16 Sep An Ode to Cheap Beer
Fall is once again upon us. That’s right friends; football, turning leaves, vests, fires, pumpkin spiced everything and of course full flavored beers are back. I’ll tell you what, if being a basic bitch in fall is wrong, well, I don’t want to be right! Bring it all on! Of the things that I mentioned and I obviously enjoy indulging in, none go together quite so well as football and beer. Even though every brewery has their own line of darker more fully flavored beers to push as fall and the holiday season begins, football gives us just a bit more time to enjoy the most plebeian of pleasures. Good cheap beer.
I know, I know. Some of you fully believe this is an oxymoron. There is simply no such thing as good cheap beer. With respect, you couldn’t be more wrong. Cheap beer is the bedrock of the American drinking experience. Nobody starts off by filling their high school parties with the finest small batch, micro-brewed, IPA’s. No. You downed as much Bud, Miller or Coors products as you could before parents or god forbid the coppers got there. You weren’t even enjoying their finer brews either. You were debasing yourself with Natty Ice, Busch Light, Milwaukee’s Best, Keystone, whatever. Shit, sometimes you didn’t even wait for it to get cold. You had to drink it like someone was going to take it from you. Because they were. It probably wasn’t until late college or more likely later, after you got a job and made your own money that you began to develop and refine your palate. That’s also when you began to notice the different notes and complexities of a good brew. In short, you started to actually enjoy beer. You probably even have a favorite now. For me nothing quite satisfies me like a cold Sam Adams Octoberfest. It’s bolder and fuller flavors exemplify everything I love about beer in fall. The essence of fall if you will.
Something strange has happened to me in my late 30’s though. I have started to long for the simplicity of a good old, ice-cold, macro-brewed, cheap American beer. It’s not better than Octoberfest. Not by a mile. It’s not better than almost any micro-brews for that matter. But it has something that the beers I’ve found in my grown up life simply do not. Nostalgia.
For me, nothing captures that feeling more than Old Style. As, a life long Cubs fan, I spent many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon watching my grandfather pound Old Styles and watch the Cubs mostly lose. Now that I think of it, that’s probably why he did it. I remember the times we’d sit at the bar together in some tavern up in northern Wisconsin. Him with a beer, me with a mountain dew, wishing only to be there in that moment. That was the life. The taste (yeah I stole one or two), the smell, the feeling of warm weekend afternoons watching sports, going fishing, grilling or just doing nothing at all is captured by that brew. There’s a beautiful simplicity in that. A purity. It’s something lost that I long to recapture. Be honest with yourself. You feel that too. When you think of High Life or Bud or some other domestic, you instantly think of some family member. Grandpa, Dad or maybe Uncle Greg or even that one cool aunt you had. Sure, every now and again they went too hard and it got a little weird but for the most part it was fun. You sat on their knee or in the boat or around a fire and you laughed. They made you feel like you were one of the guys and that was cool. You longed for the day when you too would sip a frosty, cold, adult beverage and impart drunken, pseudo wisdom onto your own or your friends trusting, adoring, children. Men and women alike can relate to that and you know I’m right.
So, enjoy your craft brews. Spend some money and indulge in a good micro-brewed, full flavored beer. You should. It’s good stuff. As the the comedian Paul F. Tompkins says, “When you’re an adult, you get to enjoy beer… you’re allowed to have it.” But every now and again, pick up a case of whatever it is you slammed at 18 and go find the person you slammed it with. Grab a sixer of your dad or uncle’s favorite beer, head over, grab a seat and reminice. Keep a secret stash of your favorite in the fridge or behind the bar and reserve it just for you and a select few. Shotgun one on a balcony as a farewell. Watch a game. Fish. Grill. Do whatever it takes to get back to that place when life and beer were simple. Remind yourself of when they were pure. I promise you, you’ll thank me for it. Cheers!