Side Notes and Anecdotes / by Heidi Geist

Spent the past three days in Ambler, PA…home of Forest and Main Brewing, the eerie, turn-of-the-century (the one before this last one…for all you Millennials) castle and former boys orphanage, the Lindenwold Castle, a spattering of bars and restaurants, and, well….that’s most of it. Charming, quaint, you know… a real Halloween town.

While this is not a post about my amazing friends at Forest and Main, it would be criminal not to mention how incredible this company is. If you’re not already familiar with the beer, you should be! You will most likely have to make the trip to Ambler to get your hands on it, but believe me, it is more than worth the trip!

All the artwork is the magic of co-owner/brewer Daniel Endicott, who is certainly putting a spin on the craft beer label design, with watercolor painted work that is a bizarrely perfect balance of colorful whimsy that often hosts otherworldly creatures and paralleling dimensions.

-I have a couple stories to tell regarding these fine folks, so I’ll circle back around later!

Here is the point of this post….

Prejudice. But hang on… Let’s just clarify a few things.

First, the term stereotype: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Stereotyping, contrary to common thought, is an essential and very innate facet of human nature. Why? Because we humans are, and have since the beginning of time, in a constant state of survival…yes…even today in the year 2018. Think of a stereotype as filling in blank spots, so we may have a more complete picture of our world, whether we fill those spots with accurate information or not is irrelevant. We develop mental constructs to keep us functioning in a world where not everything can be seen or experienced firsthand. If we didn’t have this, we would just be floating in wonder, groundless and vulnerable. Stereotyping gives us a sense of location in space…in society.

However, when we let negative ideas marry our preconceived notions of other people and places, prejudice is born. Prejudice can be minimal and subtle, but it can also be hurtful and harmful. We have witnessed this since the birth of our country, but lately as much as ever.

A Detour

I get asked several times a day, “So, what is the 48 Beer Project?”. I try to keep my answer concrete, but it is far more abstract and socially driven, than ART/BEER. This project is an exploration of the culture of the craft beer industry, as well as humanity, at least what is found right here in our 48 contiguous states.

Having spent a lot of my life traveling solo, I have found my own misconceptions getting turned on their face, my own stereotypes being filled in with more accurate information, and most importantly, this is done through communing with perfect strangers. Often, these are people who I would not ordinarily bother talking to, most likely I’d avoid at all costs. They are on the other end of political/religious spectrums, and come from very different backgrounds. They are often people who are narrow-minded and misogynistic and sometimes racist.

But I have learned over the years, the important art of listening, and not talking, in these situations. Listening with an open mind, no matter how “wrong” they might be in their own ideas and stereotypes. They are speaking only from their own experience, and though I believe that ignorance is not something to pity and is certainly no excuse for judgmental behavior, it is real, and it just needs some nudging.

The craft beer industry is far more than that. It is a large community, spanning this entire nation, in all our little nooks and crannies, it lives in a vast sea of cultural diversity, and excludes no one.

Tell me another public space, where, men and women of all legal ages, races, political backgrounds, religious and spiritual beliefs, employment, class ladder “rank”… sit elbow to elbow, indulging in good, genuine conversation, over a shared enjoyment for something…?

Back to the Story

Yesterday morning, in Ambler, I was sitting in a cozy little cafe, one of only two tables occupied. The other was in the far corner, where a middle aged couple sat, conversing in Spanish.

Three men walk in, father of probably 70 something and two middle-aged sons. One son starts immediately complaining “you can’t go anywhere anymore…..”, I couldn’t hear how he finished that, but was afraid he was referring to the Spanish speaking couple. A few minutes later, between talk of Trump and sports, I pick up on “…the wall….these people are getting in, when there are good people waiting to get in legally…”. I cringe. My first reaction, was to be disgusted and angry, and you better believe I was going to say something had he continued his prejudiced rant, loudly by the way… he wanted that couple to hear him.

He moved into sports and that died. I was appalled, but trying to consider his background, from the sound of it, he probably hadn’t ever moved or even traveled far from his small town PA home. No excuse, but makes sense. He allowed common stereotypes to become prejudices.

Later on that day, I popped in to the local Mexican restaurant, very much run by Hispanics, and very true to affordable, classic Mexican cuisine.

As I sat waiting for my sope, I became aware of the stark contrast to my earlier dining experience. In fact, here was a screaming irony. One table hosted an older white woman, an Eastern Indian couple, an Asian couple and an older black man.. all as one group chatting and eating together. Each table seemed to follow suit…a black couple over here, a young white family over there, a mixed race couple beside me…and so on. It made me laugh and smile. And I thought… does that man from earlier eat here?? Because that would be the ultimate statement.

And I thought of the community I serve, that which I see as family. We are making good things happen in craft beer, whether you see it or not.. its real and I’m sharing it with you.