I saw some friends through the crowded “Get the Brewery Open Campaign Party” this past Saturday, and walked over to sit with them for a while. “What do you think of the Imperial Java Stout,” he asked, glancing at my Santa Fe Brewery beer can. I liked it, I said. He was less approving. “It’s so-so. I like beer, and I like coffee, but the two together…” I looked down at my beer and realized for the first time that it was brewed with coffee beans, that it had a hint of coffee taste, that it had Java in the title. I had picked the beer randomly because I have no clue about such matters. “Hmm….” I nodded with an attempt at a “I know what you’re saying” inflection, and then asked him about his kids.
Beer has been a very viscous social lubricant in my life. I have a low alcohol tolerance and my taste buds can’t distinguish a lager from an ale, or even remember whether they are, or not, synonymous. A beer bottle during college was primarily a reason to hold something in my hand so I would only keep one hand in my pocket at a time.
My attendance at the party, which celebrated the possibility of a new beer coop at the old Canyon Bar and Grill, had nothing to do with my failed taste buds, my metabolism, or my social graces, and everything about making this town more vibrant and more inviting. A community is not a group of places to live, and another group of places to work. A community is built of places to meet, like your church, your library, your grocery store, your park, your local pub. As your county councilor, a fair amount of my time has been spent thinking, and voting, on how to add those so-called “Third Places,” that bring flavor and energy to what would otherwise be a suburban wasteland, like so many social deserts elsewhere in America. It is these places that make a quality of life that attracts new people our town, and helps populate LANL with the next generation of top-notch staff, and our local businesses with the next generation of entrepeneurs.
Los Alamos should be an especially fertile place for these third places to grow, because we already primarily work and live in the same community. In most of suburban America, people live in one community and commute to another to work. How often do little kids get to go trick-or-treating at the home of their first-grade elementary school teacher, or spend summer days getting thrown around the pool by their pediatrician? My kids did.
I wonder whether we realize how special these experiences are in the 21st century. We should treasure and encourage these, and make more opportunities for them to happen. Your taxes are bringing you some enhancements, like the Smith’s Marketplace, and the Nature Center, but government is not the only, or often the best, mechanism to bring vitality to a community. The local community pools are wonderful third places, and they are the product of enlightened groups of neighbors who pooled their money and their time; the same for the Los Alamos Ski Club. The Los Alamos Food Coop is the latest example of a successful effort, and I really believe the Beer Coop will follow in these footsteps. It will be a place to stop by and see which of your friends are there; I understand that root beer will also be on tap, so maybe it will have an inter-generational appeal.
One purpose of the campaign party last night was to add new members and to ask for their financial support to make this dream a reality. Cooperative businesses are funded through hundreds of individual investors, rather than a few major bankrollers. You don’t have to be a beer connoisseur to be a member, you don’t even have to like beer. You just have to be someone who wants to add another place to make Los Alamos special. Let’s drink to that, whatever your favorite beverage may be.
More information can be found at http://www.losalamosbeer.coop/
Editor’s note: David Izraelevitz is a Los Alamos County Councilor.