I remember the first full bottle of beer I ever enjoyed. I was fifteen. My buddy and I had a twenty-one-year-old friend, and six dollars. This guy ran up to the beer store with our six dollars with instructions to buy as much Michelob Dry as he could get. Well I don’t know what happened – beer was a lot cheaper back then – but somehow he only came back with two bottles. Well my friend and I enjoyed those two bottles of beer out on the driveway behind my house. We drank it like it was liquid gold. And it did taste good. So what happened?
I can no longer drink BMC. The Big American Three. But that’s what Some-Large-Percentage of the American population buys, in massive amounts, every weekend. I hand one of them my glass of Newcastle, or Full Sail IPA, or Arrogant Bastard and they make a terrible face and some comment about how gross it tastes. I handed a bottle of Newcastle to my cousin’s boyfriend the other day. He thanked me and offered a sip to my cousin, Lara. She took a pull of the rich brown beer and screwed up her face like she’d sucked on a rotten corn dog. She said, “Oh my God, that’s nasty.”
These people are conditioned to drink the pale yellow pisswater they’ve been fed their whole adult lives. And that’s what they think tastes good. Oh, I’m not above it. I once bought beer by the thirty-pack, and drank as much as I could during a day at the pool, or sitting in the back yard looking at the stars. The difference is I was awakened. I have since tried some hundred unique beers, and I like them all. Once your tongue acquires the appreciation and maturity for what real beer is supposed to taste like, you’re able to drink a lot more complex beers and even discern the ingredients. I know some people who can tell you what strain of hops was used in an IPA. And once your taste buds have been awakened, you can’t go back. Once you know (and appreciate) what good quality craft beer tastes like, you can no longer enjoy a BMC. It now tastes like watered down swill from the drain at the local car wash. It’s just not good.
But our minds – and our daily exposure to advertising and television – tell us it’s great. And to consume it in quantities not healthy for humans. Have you ever noticed that the really expensive beers don’t come in cases, or 18-packs? Why is that? Well, you don’t need as much. My wife and I used to tear through an 18-pack at a party without breaking a sweat. Now, we can show up at a party with a six-pack between us and really enjoy ourselves through the night. It’s no longer about quantity. It’s strictly about quality. Look at this quip from the back of a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale:
This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory-maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing the words as you read this.
At Stone Brewing, we believe that pandering to the lowest common denominator represents the height of tyranny – a virtual form of keeping the consumer barefoot and stupid.
Those words, though quippy and humorous, actually paint quite an accurate picture of what has happened here in the States. It’s sad, but true. The Big Three have one goal in mind: to put out as much swill with as little effort and at as little cost as possible. Mass production. Cheapest ingredients. Very little taste.
But craft beer is making a comeback. We have microbreweries opening all over the country. Several in the Dallas area. It’s an exciting time for beer lovers. And it’s especially exciting to see their round tables, where brew masters from competitor companies get together and discuss strategies and good beer. They all want each other to succeed. And success isn’t necessarily about out-selling each other. It’s about putting their product on the shelves and getting it into people’s hands amid the overwhelming flood that is big beer advertising.
I have been turning as many people on to craft beers as I can. I still encounter the occasional taste stranger who stubbornly refuses to accept he’s being fooled. But the fight is progressing. Slowly, people are waking up and realizing that there’s more to drinking life than a case of cold cans. I hope you take part in the battle and support your craft breweries. As many as you can. Go to a liquor store and look at the selection. The colorful six-packs of beer you’ve probably never heard of. And pick one up. I bet if you give it a chance, it’s got a thousand times more flavor and character than the “yellow fizzy beverage” you’re used to.