Given the paramount theme that was the birth of these United States this past week, I thought it would be my patriotic due diligence to apply that to the very subject of this blog. Beer drinking in this country is an important civil right afforded to us by a bunch of old, populist drunks who loved to cut loose at the discos during the days of living hard and dying harder. Drinking beer was the cornerstone of industry and commerce in the new world, and was also probably a major reason why a country of 16 dainty puritans could defeat the entire British Empire. For the Brits, beer was, as Homer said, "the cause of and solution to all of life's problems".
Because beer has such a long, valuable history in this country -- and is the very impetus by which all of our celebratory rituals impart velocity, it is important to talk about what American beer actually is; what it stands for, and how to determine its legitimacy. But to do that, one must have to talk first about what American beer is not.
1) American beer is not Budweiser in an American flag can ...
... no matter how much the Belgian conglomerate, In-Bev, tries to convince us with their Zubaz-can of penguin urine. This also applies to the other heavy-handed, self-aggrandized posturing from other foreign owned beer companies such as Coors (Molson Canada) and Miller (SAB UK), who parade around the supermarket coolers like Ronald Regan and Chuck Norris at a Farm Aid benefit. The Big 3 are as American as Born in the USA is nationalistic. They only seem to be trying to make people seem foolish in their allegiance to be American by buying American. Its a little heartbreaking.
I understand that, as a commerce-driven society, we are generally aroused by gimmicks and Katy Perry and Doritos Tacos because they ping our consciences and remind us what a pleasure it is to poke around with our impulses for a while. If you enjoy the fine tastes of American adjunct lagers, by all means; but lets face it, we have a lot of fucking options in this country and you should be making the right decisions for the right reasons when it comes to fair trade. This is awareness vs. industry with a conditioning-effect multiplier
2) American beer is not thrifty.
Brewing is disproportionally expensive, and even more so if you are a small brewery. The cost of buying artisanal products from small farmers growing exemplary hops, barley, and other grains found in craft beers is exponentially pricey. But to many, if not all of these microbreweries, the art of making delicious beer is worth the decrease in profit margins.
You know what is comparably not as expensive? Making beer filled with cheap corn and rice fillers that extend the beer product to the slimmest margin where one could still legitimately call it "a beer". You know how when you run out of puppy chow for your dog and its late, so you make a stop-gap run to Walgreens for some off-brand grub until you can get to the PetsMart -- and you kinda feel bad for your dog, but not really, because this is the same animal who eats his own shit?
These are the same ingredients that the big brewers are selling you. And this is what they think of your palate. Why do you think they want you to drink their beer at tongue-blistering temperatures? The answer is: because you will be less likely actually taste the beer and realize that what you are drinking is total and complete garbage. To add further insult, these guys think you need a visual in order to understand the physics of subjective temperature.
This is why I cleverly fabricated the term 'brrr-eweries', so named because temperature is much, MUCH more vital for their sustainability than the actual ingredients.
Our resources are rich in this
country, particularly with our proud farming history -- there is really no need to cheap-out, especially as a huge conglomerate who could afford to increase their production costs -- if by only just a little bit. But they give fuck all about that. American the beautiful, they say, look at our blue mountains!
3) American beer is not illusory.
It is innovation; the working of ingredients that mesh together in interesting ways, an allegory for our culture itself. Beer making is not mechanical, it is manual. It is laborious. Take some time to enjoy the fuckin' stuff, you've earned it-- we Americans are amongst the hardest working societies in the world.
Sure, I get it: tailgates, groom's waiting room, the golf course -- all acceptable environments to chugging cheap lagers for a common goal. But we also didn't escape the grips of zealots and prohibitionists to cheapen the sanctity of beer drinking in public. Which is why stuff like this is maddening:
Not only drink our beer arctic cold, but do it as fast as possible!
Is there a problem with the rate at which I am currently drinking this crap that I have to rush it all down my hypothermic throat? I'm willing to bet that the good folks in charge over at the Miller Lite offices need desensitizing lotions for their dicks.
4) American beer is not combative.
It is collaborative. Except when its both -- for no reason other than the enemy of the enemy is my friend. The concept is acceptable in war and college football, but for brewing purposes, it is creatively destructive. Wait. Maybe we're on to something here.
Its laughable how void of fucks A-B InBev is. They will do what they want, however they want, whenever they want; so fuck you pay me. Its pretty alarming -- and their latest target are the small brewers of the USA. Why? Because they are impeding on less than 4% of the general market share. Fuck them. Fuck them so bad.
So, with all of that nonsense out of the way, let me cleanse your palate, and tell you what what American beer actually is ...
This is an excellent example of collaboration, artistry, innovation, and pace in the American craft industry.
Together, two of the most coveted breweries in the United States in Lost Abbey and New Belgium, put their collective creativity towards a common goal and emerged on the other side with a very gentle, very nuanced saison/berliner weisse hybrid that defines what the modern U.S. craft industry is all about.
Mo' Betta Bretta uses recent brewer-innovation by inoculating its beer barrels with brettanomyces, a yeast that formerly caused great alarm amongst brewers due to its spoilage capabilities -- but are currently being cultivated during the aging process as an intentional compromise of the beer in order to produce wild ales, or sours. The result is a beer with bright, summertime citrus and tart notes, along with a sparkling wine finish. It is a fun beer to drink, to enjoy in hot-weather situations, likesay, the tailgate or the golf course (you see my angle here?).
Mo' Betta Bretta has the rich, but nuanced flavor of fleshy fruits like peaches and apricots, hints of pepper and oak, combined with hay notes and other general farmhouse characteristics -- as American as a Gothic Revival architecture.
Despite its complexity, Mo' Betta Bretta is not a stuffy beer. It is playful and approachable. It is a mix of traditional and imaginative. Clever and tasteful. I think terms that we as Americans would like to be defined by. These brewers are our clergy for the New World, their beers our caravels. Go explore and live in it.