For this month’s Session, Rebecca Patrick over at The Bake and Brew asks us to write about going against the grain of the craft brewing community. I found this a fascinating question, since I’ve long felt that most craft beer drinkers have been going against the grain of the beer drinking public for years. Perhaps the question is a sign the revolution is about over. Craft beer drinkers are still a minority these days, but we’re a very large and vocal minority. It wasn’t always this way.
Back in the early 90’s during my grad school days at The Ohio State University, I found myself gravitating against the grain with a lot of my beer decisions. Back then, the stuff we consider craft beer today was pretty hard to find.
I’d do things show up for Saturday night poker games with a six pack of Beck’s. Not a great beer, but somehow I found it’s skunkiness conveyed a certain international sophistication. My six pack of Beck’s stood out in stark contrast to all the bottles of Natural Light, or Coors’s Light, and Busch for the evening’s beer stockpile. Drinking Rolling Rock over a Coors’s or Anheuser-Busch product was supporting your local brewer, since the Latrobe, PA brewery was only a little over 200 miles away from Columbus. Going out to see some blues or funk band meant a Guinness Stout. Carrying around a pint of Guinness gave me a certain pitch black badge of beer-against-the-grainess amidst all the straw colored lager pints in the loud, dark, smokey nightclub. (They allowed people to smoke in bars back then.) Most of my friends thought Guinness tasted like mud.
Pretty soon, I graduated to stuff like Sam Adam’s Boston Lager, Samuel Smith’s, and Pete’s Wicked. One evening I spent catching up with an ex-girlfriend, who turned me on to a hard to find beer in the Midwest called Anchor Steam. From there, I plunged gleefully down the slippery slope to craft beer nirvana. After nearly two decades of transformation into a self-proclaimed craft beer aficionado, I’ve discovered a new simple pleasure in the world of beer.
Macrobrews. That’s right, macrobrews.
Like the time I recently caught up with a couple of co-workers one evening to shoot some pool at this place called The Blue Bonnet. I mean no offense when I call it a dive bar, especially since the place clearly embraces its dive bar identity. That goes double for the 20-something wannabe vixen bartender, who alternately intentionally ignored and flirted with all the male patrons in her skimpy black outfit, which revealed numerous mismatched tattoos and a body clearly not sexy enough for her dive bar diva act. For this casual evening of friends, pool, and unpretentious surroundings full of friendly locals, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap was not even an option. The modest simplicity of Pabst Blue Ribbon, at only two bucks a pint, was the clear choice. Familiar, unassuming and nostalgic, PBR was the perfect brew for the evening.
And when it’s time for barbecue, there’s only one choice: Budweiser at near freezing temperature. Now I’ve heard that porters, stouts, and IPA’s are the preferred choice to accentuate the smoky and spicy flavors of barbecue according to Master Cicerones. These people are simply wrong. There’s no point explaining the tradition as to why an ice cold Bud is the best beer in the world with barbecue. If I have to explain, then you just don’t get it.
There are other times when no body’s looking that I’ll revisit the one-note roasty goodness of a Guinness Stout. I like Blue Moon, find Michelob sort of interesting, and on a hot summer’s day have been known to cool off with a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. For those of you who dare to chortle at this, and I know you’re out there, well screw you!
Just remember if it weren’t for guys like me twenty years ago, you probably wouldn’t be enjoying some fine craft beer right now.