Dry July is cool and good now, because I did it.
In years past, being a brewer, I was a Dry July hater, lumping it in with Movember as a private school activity for smug, condescending goody-goods who I am unable to criticize because they are raising money for charity.
Dry July, unlike Movember, was especially ripe for my derision because all these teetotalers could affect my beer sales and consequently my ability to buy fancy cheese. Look, I am not some peer-pressuring monster, but I always operated on the logic of if you don’t want to drink … fine, just shut up about it. Plus, group activities aren’t fun.
Well look at me now, doing Dry July and I won’t stop talking about it. I have even gone as far as to incorporate myself into the gig economy by now writing about Dry July. After all, what is the point of a personal struggle if it can’t then be ground it into content and monetized in some way?
So why did I go dry and why didn’t I just keep it to myself? Maybe I have more collective spirit after our nationwide lock-down and want to be part of another group project? I didn’t know anyone in my life that was doing Dry July, so the Instagram stories of gnarled hands holding pints up to the light would continue to scroll by and taunt me. Everyone I know continued to meet at the pub, and people looked at me like confused dogs “but uh, drinking is your job”. This sometimes and made me feel alone. Isolation is a common feeling if you’re a brewer, and feeling alone, depressed and unsupported has caused me, and I am sure many others in the industry, to drink. Not only is it worth checking if I can actually go a few weeks without alcohol, it is worth remembering why I drink it in the first place, it’s actually because I love beer and enjoy drinking. I wanted to be dry for a month to recalibrate my relationship with alcohol, to ensure it is about the love of it, rather than the need for it. Dry July, global pandemic version, felt especially worth it, as this July already came with a raft of stresses and anxieties to face. So, a nice positive reset, and despite my usual distain for group work, doing a task collectively can have an unburdening effect, kind of like a lockdown.
Dry July also helped me by creating a sense of accomplishment and accountability to being alcohol free. It sounds a bit lame, but I am actually proud of myself for not drinking for a whole month, it has been the longest I have been without beer since high school.
There are other advertised benefits of Dry July on the website like weight loss (doesn’t work if you feel like a beer and instead eat a whole wheel of fancy cheese), better skin (true until I blew on the fire and a bunch of sparks landed on my face and I keep itching the scabs). I have heard that an improved sleep is another benefit of going alcohol free, although I used coffee and soft drinks to stay up watching cricket in the UK at night so I still managed to wake up feeling like shit every morning even without a drop of booze, a true feat.
Yes, it is hard because I am a brewer, surrounded by, invested in, in love with, beer. But Dry July is just as hard for any normal beer lover, and if it weren’t hard, it would hardly be worth doing. I look at it like a short-term investment, a month of savings here and I will be able to enjoy the beer for longer when I am older. In the brewery I have only been taking tiny little samples from the tanks for testing purposes and I have felt my beer senses improve a lot without their overworked schedules. My two-year-old has been confused with the lack of hot chips down the pub but he has been impressed with the anapestic tetrameter of Dr Seuss bouncing off my tongue in the evenings with the utmost ease. I sold and delivered four kegs after 5pm on a Saturday, a feat truly impossible in any other month.
So overall, plenty of good things. Sure, there are plenty of bad things about it too. Getting hot, wet, cold, even more wet and worn-out in the brewery on a Friday, and then not having a lager in your mitt as you slide off your work boots and socks really sucks. A soda and lime, while delicious, isn’t made for that task, a boy on a man’s errand. It is hard going to industry events or catching up with friends who are in the beer industry, as the social norm of those situations is one of a beer in hand. Despite trepidation and an overwhelming urge to stay at home, these things are, to be honest, completely fine. It turns out most people don’t give a shit if you have a beer or not, and friends are still friends even if you aren’t drinking with them, in fact they are stoked on a free ride home. You just have to wear an extra layer of clothing to account for the lack of beer warmth in the evenings, simple.
So, what about August and beyond? Will that see a great rushing in of beer to my body like a negative pressure vacuumed filter housing I forgot to pressurize (little joke for the filter heads out there). I think that is unlikely because it’s not just about being alcohol free, but some self-reflection on your alcohol consumption, with the benefit of new coping methods to help use alcohol more responsibly and positively for the other eleven months of the year. Failing that I can always have another month off, I am the Zen master now and depending on what happens in the election, next year will be even an even better July. Get High July, join me then for further enlightenment.
I support anyone wanting to get off the booze for a day, a week, a month, a lifetime. Do it and be cool like me. You can still buy my beer for a friend, or some beautiful merchandise, so I can afford that fancy cheese. DM me if you want to chat about not drinking, I’m a group project guy now.
Cameron Burgess is the owner-brewer of Southpaw Brewing Company. DM him on Twitter @rockbottombeer