It’s a great moment to realize that your arms don’t flap like a flag in a windstorm when you bid someone adieu. Or when you wake up one morning to notice your man breasts are have melted appealingly into pectorals.
This is a nice thing, and one of two great lessons I’ve learned since I started training for Beer Wars, the sequel of sorts to Aprons for Gloves, the annual fundraiser boxing match in support of East Side Boxing Club (AKA ESB, a delicious acronym).
Dave Schuck founded ESB, in part to provide boxing classes for at-risk youth. It’s a great program, and one of the most familial gyms I’ve experienced, thanks in no small part to Schuck, who, given his aptitude for hollering obscenities at trainees, may’ve missed his calling as an army drill sergeant.
(The second lesson, by the way, is to never, under any circumstances, drink even one beer prior to training. Just, trust me.)
Anyway, Beer Wars is, of course, for the beer industry. I, of course, am not really in the beer industry, but sit sort of on the periphery looking in, enjoying the spoils, which up until being allowed to participate in Beer War meant gallons of free beer over the past year.
All that free beer, of course, resulted in what was essentially a yearlong bender that subsided just last October. These things happen. In my case, it left me paunchy, tired and perennially in a state of contrition with a spouse who reminded me constantly that she “didn’t sign up for this.”
And so, like many of my beer-swilling brethren/sistren, I used the charity boxing trip as an excuse to get in shape. There are 36 of us, split evenly as far as I can tell between men and women. There’s people from Brassneck, Strange Fellows, Parallel 49, Red Truck, Luppolo, Off the Rail, Powell Street and more. (There’s an Island cohort, too, but I haven’t met them.) The men all have some variation of the beer belly.
But we’re not just doing this to lose the gut. We’re doing this to find whatever healthy balance had been lost once we dove headlong into being devoted beer people.
And maybe these 35 others, like me, needed a push and a structured environment with someone yelling colourful obscenities while we do push ups or crunches or taking repeated shots to the jaw to actually make that happen. Maybe they, like me, needed a group of like-minded people who are just as paunchy and tired as everyone else to actually muster the gumption to follow through.
Beer Wars is a great fit for the beer industry, because that sense of community that a lot us desired and found within it is also available to us here, too – and it’s a space that promotes health and balance, which, again, the local industry has been lousy at embracing.
Which is even nicer than discovering that your man breasts are shrinking, or that your biceps are hard for the first time since you were 22. It’s nice getting to know people you’ve only ever met serving you at some tasting room, or giving you a cigarette outside some Parallel 49 party. To see this person, this stranger, peering at you from between two boxing gloves pressed to their face, sweat dripping off their bangs and their nose, jabbing repeatedly 60 shots at a time. Their face twisted in determination or frustration or both – a face you’ve only ever really ever seen obstructed by a pint glass. It’s the best.
Or…you know what? I’m lying. My shrinking man breasts are actually the best.
• Beer Wars Fight Night is on April 17 at Caprice Nightclub. For more information, visit the East Side Boxing Club website.