I Hate Fancy Beer, and So Do You

Remember when there were only five kinds of beer and they all tasted the same?

It’s time to admit it. You hate the beer you drink today. You know you do. It looks and tastes like a loaf of pumpernickel and has as many calories.

Magic such-and-such. Brewed in Brooklyn. Raspberry notes.

How’s this for raspberries? Yellow, fizzy and brewed in Milwaukee. I want a beer in a can so cold I have to guzzle it just to get the feeling back in my hand.

There was Budweiser and there was Miller. The King and the High Life. If you lived in the west, there was Coors, which easterners thought was for weirdos. And there were second-tier suds like Pabst and Schaefer and Old Milwaukee, followed by whatever cheap-ass swill they brewed in your town. That’s what you’d drink if you were having a party and needed nine cases for under sixty bucks.

♦◊♦

“Bartender, what’s on tap?”

“Bud. Bud Light.”

“I’ll have the latter, kind sir. And draw one for yourself, barkeep.”

“Thanks, mac! That’ll be two bucks.”

See? Civilized and economical. But today, in the age of pricey, twee beers, here’s what we’re reduced to:

“Bartender, what’s on tap?”

“There’s the list, next to you.”

“This one?”

“No, that’s the phone book. The big one there, next to it.”

“Ah. Yes. Hmm… I’ll have … uh … ”

“Hey, pal. You gonna order a beer or you gonna read?”

“Uh … sure! I’ll have … um … what’s this? I’ll have an Atomic Wedgie.”

“IPA or Blueberry?”

“Blueberry Atomic Wedgie, please.”

“Sure. That’ll be nine bucks.”

♦◊♦

Today, you can buy high-end beers that have, like, six or seven percent alcohol and taste like turpentine. That used to be called Schlitz Malt Liquor. But at least The Bull was cold. At my neighborhood’s liquor store, strolling past row after row of lukewarm emetics with cutie-pie labels, it dawned on me: I love beer but I hate these beers.

And so do you. You can deny it all you want, but I’ll never believe you wouldn’t rather shoot pool with a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons than with a cedar-spiced holiday ale.

My friends think I’m the one who’s nuts. They’ll drink an India pale ale from Portland, then a weissen with notes of clove, followed by … on and on. I’m missing out, they’ll tell me. They call me a beer square.

Guilty as charged, your honor. If I’m going to get a carbon dioxide headache, let me get it drinking something that doesn’t require an advanced degree to appreciate. I’ve heard the complaints about beer with no taste. Listen, I’m all for taste. I just don’t want beer that tastes like a filthy sock.

My taste in beer was formed by commercials in the 70s and 80s. Billy Dee Williams, those Clydesdales at Christmastime, “tastes great, less filling.” I was too young to drink it – let me rephrase that; I was too young to buy it – but I was already an informed beer consumer.

Beer commercials promised that you’d be a cool guy if you drank Miller. If you had the time, they had the beer. Or that when you said Budweiser, you’d said it all. And they didn’t kid themselves about how we drink beer. “The one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” And “One beer stands clear – beer after beer.” To me, that says styrofoam cooler, two bags of ice and a case of Wiedemann. These commercials were for working men. Guys in hard hats, climbing towers in the broiling sun “with enough juice at your fingertips to light up the county. But now it’s Miller Time.” You worked your ass off, pal. Crack open a beer.

Then, at some point, there started to be commercials for weird beers that didn’t come in cans. No cans? How’m I s’posed to sneak THAT into the upper deck? And who’s that guy on that commercial? He’s got a beard! And a turtleneck! What’s he drinkin’? Low-en-what? Getthefuggouttahere with your Loewenbrau.

That was where it began. Beers that had European roots and that smelled like B.O. found their way to America and began the infiltration. You wouldn’t find them at the American Legion Hall or anything, but they became more and more common, paving the way for the tidal wave of endless skunky, musky brews we see today.

Look, I’ve lived the lie, too. I told myself I liked warm pumpkin ale. I’ve drunk flat, black beer and beer with fruit in it. Like you, I was afraid to admit I hated it. Standing at a party, a Black Chocolate Stout in hand, I longed for refreshment, for a crisp, cold gulp of Budweiser. Please! Someone please bring me a beer!

