choices and too many experiments (think I am wrong, try Founders Pale Joe and try to tell me that was a good idea, and that is not even one of the far out ones). “C Word” beer is so over the top now with so many breweries and so many beers on the market that it is causing SOTA for me almost every time I go to my local. I am concerned that it may eventually lead to me only buying mower beers because I just can’t decide and at least I recognize the ingredients. Don’t take my word for it, look at the statistics:
According to https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/number-of-breweries/ the number of breweries/brewpubs in the US alone has risen from 2456 in 2012 to 4269 in 2015. That is staggering growth (in 2014 it equaled 1.5 businesses opening per day) and the beer has to go somewhere.
I saw something like this before, oh yeah the cigar boom back in the mid 90’s (yes I am that old). Cigars took off in the early 90’s and as any good capitalist economy should, supply tried to keep up with demand and entrepreneurs tried to find opportunity. During the mid-90’s there were so many new cigar companies being launched (some, like Rocky Patel, were great and made it through the inevitable bust) that the demand for tobacco outpaced supply. Additionally, the time to age tobacco and the finished cigars caused some to cut corners and reduce curing times, causing issues in quality. (if you want to read a bit more about this please go to http://thecigarauthority.com/remembering-the-cigar-boom-a-david-garofalo-editorial/) Sound familiar to anyone? It does to me because back then I experienced SOTA when I went to my local cigar store.
Let’s say that the cigar boom and bust is not a cautionary tale and history is not a great teacher and does not repeat itself and we can continue adding 1.5 suppliers a day. Let’s ignore that fact that like cigars, brewing beer requires using natural ingredients that need time to grow and a natural process that requires time to finish. Even if we ignore history I still do not think I need to drink a beer with chamomile in it. I love chamomile tea, really, but chamomile beer? Has it gone too far?
OK, so I get analysis paralysis in my beer store now, big deal, why not “get a little help from my friends” (see what I did there Beatle fans?) and ask my friendly beer buyer. Hmm, tried that and here is how it went:
Don – “Dude, anything new that I would like? I am a little overwhelmed with all these new choices.”
Beer Dude – “Tell me about it. I get so much stuff every day I can’t keep up with it. I just got a potato and cheddar omelet double cream stout, a triple cherry and snozberry sour, and a pickle barrel aged tequila infused hoppy lager. Any of those sound interesting?”
Don – “Nope. Where is the PBR?”
Beer Dude – “In the beer cave”
Don – “You have a beer cave?”
Beer Dude – “Yessirr we just added it because we are running out of shelf space. It is a literal cave below the building. Here is your miner’s helmet and light.”
OK so before you label me a curmudgeon I do want to say that I do support growth and choices and creativity. I am also way in support of someone following their dream and opening their own business. I have also loved some of the newer brewers that have made their way into my local bottle shop. Freedom of choice and freedom to create is what makes America great. This is more of a personal cry for help because SOTA is real and it causes me major issues when I have way too many choices. I thought about switching to bourbon but there are “C Word” spirits to so maybe it is time for that 12 step program everyone tells me I should join.
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