A few weeks ago I went to a party where the host was very brave and had invited friends from different groups: beer geeks, bag pipers and academics. It worked surprisingly well; the beer geeks provided the beer, the pipers provided the music and the academics provided…well, they were there.

After one of the piper’s performances (a particularly complicated song), he said to a fellow piper, ‘Did you hear that off-note in the second verse?’ ‘Yeah, yeah,’ his friend replied, ‘a little -‘ and imitated the sound. Us beer geeks looked slightly perplexed – it had all sounded fine to us. Then one of the guys remarked that this must be what it’s like to other people when we speak of malt characters and gravities. Despite the beer people and the piper guys only and just speaking the same dialect of geek, we got on like a house on fire. The boys and I had bought a variety of beers, from a low-percent home brew through a red ale to a double IPA and were soon explaining the differences between them and discussing malts, hops, yeast and brewing techniques with the band geeks. In return, the pipers educated us about bagpipes, their use and history. There appeared to be quite a lot in common between beer and bagpipes; namely they’re male-dominated, have very interesting histories full of characters and are made up of variable components: beer its ingredients and bagpipes their bag, chanter and drones. There’s also problems getting both across borders – many older sets of bagpipes have ivory parts, which incurs a significant fee when taken into a country, in an attempt to stem the ivory trade (but generally just results in angry bagpipers).

It was very enjoyable, sharing our passion with someone who then shared their own passionate interest back. Of course, geek meeting geek doesn’t always work out so well: I was recently invited to a pub quiz by a beer friend, which I had to decline, as I had my cacti and succulent club meeting. ‘Cacti club?’ he said, eyebrows raised. ‘Surely that must be the easiest form of gardening? Just stick it in the ground and go and have a beer?’ Which is quite incorrect, many cacti involve a lot of coddling and have the annoying habit of dying without any sort of warning. There’s many ways to prevent this – but I’m wandering off down a different geek track. Maybe if I have a party, I won’t be mixing my geeks.

The party I mentioned was the farewell of Andrej Maroz, who’s left our shores to return to his homeland, Belarus. Andrej and his homebrews will be missed in the Auckland scene and I wish him the best of luck in his return home. 

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