I never took beer so seriously before coming to MIT.
I’ve had beers, of course. But before, most of the times when I go out with my friends to have some beer, we would have something really nice to eat. In fact, I was always more into the food. However, things are quite different here. If a person tells you “let’s go for a beer at 5:00 pm”, he/she is very likely going for beers only.
The second thing that surprises me is that beers have so many styles. When I came to MIT, I was not aware of all the different beer types such as Ale, Stout, Lager, Porter … Among all of these, I was most shocked at the “IPA” (India pale ale), which happens to have the same abbreviation as the Isopropyl Alcohol – a common chemical solvent used in lab for rinsing and cleaning. So the first time when I saw a labmate ordering an IPA in the pub, I was really confused because during the lab safety training I was taught that IPA is toxic!
The monthly “after-work beer” activities in our group started with two visiting students: Max and Fatih, who come from Switzerland and Turkey, respectively. Thanks to these outings, I got the opportunity to visit almost all the pubs around MIT, from the Muddy Charles Pub to the Miracle of Science, and from Meadhall to Cambridge Brewing Company. The picture below was taken in 2016 at the DMSE winter social party. I guess I was still not a big fan of beers at that time as I was the only person holding a bottle of cider .
Figure 2. After-work beer at DMSE winter social party.
With these alcohol-related activities, one might ask: does your group produce scientific data under the influence of alcohol? The answer is definitely NO. We have kept the “after-work” rule really strict; in other words, no work after drinking. For example, we once planned to have some beer at 6:00 pm. However, our postdoc Roland’s experiment was still running. Since it was to be our first trip to the R&D Pub (the bar in the Stata building), Roland did not want to miss it. The dilemma here is that he could not drink as he was not in “after-work” mode. So Roland joined us with a bottle of Coke, and then went back to finish his experiment after the group activity, without breaking the rules.
Beers form an important part of our common experience here: people love beers and like to go to pubs with their friends after a day’s work. As someone who didn’t drink much beer, I have begun, gradually to appreciate this culture after two years at MIT, even organizing “after-work beer” activities myself. Sometimes in order to reduce the ABV (alcohol by volume) in our group mailing list, I would entitle the email as “after-work dinner” - but everyone understands that this can be translated into “we are going to have beer.”
Last but not least, let’s not forget the health issue. Despite studies that have indicated that moderate level of drinking might reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (BMJ 2017;356:j909), heavy drinking can have extensive damage effects on your body (Nature 553, 171–177). Therefore, enjoy the beers, but not too much!