Psssshhhht! Ahhh. The sweet, foamy sound of CO2 escaping from aluminum. The rhythmic ulk, ulk, ulk of emptying half the 12-ounce can down your gullet. The burn in your nose, the huge, immediate burp. Like I said, ahh. Repeat.

—Photo kickthebeat/Flickr

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About Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith is the author of Extra Innings and is the editor of Bugs and Cranks. He and his wife live in a Baltimore house full of animals and catcher's equipment.

Comments

  1. If you want to drink 1970s beer and you enjoy 1970s beer then go for it. But dont ruin everyone else’s option orgasm. The USA is a global front runner in the beer market. It is our lack of a traditional beer culture that allows us to go beyond a national staple like Englands ESB or Belgiums..well Belgian. Possibilities allow for everyone to find something they like, whether that be a Bud or an Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye. Craft beer doesnt have to be expensive. That’s an issue geography and venue. I live in a city where you can have top shelf brew for three or four bucks a pint. Sure, the watery stuff is half that but when the price range is 2-4 bucks everyone can get what they want.

    At the end of the day beer should be about the love of the beverage and everyone should be able to have what they enjoy.

  2. Craft beers are skunky? I’d be apt to say that it is your flavorless macro brews that have the market cornered on skunky beer! But hey, if you want to drink crappy beer, go all in man. That is your choice. I’ll have an Odell Myrcenary.

  3. Do you also hate putting honest Americans to work? The craft brewing industry currently puts 100,000 people to work (including staff at brewpubs). Beer over the last 30 years has been dumbed down and commoditized. American Brewers are taking back a beverage category that, until recently, has been incredibly lackluster. But good news for you…Miller is re-branding their 64 line. So you can continue to drink unflavored beer while shaving calories at the same time!

    • Interesting how the author bashes “Beers that had European roots”. The Light American Lager you love so much has very distinct European roots. The beer before Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon as not light lager. What you are in love with now started as a European style of beer brought to the US.

      What is available now from the craft breweries, which are now the only American breweries, is predominantly rooted in American individuality and drive for all things bigger, and better. If you didn’t catch that part about the craft breweries being the American Breweries understand this, Bud, Miller and Coors are NOT own by Americans or American Corporations. Bud is owned by the Beligans(InBev), Miller is owned by the South Africans(SAB), and Coors is owned by the Canadians(Molson). OK, so technically the Canadians are Americans, but the truth is the largest US brewer is Boston Brewing Company, Samuel Adams.

      For most that like beers other than the large industrial lagers it is not about anything other than taste. Now some people are perfectly happy eating frozen TV dinners and McDonalds every day for every meal. Some people prefer real meat, many prefer steak, and then there are those that actually enjoy a good slow cooked Prime Rib or Pork Shoulder. If you have ever drooled over really good slow cooked BBQ you do understand the appeal or good craft beer. If you think craft beer is only insane beers with weird ingredients you must also think that BBQ is only a McDonalds McRib sandwich.

      But in reality it is not your fault, and you admit this. You are being controlled by the advertisements. You have given in to what the TV tells you. It;s sad really, and I hope some day you are able to break this stranglehold your corporate overlords have over you. Maybe when you realize that they have no interest in your happiness or satisfaction and are only streaming information to you to get your money you might be able to break away. Until then us weirdos will pity you and keep a good beer ready for you when you finally realize how blind you are to reality.

  4. Michael Thomas says:

    I bet this guy also thinks Boones Farm is the best wine money can buy. If other people like thing he dosent THEY are snobs? This is obviously a website I should avoid.

  5. I know you probably wrote this to stir the pot and get traffic to your site and I must say, it’s working out rather well. I couldn’t resist writing a rebuttal, however – which you can enjoy here, http://www.kegworks.com/blog/2012/03/13/hey-patrick-smith-youre-wrong-i-do-like-fancy-beer-031312/

    Cheers!

  6. I prefer a dry aged steak to a McDonalds burger. By your rationale, the more expensive steak is a waste of money. (They come from the same animal, so why bother with the steak.)

    That said, I don’t see why there isn’t a place for both. If I’m out fishing, I don’t have an issue with an ice cold can of [insert macro beer brand here], but if I’m going to enjoy a beer with my steak, I’d rather have something that compliments the flavor of my meal.

    You can eat your burgers with processed cheese slices and drink your PBR all you’d like.

