Americans, Beer, and Snobery

Before you read this, think about cars or jewelry or airplanes or computers for a second. Then think about this: all things being equal, do you care about the quality of those things?

Now think about beer.

The unfortunate reality is America may not have invented the macro-brew, but they have glorified it with a combination of food chemistry and advertising. Coors, Miller, Budweiser, Corona, San Miguel, Dos Equis, et al really aren’t good beers. Period. I need not even mention something like Tiger. Two of those beers are Mexican, one is from the Philippines, and the last Singapore. But the bottom line is that none of them are actually good. Drinkable maybe . . . not good. Asahi out of a vending machine is a better pour than any of the aforementioned any day of the week . . . and it’s a rice beer.

It’s a question of quality. A good beer is like a well built car: all the pieces fit together to create a unique and (hopefully) enjoyable experience. If you don’t like a hoppy beer, that’s okay. Just steer clear of, for instance, IPA’s. Like wine and looking to move into the beer world? Start with any respectable Lambic or barleywine. Looking to go off the beaten path? Gruit might be for you. And within any given category there are hundreds of beers to chose from.

As one of those so-called “beer snobs”, I catch a fair bit of flack from people for examining the color, smell, head development, and commenting on same plus so much more. But the reality is simple: I’m looking for a really good beer and the key is to be critical. It’s no different than people who are critical of wines or cars or chocolate or steaks or movies. The American psyche is simply convinced beer is a pedestrian drink and any old beer should do the trick. That’s just silly.

So next time you pick up beer, try something new. At best you find something you really like and at worst you wasted eight dollars on a six pack. But to go through life without experimenting with new and different kinds of beer is like never test driving a sports car while shopping for a minivan. It just isn’t fun.

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