Monday, November 4, 2013

What exactly is a BIG YEAR?

"In birding, a Big Year is seeing or hearing as many different species of birds as possible in a calendar year." - from the IMDB description of the film THE BIG YEAR (2011)

This summarizes the basis for this blog, my beer tally of the past year, and my obsession with high quality beer in general.  When I was a kid, I collected comic books.  In my teens and twenties, I collected obscure hardcore punk records.  Now in my mid-40s, I collect the experiences of enjoying the greatest brews on the planet. 

November 16, 2012 I signed up for an account on the beer site, upon the suggestion of my fellow beer hunter and brew guru, Dave Witte.  I live in Los Angeles.  Dave is from Richmond, Virginia.  Although we live 3,000 miles apart, thanks to our continued travels with our respective bands, Dave and I are lucky enough to meet up a few times each year to hang out, catch up, and nerd out on beer as much as possible.  Our pal and beer journalist Adem Tepedelen even wrote about our collective beer exploits at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in "Decibel" magazine earlier this year.

Not long after GABF, Dave and I met up in LA, and he told me about Untappd, which is basically a social network based on beer.  I have no interest in additional social networking, but I found Untappd to be a great tool for keeping track of all of the beers I try.  Prior to signing up for this site, my biggest complaint about trying so many beers was trying to remember all of them later.  Although it's not entirely user-friendly for my own selfish purposes, Untappd at least allows me access to a database where I can keep track of my beers.  And more importantly, it keeps a running tally of each unique beer I've consumed.

I signed up for Untappd in November 2012, but then around March 2013 I saw the film "The Big Year", about a birding competition to spot the most unique birds in a year (a story based on actual "birders").  I loved the movie, but more importantly it inspired me to pursue my own Big Year.  But instead of tracking birds, I was tracking beer.  Since my Untappd account was already tallying my unique beers since Nov 16, 2012, I decided I'd just keep that running total, and rack it up through Nov 15, 2013... not a true definition of "calendar year", but hell, I didn't want to wait another 9 months to start on the proper calendar year of January 1st, especially since this was a one man quest.

Having no idea how many different beers I try during the year, nor having any concept of how many could possibly be tried, I was driven to keep track mainly to impress myself, but also to see if I'd be equally horrified by a large number. 

As of this writing, with 2 WEEKS left in my first Big Year, I'm at 570 unique beers.  There are no duplicates or multiples of the same beer in that count.  It's many more than I imagined possible. I still don't consider myself an alcoholic, because I don't drink to get drunk.  Although I can imagine the shock and horror of relaying my tally to someone in AA.  I actually prefer lower alcohol content because that means I can enjoy more beer overall.  That said, craft beer has greater alcohol content overall compared to your garden variety Buds and Coorses, so I've had my moments where the sheer number of tasting in one day left me considering how goddamn silly my one-man quest for quantity was becoming.

Keeping in mind I didn't aggressively pursue "numbers" for the first 4 1/2 months of my Big Year, and it only became my official Big Year after it was already underway, I'm assuming it will be easy in 2014 to break by 2013 tally, whatever that may be... I'll let you know in a few weeks. Then I'll enjoy the holidays, and prep for pursuit of a true calendar-based Big Year.
Needless to say, the real purpose of this blog is to capture my beers and exploits throughout my pursuit of my next BIG YEAR IN BEER in 2014.  And I already have some friends who will be participating with me and/or against me in this friendly competition, come January 1st!

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