Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Rain Man Of Beer

Knowledge is something that everyone has and can share with others. It can be very personal in that we tend to know the most about the things we love. As individuals we often know more than others do about things like our favorite foods, sports teams, musicians, and hobbies. We spend a relatively long time thinking about these things, and as a result become even more knowledgeable about them over time. Just by having a conversation with another person, we are able to gain from the special knowledge that they have and add it to our own. That's why I was very happy to meet a man named Lance Rice this past week and talk to him about something he knows more about than almost anyone: beer.

Lance came to Boston as part of his Brewery Tour. Along with his nephew, Aaron Rice, and others that support him,  Lance has traveled the country visiting breweries such as Samuel Adams to increase his already vast knowledge of beer. You see, over the years Lance has accumulated an almost encyclopedic knowledge related to the history of both beer and the breweries that make it. Now he can finally share this with the world, a mission that is made even more remarkable by the fact that Lance is autistic.

Known as "The Rain Man of Beer," Lance has a photographic memory that has allowed him to become a true beer historian. Until now, he had never been able to achieve his dream of visiting breweries across the nation to see them for himself. It's taken many years, but Lance has worked to overcome the obstacles that autism presents and has embarked on a journey that will serve as an inspiration for so many people. It looks like Lance's dream is coming true at last.

There has been a wealth of support for Lance's Brewery Tour, from donations made on Kickstarter to the receptiveness of brewers throughout the country. Lance has been able to meet people like Dick Yeungling, President of America's oldest brewery. Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, also gave a warm welcome to Lance when he visited the brewery. Since I work right down the road from the Sam Adams brewery, I knew I had to meet him when he came to Boston.

When I met Lance, he had just finished taking a tour of the brewery. As I introduced myself and asked him about his cross-country adventure, he gave me a very detailed description of the things he had seen and the people he had met. I learned a great deal during the short time I spoke with him. That's why I was so glad to meet him and talk to him about beer, which is something we both love.

After meeting Lance, I realized what makes his story so powerful. If you've ever seen the Autism Awareness Ribbon, you know that it has a multi-colored puzzle pattern on it. The puzzle pattern reflects how complex the autism spectrum is. The range of colors symbolizes the variety of people living with autism. Finally, the ribbon's brightness signifies hope; hope that by increasing awareness of autism, those living with it will be able to see their dreams become a reality.

There are parallels between the ribbon's symbols and the world of beer. Beer can be a very complex beverage that is hard to understand at times. There is also a wide variety of beer drinkers, each with different tastes and preferences. Though, despite all our differences, the love of beer can connect us to one another in ways that other things cannot.

That is why the words "Beer. Autism. Hope." have such power. Beer can act as a bridge for people like Lance to make connections with people from all over the country. He can talk about beer with others while also helping them learn about living a life with autism. In doing so, he gives hope to others living with autism that they may be able to do something similar one day.

I am excited that Lance's Brewery Tour is being documented, both as a film and a book. I believe it is important to spread the word about what Lance has accomplished. We can learn many things from Lance's travels, both about beer and about life. Perhaps most importantly, we can also share the lessons we learn with the beer community and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Lance certainly has an awesome story. Great you got to meet him. I enjoyed your article about it....quite inspirational!