    I’ll enjoy my dry aged steak, camembert and craft beer.

  7. I don’t hate fancy beers, and in fact I have brewed some of them. Patrick Smith may like the wimpy lagers passed off as beer these days by the big corporations – but me I prefer a beer that you can tell the difference between what you are drinking and what you get an hour later when you have to finally break the seal. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – however don’t pretend to speak for me.

  8. Sure, I disagree with Patrick Smith, but my philosophy about beer is this: “If it tastes good, it IS good.” (Paraphrasing Duke Ellington’s old saying about music.)

    Still, I think this article responds well to Smith’s piece. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/drink/2012/03/don_t_believe_coors_and_budweiser_colder_isn_t_better_.html?tid=sm_tw_button_toolbar

  9. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Once you’ve lived in Germany (as I did once,) it’s hard to find any US beer that tatses like beer. I’ve heard that it may be the pasturization that ruins it. I dislike all the Sam Adams labels (they taste slightly “off.”) Haven’t tried many other IPAs etc., but they don’t measure up in the US. I like Bass here the the most, I guess. Favorite German beer: Ganterbraue (Freiburg.)

  10. I think nearly everyone is missing the point. Pat Smith wrote a piece, on a website called “The Good Men Project”, about his love for women’s lager. HELLO??!?????

  11. Just another tool going down the list of popular things trying to be original.

    Keep walking, guy.

  12. Brady Umfleet says:

    Is this a joke? I sthis guy a joke? Is it April Fools Day already-what a Dbag-drink that foreign owned crap and pretend that he are a “real man” come to my house and I will show a real American man-

  13. Uh, no, I like real beer – like Guinness, which there is still no American beer to match. I like real ales, stout stouts, and pure pilsners. None of the big American brewers can stand up to real beer, and this writer should know it. The opposite of snob is still snob.

    • Derek C. says:

      I agree with your line about snobbery. And while I know the writer was just being provocative, I’m kinda glad he’s getting flamed. Basically calling folks fake for liking what they like deserves a bit of flaming. Disagree on your Guinness though. Plenty of world-class American stouts.

    • Rick: If you think Guinness is a “real beer” then I just feel bad for you. it wouldn’t even make my top 50, and I’ve probably only had about 100 beers.

  14. You could not be more right, Patrick. Its disgusting. I dare anyone to drink 3 Black IPA’s. Yuck.

  15. MBrinkley says:

    Author: You’re right, my comments (which have been curiously deleted) were a little venomous. Sorry about that. And it appears I’m late to the game here. Just recently saw this piece.

    Let me try again: When you put yourself out here, as you have in your article, as a person who prefers the simple over the complex, the base over the interesting and challenging, the bloated corporation over the local dudes, the bland, boring and easy over the tasty and unique, all I can think of are harsh and derisive comments.

    It’s completely fine if you have a simple palate that can’t appreciate distinct and complex flavors. Not every beer you drink has to be a super rich and complex brew. There are hundreds of craft/micro brews that would suit your tastes. Try a local pilsner, lager, blonde ale, hefeweizen, or wit. There’s something out there for you that’s infinitely better than the swill provided by big beer.

    • For the record, I didn’t delete your comment.

      Also, it wasn’t nearly as ugly as many of the comments have been. And that’s why I don’t write for this site anymore. There’s absolutely no sense of humor here. Stuff I’ve written about gender and sexual harassment and masculinity on this site has drawn incredibly creepy reactions and weirdly furious comments. The beer thing was just icing on the cake.

      I have huge respect for the people behind this site – Lisa Hickey and the editorial staff. They’re tremendous. But there sure are a lot of pissed of guys who read this site.

  16. I’ll be honest..I jumped on the so-called craft beer bandwagon to see what all the fuss was about. I’m one who cut their beer drinking teeth on Bud, Miller, Moosehead and scores of “no-name” beers.

    I enjoyed the parade for a while, but simply got tired of the nuances, the jargon and nonsense that has turned something simple into a complicated and snobbish undertaking. It came to the point in this so-called new “beer culture” that you were out of your mind for having a Heineken instead of a pumpkin super IPA ale. Simply, I’ve had enough.

    Now, when I go for my weekly supply of beer, I’ve come back home..It’s either Michelob, Molson good ‘ol Miller or a simple euro-lager.

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