The beer writing world feels like a small one, in a good way. While there is the occasional infighting, rivalry, and “well actually” Twitter exchange, for the most part, we’re an amicably dorky crowd. I’m lucky that other writers have mentored me and paved the way for me. I’m especially grateful to those who wrote about beer before it was cool, before there was craft beer in 7-Eleven fridges. One of those writers is Norman Miller, who’s written The Beer Nut column for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Massachusetts for more than a decade. But now, Miller is quitting beer.
In his final Beer Nut column, published online yesterday, Miller admits his beer-drinking lifestyle is killing him: “I’m middle-aged and obese. I need to make changes so I can see 45, let alone 50 or beyond. … If I want to live, I can’t be the Beer Nut anymore. ”
It’s a vulnerable admission, and one I respect Miller for immensely. I don’t believe I’ve ever met Miller in person, but I’ve enjoyed his columns and regarded him as an established authority on the New England beer scene. After reading his final column, I have a personal as well as professional admiration for him because he has the courage to say what so many beer writers, brewers, and enthusiasts can’t admit: Making beer your life can come at a price.
There’s a monthly, worldwide beer-writing exercise known as The Session, in which one writer picks a beer topic, and at a later set date, other writers all pen their musings on it. A few years ago, beer/food writer MetaCookbook posed the question: “What do you want people in beer culture to talk about that we’re not?”
More specifically, I wrote about the beer world’s general struggles with moderation, with balance, with admitting that some among us drink in a way that endangers our physical and mental health. There are people who manage to be both engaged in the beer world and proactive about their own health, and I strive to be one of them. It means setting parameters for myself: frequent days off from drinking, a commitment to routine exercise, trying to limit myself to only two brewery nacho platters per week. (They’re so good though.) If that means some beer people think less of me because I’m not out until 2 a.m. slamming imperial stouts, I’ve long made my peace with it.
No matter how involved a person is in the beer industry—even if it’s their livelihood—it’s still just a piece of life, not its entirety. You can’t make beer your life when it’s actively destroying your life, which is true of any alcohol (or food, for that matter).
So to the erstwhile Beer Nut, Norman Miller, I raise a glass and say congratulations. Congratulations for having the courage to make a change, and to share it publicly. I wish you all the best.