Beer, Beyond Blue Collar Boredom

A while back a friend of mine asked for beer recommendations. I thought about it and I gave a generic list of beers that might be of interest. Beers that a novice might not find too intimidating but wouldn’t be too boring either. In other words, it was a list of micro and craft brews with nary a Miller, Coors, or Bud on the list.

Now, months later, I’ve thought about the question and it strikes me that someone without any reference asking for a beer recommendation would be a lot like someone from another planet asking about ice cream.

What flavor would you recommend? Would you recommend what you liked? Or recommend maybe a lighter flavored ice cream because well, tutti-fruiti might be too intense for their alien taste buds. Do they like chocolate, or nuts? Do they like fruit or are they plain vanilla?

That’s the dilemma we run into when someone asks what beer to try. There are dozens and dozens of beer styles and they each have their own characteristics.

For example, there are the vanilla beers, the American-style lager. Pale in color, weak in bouquet, more carbonation than flavor, these are known as Miller, Bud and Coors.

Now I can’t fault people who drink them. Some don’t know any better. Some are just stuck in their ways. Some are afraid to experiment. Some honestly like the taste, what there is of it.

As I said, I can’t fault these people. I enjoy vanilla, too. And I like the occasional Pabst. Sure, its still an American-style lager, but it has a hoppier taste to it in my opinion (I won’t even mention that it won Gold for best American Style lager two years running at the Great American Beer Festival). And on a hot summer day, after mowing the lawn, nothing (except maybe water) quite hits the spot like a lighter beer. You certainly wouldn’t want to guzzle a stout at that point.

How did you learn what your favorite ice cream flavor was? Did you just eat what your parents ate? Did you just eat what your friends all ate? Did you just sample one or two varieties, settling on chocolate after deciding vanilla and strawberry just weren’t for you?

Or did you sample lots of ice cream? Did you try new flavors, like Jerry Garcia, or Moose Tracks, or Rocky Road? Did you go to a local ice cream shop and experiment?

To appreciate beers, that’s exactly what you must do. I’ve known people who drank the Blatz their parents drank. They drank the Olympia their friends drank. And in many cases, they drank that same beer for decades.

Appreciation comes with experimentation. If you don’t like a pale ale, then try an IPA. Don’t like Scottish ale, try an amber. The bock is too heavy? Try a wheat beer. How about that chocolate beer?

Those of us who love beer hardly ever drink the same beer, at least not like our parents did, where they’d drink nothing but Schlitz day in and day out, year after year.

Even if we were brand loyal, the microbrews and craft brewers don’t just have one or two beers, they sometimes have nearly a dozen.

So the fun of drinking beer is trying something new.

I’m not sure when beer came to mean a blue-collar drink, one that was pale yellow in color and tasteless, maybe sometime after the Prohibition and World War II.

Prohibition put a lot of brewers out of business. Prior to that America had as many varieties of beer as there were countries brewing different styles. America was the melting pot of beer, too.

But Prohibition wiped out a lot of brewers. Then WWII came along and all the men went to war, leaving the women home to take care of the home front. And the brewers, to lure the women in (and to save money) watered down the beers, added adjuncts and created a new, weaker, boring style of beer.

Interested in experimenting? Want to learn more about the different styles? Find a brewpub near by. They often have samplers. Try a few until you find the styles you like.

Or do what I did. Find a bar that has 70 or 80 different beers from around the world and try to make it around the world. The bar I hung out called the event, “Around the World in 80 Beers.”

I lost track of where I was, but I closed Wolski’s.

However you do it, a different six pack at a time, a 12-pack sampler, a brewpub sampler, or around the world at your local watering hole, the fun about beer is in the sampling. And in the talking about the sampling.

After all, how much discussion does a Budweiser generate? But pull out a Flying Dog with Ralph Steadman graphics and you’ve got a conversation.

And a party.

America is about freedom, freedom of choice. Bud has turned us into automatons believing America is about tasteless beers. Break free and discover what American beer was at the height of the first beer revolution in the late 1800s.

Lagers and ambers and ales. Oh my.

Interested in learning more? Visit RealBeer.com for starters or go to the late, great Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter’s website. God rest his soul.

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5 thoughts on “Beer, Beyond Blue Collar Boredom

  1. Ed, your post made me really wish I drank beers (I don’t. There’s something in the gentle back taste of fermentation which I just never liked. Be it beer, Champagne, Whiskey, or what have you). What a well-written piece.

    My dad drinks all manner of beers. He always goes for the thing he’s never had, or the weirdest thing on the menu, depending on where we go. Thus, it always seemed to me growing up that drinking Budweiser was about as beer-like as drinking a Coca-Cola.

    Beer’s like tea, like coffee: If you just drink Budweiser, Lipton, Folders ground-up-stuff, then you may as well drink water, because you’re missing out on a world of interesting flavors, not to mention a really terrific hobby.

  2. Every time I see someone drinking a beer, it just looks so refreshing. Maybe because it resembles iced tea or something, and they always look so happy drinking it. And I had this childhood memory of occasionally tasting my Dad’s beer (Bud) and thinking it was pretty cool.

    But when I came of drinking age, my father was an alcoholic so it took me years (and years) to finally decide alcohol wasn’t the enemy. So I ventured into the drinking world with nary a clue what to ask for.

    I’m enjoying cocktails (they were invented for women, after all) and I’m a huge fan of putting Rum in my Coca-Cola. But try as I might, I can’t seem to get past that basic, initial taste that beer has.

    I should try more variety. I really should go to a local brew pub and try samples, I’ve seen people do that. What I did was buy a Sam Adams Boston, and tried to drink it. I really wanted to like it – really. But that flavor – I think it was the hops – just didn’t match what I had set up in my head.

    Like picking up a Coke and taking a drink, when you THOUGHT it was Rootbeer.

    I see a lot of people cringe when I mention I drink Rum. And when I tell them I like to experiment with Vodkas, they make a face. So I’m starting to understand that – while they simply haven’t had enough good Rum or Vodka to understand – clearly I haven’t sampled enough beers to get it, either.

    But I’ll probably keep trying 😀

  3. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson…”MMMMMMM….BEER!”

    Ed, let me tell ya a story. There is absolutely NOTHING better than to be in a pub in Ireland with a Guiness in your hand. Nothing. They draw it in the glass way different than they do here. They draw it straight down the middle and let the head get nice and large. They then sit it in front of you on a mat, but you better not touch it at that point, lest the locals have a nice laugh at your expense. No, you leave that beer sitting there until that head expires. They will then top it off and you will have the perfect head on it. One inch and thick! That beer tastes totally different there than it does here in the states.

    Yes, I love beer. I have since I was a teenager (dont tell my mom, she would be heartbroken…LoL). I too like to try the “other” beers. Micro brews and local brews. Just like nothing is better than Guiness in Ireland, there is the same feeling with a local brew here.

    Great post!

  4. Americans hate head on their beers. I don’t know why, but they think a head is wrong. That it was a bad pour. But with good beer, the head is like, well, like a dollop of whipping cream on your pie.

    And Guinness here in the States seems watered down and boring. I think it’s highly over-rated and the people drink it because they’re under the belief that it is this great beer. It is, but not here.

    Someday I’d like to go to Great Britain and try all the great ales and stouts fresh from the tap.

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