Welcome to the Cheers! North County column. I recently hosted a surprise birthday party for my wife. It was about as logistically flawed an idea as I’ve had in a while, but it brought together family and friends from all over the country to celebrate.
It made her feel special that so many people in her life took time to spend with her even though coronavirus has kept us apart. We adapted, and the smile she had was so beautiful and genuine. I projected our video chat on the wall. People wore funny birthday hats, and at one point a puppet showed up.
The only downside was that we ran out of beer, and her favorite Juneshine Hard Kombucha. Without thinking much about it, I flipped open my laptop and added some Pizza Port to our grocery order. Then I set up a Juneshine order.
Less than a day later a guy showed up with a case of hard kombucha while I was sweeping the patio, and when the groceries arrived a six-pack of Chronic Amber Ale was nestled in next to the tortilla chips and raisins.
When we began social distancing, I had never before had groceries delivered. Certainly, never alcohol. The whole idea seemed insane to me. Part of the joy of making meals is picking out the ingredients. The joy of stocking the fridge is going to the bottle shop to explore, to ogle beer labels, to ask the shopkeeper what is new.
Then one day I put on ski goggles, a mask and a pair of gloves to go to the grocery at 6 a.m. to avoid crowds. That day I changed and committed to the good and bad of delivery.
Since then we’ve been at home aggressively distancing, getting deliveries and drinking together alone. The few in-person social interactions we had all revolved around having a drink with someone to feel “normal” again.
Socially distanced, bring your own beverage happy hours complete with bleach-wiped chairs happened. Random pop-ins for a pint went away, replaced by planned meetups over video chats with family and friends who had to cancel vacation visits. Our circle has been strong and connected, but something has been missing too.
Delivery services have played a big role in this new social experiment we’ve been living in. They filled the gaps in availability and safely accessible products. A temporary relaxing of laws allowed some of our favorite breweries to start shipping, providing direct-to-consumer delivery where cans of deliciousness end up on our front porch.
These are fundamental changes in how alcohol has traditionally been distributed in the state of California. These are changes that businesses, individuals and California made quickly based on the shared experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve quickly adapted our capabilities on a large scale for the betterment and safety of many.
Delivery is a luxury we have here in North County. It is a luxury to be able to afford it, and I don’t take it for granted. But what we’ve lost by not going out into the world is the chance to meet new people with different backgrounds, stories, and histories and lift a pint with them.
As a younger beer adventurer, I began seeking out breweries in the places I lived and traveled. Craft beer was in its growth phase. If you were at the brewery, we had beer in common, and because of that we felt emboldened to drink together.
Because we drank together, we learned from each other. We changed each other.
At the beginning of this column, I said, “Welcome,” and meant it. Sharing ideas, stories, histories and experiences with each other is just as much a part of sharing a beverage as the drink itself. It doesn’t matter if it is beer, wine, coffee or cocktail. Drinking together is sharing together. It is the experience of hearing, learning and growing as we go.
Change doesn’t stop just because it is convenient. This past week has re-shined a light on many of society’s continued failings. That light is brightest right now, but the need for change, for advocating for those who need it and are impacted by those failings isn’t going away.
We need to continue to grow and to put ourselves out there. We’ve shown that we can. Now is the time for welcoming and embracing that change in order to move our communities forward.
Now is a time to have a drink together. Cheers to you all.