Beer Me

President Obama’s mundane beverage selection at last week’s beer summit was roundly condemned by the hip, politically-inclined set, and as much as I’d love to write a counter-intuitive defense of watery beer (paging David Plotz!),* I’m forced to agree that Budweiser does in fact suck. Given the success of his home state’s Dogfish Head Brewery, I thought Biden would have the sense to grab a more exotic brew.  Tragically, Delaware’s native son chose a non-alcoholic beverage – he must have missed this fantastic New Yorker article on Dogfish Head’s founders. My favorite bit:

When he and Calagione aren’t making beer, they sometimes perform together at the pub as a beer-themed hip-hop duo called the Pain Relievaz (sample lyrics: “You’re the barley virgin that my malt mill will deflour”).

*Prospective article outline:

Intro: Microbreweries have become cliche; America needs to regain its working class street cred (think hipsters and Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Body: Does anyone really like exotically-flavored beer, anyway? If you want taste, try wine or soda; beer is for getting drunk (think keg parties).

Conclusion: Most micro-breweries are inspired by Belgian beers, and Belgium is right next to France! Also, it’s in the middle of Europe! Americans still hate France and Europe, right?

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18 thoughts on “Beer Me

  1. 1. Biden is, AFAIK, a teetotalar; does Dogfish have a near-beer?

    2. Still, I’m going to second Mr. Fallows’ criticism – the only beer with any flavor was a Coors-produced wheat beer? Ugh. Folks, Jimmy Carter de-regulated the beer industry thirty years ago; there is such a thing as a good American beer. Although apparently Gates went with a Sammy Light for Round Two, which is semi-respectable.

    3. As for Belgian inspiration, it’s worth mentioning that the Flemish half of the country has more than it’s share of problems with the French, so that’s a pretty big mitigating factor. Although the abbey ales (Orval, Chimay, Westmalle, and Leffe) mostly come from the French part of the country, it’s worth mentioning that those abbeys were mostly founded by monks fleeing the French Revolution. So it may be fair to say that Belgian beer brewing is anti-French.

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      • I gotta say, this shows very little respect for Biden’s life choices (see below.) Would blow be obligatory at an Obama-GWB summit?

        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/24/us/politics/24biden.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

        “Though Joe Sr. was not a heavy drinker, alcohol flowed freely in the Finnegan house and in the neighborhood. Joe Jr. saw the toll it took on his family, his neighbors and, later, on his little brother Frankie. “Every family had it,” said Tom Bell, one of Senator Biden’s childhood friends from Scranton who remains close to him. “But the Finnegans had more than their share.” Senator Biden does not drink at all, and he is frank about the reason. “There are enough alcoholics in my family,” he said last month as he sipped cranberry juice on a train ride from Washington to Wilmington.”

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  2. Agreed re: the Dogfish. Even if he’s not a drinking man himself he could have picked some up for the rest of the table. It’s not like it’s hard to come by; the terrible no good just awful liquor store down the street from me (whose bourbon selection consists of Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark and that’s about it) has 6 packs of the 60 Minute IPA.

    Maybe the Dogfish Head guys just need a better lobbying outfit. I bet Diageo would’ve done the job right…

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  3. I love imports and drink Guinness regularly when out. At home though myself and most of my friends prefer Pabst or Budweiser. I tend to think a light pilsner is the most satisfying when you just want a tot after work or it’s 90 degrees outside.

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  4. I have mentioned this before, but… gimme a Miller Lite, dammit. I don’t want any wheat in my beer. Nor do I want blueberries. I don’t want perfumey and I don’t want flowery. I don’t want anything within 20 degrees of room temperature. And I want to be able to drink 26 of them without getting a bellyache. Until the next day.

    So OK. You don’t like macrobrews, or whatever they call Budweiser these days. Then pick one of the local varietals that has the patriotic aesthetics of good old American brewski. Namely, it should be yellow. And you should be able to see through it. I personally prefer Straub. Which is awesome. It probably technically counts as a microbrew, as they don’t make much. It has been around forever. No salt, sugar or preservatives so there is basically no chance of it ever going national and ruining your street cred. And, no matter what Budweiser says, Straub invented born-on dating.

    You can also drink as much as you want at the brewery for free.

    So save your wheat for breakfast cereals, and do whatever the hell you want with your bluberries, raspberries and pumpkin. (Can I suggest a pie?)

    For now, a question for dedicated localists: If it’s not OK for someone from Buffalo to eat strawberries in December, or buy a Chinese-made lawnmower from WalMart, is it OK for that same person to drink an Anchor Steam?

    I suggest they stick to Gennessee. Upon which I was WEANED.

    Harrumph!

