Today, I start a new series “Drink This Not That.” As the title implies, I unleash a world of hurt and knowledge upon the sheeple of the drinking world. It’s come to my attention that throngs of imbibers and borderline alcoholics are not necessarily stupid, but ignorant. They’ve been mis-educated, not educated at all, or have simply grown accustomed to drinking junk. Well, this bartender is here to turn their misfortunes around.
We start with what I call Pisswater. Quit drinking it. You probably know most of the folks who guzzle this stuff. At least, the bartenders among us do. These are the clowns who, given a breadth of other options, still choose to quench their penchant for suds with cheap, pedestrian, mass-produced, nearly flavorless Lagers (mostly) like: Bud, Coors Light, MGD, Stella Artois, Rolling Rock, Michelob Ultra, Heineken, Amstel Light, and Becks. I can hear the scoffing… :”Stella? Heineken?” Yeah, those beers are utter crap. I said it.
I’m a firm believer that the “Good Ol’ Days” of quality products, particularly in the United States are mostly long gone. Sometime around the late 60′s or early 70′s, the U.S. began to abandon hundreds of years of traditional craftsmanship and quality in favor of shareholder-owned, Board of Director-controlled, mega-corporate mass produced garbage for the masses. The efforts of these corporations was no longer product-focused but rather, increasing margins and the maximization of shareholder value (i.e., Net Operating Income) in any way they could. In the last 3 or 4 decades, the New Global World Order (focusing on a shift to corporate operating efficiencies and a leveraging of “bedfellows” types of relationships amongst economic elitists, lobbyists, and governments) has been so extensive that the United States is at the historic height of economic ruin from a myriad of angles. Most disturbingly, the short-sighted practice of outsourcing – most glaringly: manufacturing contracted to South-East Asia – has (1) decimated quality and innovation and (2) wreaked utter havoc on the American skilled labor market and employment opportunities.
All kinds of previously well-made products suffered this terrible fate. Everything from stupendously designed and durable American cars to salad bowls to impeccably tailored garments and everything in between.
I’m somewhat of an Isolationist, believe in many of the ideals of The Tea Party, and am an absolute Constitutionalist. I firmly believe in self-sufficiency and cleaning up your own backyard before going bitching about your neighbors. Furthermore, I believe you have zero right meddling in your neighbors affairs whatsoever unless your neighbor undeniably infringes on your rights or presents a clear and present danger to your own safety.
So, what the fuck does all this have to do with beer you ask?
Oh… a plenty. If you do your research, you’ll note that the vast majority of large, corporate beer producers now-a-days all got their start from a small batch of overly-eager, extremely clever, workaholic German immigrants. Most notably, we have: Adolf Coors, Agustus Busch and Jacob Schueler (Anheuser Busch), David Gottlob Jüngling (Yuengling), August Krug (Schlitz), Frederick Miller, and Jacob Best (Pabst). There are scores of others and guess what? They’re pretty much all German and were all extremely successful. Kudos Deutschland!
Yes, the Dutch and the English pre-date the Germans in establishing breweries in the New World. But the rash of German immigrants took the concept and popularized suds by some exponential proportion. Though most of their breweries produced various beer varieties, they all focused their attention on “American” style Lagers. That is they mostly produced cold/bottom fermented lagers (and still do). Typically, these beers were “light” in appearance and body, had average ABV, and were not terribly “hoppy” or bitter.
They’re good thirst quenchers. I don’t disagree that an ice cold Corona or whatever can be quite enjoyable on a hot-ass Summer day. But then again, just about anything ice cold can do the same job. These mainstream beers are simply not very interesting – unfortunately. Their flavor profiles are far from complex due to their relatively simple and inexpensive ingredients. Essentially, they just “get the job done,” not unlike a Toyota Camry can get you to work – boring. Wouldn’t you rather commute in a vintage Bentley, a modern Ferrari, a ’67 Split-Window 427 Corvette, or a Bugatti? Then why in the hell do you pony up to bar only to quench your thirst with that toilet-water called Coors Light???
