My brother has this ice cream theory of happiness. For true pleasure, should one commonly consume daily gobs of low-fat, low flavor ice cream? Or should one instead occasionally go for the fullest-flavor all-the-fat real ice cream and all of its satiating gustatory pleasure?
Joe Six-Pack, otherwise known as Joe Russell, beer columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, puts it this way in his column:
IF YOU HAD $30 to spend on beer, would you be better off spending it on a single case of Pilsner Urquell or two cases of Miller Lite?
Ah, that is a question for the ages - to enjoy a little of something that brings you great pleasure, or more of something that is not quite so fine.
According to Steven D. Hales, professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University and editor of the new, thoroughly engaging book "Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn't Worth Drinking" (Blackwell, $19.95), there's really only one person a beer drinker should turn to for advice on this topic.
No, not your bartender. It's John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century British philosopher and formulator of the "greatest happiness" principle.
Bringing Mill's stricture down to a mundane level (as if Miller Lite or low-fat ice cream hadn't already), the greatest happiness principle could easily be a tool for a personal diet. Eat flavorful things, but in smaller portions. That's the essence of Mireille Guiliano's delightful book French Women Don't Get Fat. She says, "Savor great food and wine [in moderation]".
Professor Stephen Hales' book Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn't Worth Drinking is a collection of essays on that and other philosophical topics as seen through a beer glass. John Stuart Mill, as seanced through Stephen Hales might riposte, "Enjoy great food and beer ... in moderation."
Hales divides the essays among four chapters: The Art of the Beer, The Ethics of Beer, The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer, and Beer in the History of Philosophy. All are well-written, but I found the last three chapters to be the most interesting.
They contain such essays as one on Immanuel Kant, Beer Goggles, and Transcendental Idealism, and one of a Plato-like dialog between characters Phil, Clem, and Demi wondering if the fact that beer exists could be an indication of Intelligent Design. And of course that chapter on John Stuart Mill and epicurean utilitarianism.
Brewers Sam Calagione and Garrett Oliver contributed to the first more beer-oriented chapter. And the Forward was written by Michael Jackson, possibly some of the final witty words written by the great man.
Hales will have a book signing on 27 December at the Wharf Rat Pub in Baltimore.
[UPDATE: from comments]
Hey Thomas! As one lucky enough to get to be a contributor, I can confirm that the book launch party is, as far as I was told, more than just a book signing as hopefully more than a few contributors will show as well as a few more beer writers I have been wanting to meet. The 25 bucks gets an open bar, too. I am making the trek from up here by eastern Lake Ontario.
A Good Beer Blog
As Alan's blog was where I first noticed news of this event, and as he is traveling down from the Lake Ontario area, I can, at the very least, travel up from D.C. for the event ... and purchase the book over hand-pulled pints!