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    • Don’t know if you were responding to me, but I was not praising wheat-y beers, which can be tasty but which I barely consider beer at all. I was instead praising strong, hoppy beer that tastes like something other than water. I know you still back the weaker type of beer, and there are times when I’m not in the least opposed to a Yuengling (Bud is made with rice and shamelessly stole its name from a Czech beer in a manner that I find intolerable) and can tolerate a Miller Light. But more often than not such beers are, IMHO, best restricted to beer games and frat parties rather than shooting the shit with a group of buddies.

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  5. By the way, I have seen a ton of commentary about the quality of the chosen beers. But none about the quantity. I understoand they all had two beers. Really? Two? You don’t hash something out over two beers. At least a sixer each would have been appropriate.

    I would have really like to have seen someone test the limits in straight-up populist fashion. How many beers do you think they had on hand? What if someone had had 11 and asked for another. Would they have given it to him? Would they have shut him off?

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    • Agree entirely re: two beers per person. Although getting trashed on the White House lawn might hurt the Administration’s credibility.

      As for your curmudgeonly approach to beer-drinking, I can appreciate a more traditional brew – I just happen to enjoy a fuller, less watered-down taste than Budweiser. Dale’s Pale Ale is my current favorite.

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  6. I’m a New Belgium kinda guy myself. Gimme my Fat Tire. I’m a seasonal beer drinker, though. I like light beers in the summer. Stick a lime in a Budweiser and it tastes like Corona. Dos Equis Amber is a good half-way beer for summertime. Lots of local breweries make good light, summery ales. Red ales are also good for the summer. In fall and winter I like going darker. Porters, stouts. Again, lots of local varieties to choose from, but also Black Butte makes a good porter. Guiness will do in a pinch. Come spring it’s back amber ales.

    One nice thing about New Belgium is they do the whole seasonal thing. Skinny Dip for summers, then you have 1554 and 2 Below and other darker ales for winter. Fat Tire all year long.

    Man, I just remembered. Will, you can’t publish a post like this during work hours. Damnit.

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  7. But – back to the topic at hand, I think the whole pandering by beer-choice thing is really sad. I don’t see Obama as a Budweiser drinker. The man eats arugula! Only people who cling to guns and god drink Budweiser! Obama should be drinking Kenyan beer for goodness sakes…
    ;)

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  8. Mark,

    Not singling you out at all. Just getting all hyped up thinking about beer.

    One thing not mentioned here: Tradition.

    We are supposed to respect a lot of things because, or at least partly because, they are traditional, right? I mean, someone from New Haven should prefer New Haven style pizza to Chicago style. Just on principle. People from Pittsburgh should admire staunch defense and fat, slow running backs. Just because.

    Now, you can argue that American’s basically turned their backs on all sorts of breweing traditions by abandoning “flavorful beers” for less flavorful beers. But… Italians who moved inland gave up on seafood and, eventually, began to prefer their new foods. And developed new local traditions. Dairy, not olive oil! And vice-versa.

    So at what stage does something like American-style beer qualify as a tradition, and a tradition to which Americans owe some sort of deference? The switch to Budweisrer didn’t just happened. It reflected real and powerful forces in our culture. Yeah, that’s right… I said culture. It was technological enough to allow for refrigerated shipping. It was aesthetically malleable enough to permit an acceptance of and eventually a preference for, American style beer. It reflects our penchant and tolerance for advertising and mass marketing. Etc. etc.

    So these beers have held sway over the market for decades. Do these preferences not then qualify as traditions? If not, why not? And if so, don’t we owe them some consideration? I am not talking here about the chest-thumping, “go back to France and play soccer” patriotic machisimo that infects many diatribes against “fancy beer.” Rather, I am wondering if there is not at least a kernel of respectability to the idea of defending american style beer simply because… it’s American.

    More pragmatically, all you people who insist on drinking high-dollar, saffron-infused blueberry pale-ale carefully crafted by belgian monks wearing hand-crafted platinum tiaras SCREW UP THE BAR TAB. When everyone is drinking Schaeffer or Old German, you can outpace the guy next to you, but the difference comes out in the wash.

    But when one guy is drinking Milwaukee’s Best at a dollar a pint, and you are having Belgian-whatevers at $9 a bottle, the difference basically requires separate checks. And as a former waiter, I can tell you that there is NOTHING more un-American than separate checks. Also… I hate having to quibble about money when drinking.

    Come on, fellas. If it’s $4.00 a pitcher… drink it.

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    • Well, I’ve never been much of a traditionalist, and a lot of Budweiser, et al’s, dominance was fueled by regulatory protections which I find ideologically frustrating. But mostly, if I’m drinking for any reason other than with the specific goal of getting drunk, I’d rather have something with a little bit of beer-i-ness to it. Otherwise, I don’t see the purpose of spending a couple bucks when I can get something that tastes the same out of my faucet for free.

      I just gotta have my hops.

      Of course, the one thing I like even less than water-y beer is blatantly fruity beer- if there’s anything in there other than a very few drops of citrus, it ain’t beer (and God forgive you if there’s any kind of berry in there). But that’s another story altogether.

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