ST. MAGNUS DAY IV

St MagnusTo put it bluntly, Aleheads.com has joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. Since last summer, we’ve only had one inscrutable, cryptic post from Beerford McBrewin’ (pretty much the only time any of us have heard from Beerford in a year). There are many reasons why. First and foremost, I had a second child. As Drew Magary, the Deadspin scribe notes in his fantastic book, “Someone Could Get Hurt”:

You think [having two kids is] going to be double the work, but it’s not. It’s four times the work because you’re managing both the kids and the complex relationship between them, which is exhausting.

Also, Slouch Sixpack had a second child. Mashtun Copperpot did too. Ditto Smiley Brown. Doc and the Commander each cranked out their third. The Professor had a son and then went utterly MIA (seriously Professor…are you OK?). The Baron also somehow fathered a child, and this being the Baron, he has spent the past year attempting to decipher the myriad internal complexities of a diaper. Kids are awesome, beautiful, life-affirming things. They’re also vicious time-sinks and you and your partner quickly learn how to prioritize your minimal free moments. One of the first activities to hit the chopping block? Beer blogging. It’s a tale as old as time.

Then there’s the fact that the world of craft beer has, as we knew it would when we first put digital ink to digital paper back in the halcyon days of 2010, completely and utterly exploded. Aleheads felt like it was on the crest of a wave when we first started. Well, that wave has crashed down and washed the entire damn nation in wort. Craft beer is EVERYWHERE. Craft beer reviews are in every local newspaper and magazine. States that had a non-existent craft beer scene a few years ago now host dozens of breweries and beer bars. Taverns and restaurants across the country are employing cicerones. Cicerones are a thing! This is, of course, absolutely wonderful news. Our Aleheads dreams have come true.

It’s also, surprisingly, partly to blame for our demise. For years, we as Aleheads felt like we had a good handle on the burgeoning craft beer scene. We knew the major players. We could follow the day-to-day beer releases and brewery openings. We knew all of the “prestige” beers we had to knock off the ol’ bucket list. It was a quickly growing community, but still one you could truly grasp. Not anymore. Craft beer has grown far beyond the ability of any one blog to cover. It’s a behemoth now.

Since we started our site in 2010 (barely four years ago!), the number of breweries in the nation has doubled and the number of available beer styles, offerings, tap handles, hop varietals, etc. have multiplied by a staggering amount. Keeping track of craft beer these days is like throwing broken darts at a board…amusing, but pointless. The Aleheads have won! And because of that victory, our site is sort of rudderless. We loved railing against the system keeping craft beer from reaching the masses. That system mostly embraces craft beer now. We loved informing the public about new beer styles or nascent breweries. Now? Everyone I run into is well-versed in craft beer lingo and knows their local breweries. Maybe you never “really” needed us, but we felt like we were at least performing a service (sort of, kind of, maybe). That service? It’s no longer necessary. So it goes.

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Now to the point. If Aleheads is no more, then why am I posting today?

In our first St. Magnus Day entry written back in 2011, I wrote this:

July 15th will ALWAYS be Magnus’s birthday…and as long as Aleheads continues trucking along, it will be St. Magnus Day.

Yes, fine, Aleheads is no longer “trucking along”. As I just spent over 500 words explaining, we are, in fact, quite defunct. Yet the site still technically exists. It’s still sitting there for hundreds of Aleheads the world over to stumble onto every day (seriously…I can’t believe how many people still visit this site). And as long as it’s doing that, I’ll honor the vow I made in 2011. So Happy St. Magnus Day everyone…

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Today would have been Magnus Skullsplitter’s 36th birthday. For those just tuning in to our dormant blog today, Magnus was an early contributor to this site. He was a beer lover, an enormously popular and well-loved human being, and, most importantly, a helluva friend. His death rocked the world of the handful of jackasses who wrote for this site and for hundreds of folks who didn’t. It was the first death of a true “peer” for me. The kind of loss that makes you desperately miss the departed while simultaneously smacking you in the face with concepts like “mortality” and “limited time”.

Magnus’s loss made us all grow up a bit. You can pretend you’re an adult all you want with your mortgages and regular car maintenance and barely-used gym memberships…but nothing shocks you into the awareness of life’s preciousness quite like the death of a close friend. You realize what matters and what doesn’t. You realize that friends and family (and you) won’t be here forever. You realize that life doesn’t have a happy ending. It just has an ending.

Now, almost four years later, I still keep those lessons close at hand. I’m no longer angry or distraught…or even sad really. The wound that was Magnus’s absence in my life has sealed up completely. Yes, there’s a scar there. Yes, I think about him frequently. Yes, there are countless times throughout the year when I say, “Man, Magnus would have loved this!” But as the years pass, and as I continue to get older than Magnus will ever be, and as the world changes, those moments dwindle. Not because I miss my friend any less. But because it’s hard to know what he would have been like today had he lived. In my head, I’m picturing a man in his early 30s, living in a dingy, NYC studio, working a job he was indifferent to and spending most of his time keeping tabs on his friends through any means necessary. But Magnus would be 36 today. He might have changed career paths a few years back. He might have been married by now. Who knows…he might even have had a kid.

In every scenario, I’m picturing the Magnus of 2010…and that’s not who he would be today. Sure, the man’s motto was “Fear and Hate Change”, but change is inexorable. He would have been a different person today and, deep down, I know that. So when I think “Magnus would have loved this!”, it’s hard to truly know. Sure, there are some slam dunks. He would have loved his friends’ weddings (the man knew how to rock a wedding). He would have loved our annual beer trips. He would have LOVED Game of Thrones (holy shit that show is right in his wheelhouse). But otherwise…I don’t know. Who would he have been today? Not knowing that is the saddest part of his absence now. I miss my friend, but I think I miss the man he would have become even more. I don’t even know that guy, but I know I love him.

Happy St. Magnus Day, everyone. If you knew him, raise a glass to the man he was and the man he would have been. And if you didn’t know him, raise one anyway. A man like that…he deserves ALL the toasts.

Barley

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3 comments

  1. Well done, Barley.

    If he were a GOT character, Magnus would have been on the Knight’s Watch. Am I wrong?

    1. Let’s be honest…none of the Aleheads would have lasted 10 minutes in GoT’s cruel, indifferent world. Most of us would have been used for crossbow target practice…

      However, if we suspend disbelief for a moment and assume that the GoT version of Magnus was able to survive and thrive on Westeros, I see two possibilities for his future:

      1. Samwell Tarly: Born to a noble house, Magnus proves to be too smart, sensitive and gentle to carry on the bloodthirsty Skullsplitter name. As Copperpot suggests, he’d be sent to the Wall where he would quickly overlook the fact that he was surrounded by assholes and sociopaths and would exemplify the honor and diligence to a “code” found in the best Night’s Watchmen.

      2. Davos Seaworth: Magnus finds himself as the chief adviser to a narcissistic jackass. He’s so loyal that the jackass chops his fingers off for some petty grievance and it only strengthens Magnus’s allegiance to him.

  2. Vladibeer Bootin · ·

    Tl;dr

    Still dead; Would have had smooth beer with us if not.

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