When I someday open up my own bar, there will be nary a single one of these ass-backwards beers anywhere in the joint. Take for example one of my favorite Midtown corporate hangouts Rattle and Hum. They have an outstanding beer selection – all listed by name and categorized by both Bitterness (IBU) and Alcohol Content (ABV). Drinking there is nothing less than a party for the palate. Not so curiously, they have a category called “Absolute Crap.” Budweiser is the sole beer in that section. An oh… they’ll charge you $0 dollars - that’s right – if you select it. But don’t feel bad for Rattle and Hum. They sell a shit-ton of beer to “enlightened” beer drinkers.
So why do I continue to hate on American-style lagers? While the originators, those pioneering, quality-centric brewmasters (at the start) epitomized the American dream, they didn’t deviate much from catering to simplistic palettes. Worse, their descendants either sold the company assets to those aforementioned greedy conglomerates like InBev or simply shifted the focus away from quality to mass-production and factory efficiencies. The days of artisan crafted, small batch, oak or copper barrelled brewed lagers are long, long gone. Today, beer production – for those companies – is about (a) minimizing shrinkage (b) minimizing cost through automation and economies of scale and (c) monopolizing distributorship. Pick up a bottle of Budweiser Black, Bud Light in a bottle-looking can, or Coors today and you’ll see and taste what I mean – utter crap. Similarly, their massive marketing departments seem to be driven to cater to none other than blue-collar, Nascar-loving, Mid-West OFWGs.
Looking back on my past, I spent my formative late teens and early twenties, not unlike many other college kids away from home. I proceeded to get rip-roaring drunk pretty much 6 days/nights a week. Mostly, that was the result of drinking ridiculously excessive quantities of cheap keg beer. Believe me, there was nothing great on tap. Kegs from Bud, Genesee, Busch, Strohs, Schmidts, Labatts and an ocassional Molson, were just about all we ever drank. Every once in a while, those crap suds would be augmented by numerous shots from a bathtub full of Alabama Slammers or shit punch made from Georgi vodka. I often wonder exactly how I made it out of college without severe liver damage.
Anyway, given the choice of Founders Pale Ale, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, Mackesons, or even a Brooklyn Lager, all with complex flavors, why in the hell would I choose to sip mass-produced pisswater? I wouldn’t. Some do… go figure.
Luckily, the world is not entirely lost. In the last 10 years or so, the Micro Brewery business – producing a breadth of varieties of Old-World-inspired quality suds – has been growing rabidly. Furthermore, their popularity – particularly in densely populated areas with large numbers of highly-educated, culturally elite, worker bees with disposable income – is absolutely astounding.
Even the medium-sized “players” such as Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Brooklyn Brewery have upped their games in recent years and put forth seasonal as well as year-round quality, unique, and flavorful products.
Below, are some of my favorites and what I suggest you try next time you’re out and about. I’ve tried and have savored everyone of these exceptional beers. You can probably tell off the bat that I have a particular affinity for Stouts and Doppelbocks. So what?
- Brooklyn Brown Ale
- Chimay Red
- Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
- Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
- Duvel Ale
- Founders Breakfast Stout
- Founders Dirty Bastard
- Founders Imperial Stout
- Ithica Apricot Wheat
- Lagunitas IPA
- Lagunitas Little Sumpin’
- Mackesons Triple Stout
- Samuel Adams Summer Ale
- Samuel Smiths Chocolate Stout
- Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout
- Sierra Nevada Summerfest
- Sierra Nevada Porter
- Spaten Optimator
- Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot
- Weyerbacher Merry Monks
- Weyerbacher Old Heathen
So quit drinking that mass-produced, tainted, yellow excuse for beer, for the sole purpose of getting drunk. Grow up a bit. Evolve. There’s more to life than getting shit-faced (and sick) as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Enjoy your beverage slowly. Savor it. Let it roll around the different receptor areas on your tongue. Decipher the brewmaster’s objectives and ingredients. Take in the aromas. Enjoy the experience all while getting your buzz on. For God’s sake – drink a quality beer.