I drove to Nashville on a Saturday afternoon to visit my good friend, a literal genius, who moved there to attend divinity school at Vanderbilt, where he initially applied on a whim, not even realizing the place is basically Ivy League for Theology.
Though short, it was a fun visit; we drank beers and saw some brilliant short-form standup at Third Coast Comedy Club. Sunday morning, he and his wife invited me to church. I declined. I needed to get on the road to begin creating order for a work audit I was performing Monday. Well, I declined mostly for that reason.
Due to my conservative, Pentecostal upbringing, I now have a hard time attending church in general, even out of politeness. I’ve found it laborious to land on a typical church setting I find comfortable for more than five consecutive seconds. In zero time, I begin to feel weirded out and suffocated.
I do trust my friend’s judgement and I’m positive his church is an embracing, warm place, and I don’t think his family would attend if the establishment wasn’t laser-focused on themes of inclusion and social justice. I also know that he understands my feelings on the institution in general, and how my body has a distinct Pavlovian response to the idea of attending. I understand this reaction is based on my history with the culture. I also understand my body’s reaction to not having coffee in the morning, and the undesired effects that ensue. I stopped off at an intriguing sounding roastery in The Gulch, called Barista Parlor, Golden Sound. I intended to devote thirty minutes to reading some of the book I brought with me, Revolutionary Suicide, the autobiography of Huey P. Newton. I enjoyed the pour over coffee at Barista Parlor so much I decided to stay and keep reading. I ended up relaxing there for a few hours absorbing the atmosphere and appreciating the ideas I was taking in. Sunday school.
When I left the café, I felt my commitment level to work the following day lower in real time, incrementally with each new step toward my Nissan Versa. I ended up walking around down town Nashville a bit and I got lunch. I knew of Bearded Iris Brewing mainly through beautiful pictures of their can label art posted on Instagram by beer traders/complete strangers.
Tucked away in the Germantown area of Nashville, Bearded Iris from the outside looks like the typical industrial taproom setting. But as opposed to the usual, sleek, concrete bar-top situation, I walked in to find the sinister bar at the Overlook Hotel and I was transported in to the body of Jack Torrance. Romantically lit with hundreds of years of bad deeds piled atop an Indian burial ground, the high ceilings, polished checkerboard floors, and lonely expanses tried to seduce me as an emotionally deranged writer by prospect of a great drink. Not red rum so much as Double IPA.
The setting is beautiful. My spatial awareness and the lack of natural light, along with the golden paint decor and glittering chandeliers, brought me to an enhanced narrative about the beer and variety they are attempting to cultivate.
By the luck of my telepathic son, I was able to grab the last open barstool, and I ordered a tulip glass of Double Homestyle, the imperial version of the brewery’s flagship IPA. Double dry-Galaxy-hopped, it was bright with major melon ball undertones. The kick of perfect bitterness from that chalice, was the only chorus needed to be sung. My hymnal that day was the tap list on felt letter board, set inside the golden picture frame – a vortex that may have caused me to not leave Nashville that day had I gotten sucked in too deep. I met some new faces and engaged in conversation for hours about Nashville history as well as must-visit craft beer locations in my home town. While the taster flight communion tray was passed, I sang praises about, and bore witness to 18th Street Brewing as any good missionary would. I tried not to make eye contact with the twin ghost children wading through Irish red ale between the fermenters. That was probably all in my head anyway.
The insular fear-bubble upbringing I refer to calls for a concise mathematical idea that when we die, if we are faithful, we will one day see our loved ones in Heaven (assuming our loved ones didn’t watch porn). I always had the classic picture of paradise in my head; clouds, golden gates, seeing a familiar face or two, looking the same age they were when they died, sporting dull boy white robes. I guess if not bound by earth-time, everyone ends up learning to play harp at some point. It’s all in our heads anyway.
It makes more sense to me that “heaven” and “hell” are both here on earth. The truth is; nobody fucking knows. Certainly, lots of people are living in pure hell here: loneliness, poverty, suffering, trafficking. Am I trying to equate craft beer comradery to my “heaven”? Based on what some people in life have to endure on a daily basis? Yeah.
The idea is to be kind to everyone and try to help and uplift as much as possible because sometimes you don’t know what people are going through or struggling with. Living this way, for me, is in opposition to living a life of abstinence in nearly every regard, the way I was taught in church, just for a shot at a future cloud mansion. I’d much rather soak in the tangible 90s-esque gold paint, and non-fear-mongering community with zero church-jokes or pressure to appear upright, with Smashing Pumpkins on the stereo.
Maybe heaven is actually getting to experience talents in the now, like the marvelous creation of Jigsaw, a Bearded Iris Double IPA that tastes like fruit snacks, while bonding with a few random people at the bar over homebrew geek lore. Handing out my phone number or Instagram handle instead of a stupid track. Talking about the frills of life we are currently lucky enough to be able to experience and down the trajectory, seeing a familiar face or two in a bottle release line or a taproom on the other side of the country, thus being able to strike up even deeper connection.
I left the taproom with an element of self-imposed guilt for not visiting my friend’s church. I’m sure I’ll visit at some point, but for now that guilt is well offset by the solace I take in creating fellowship within my own beer-nerd and homebrewing community.