Vermonters sure do love to talk about beer. And those who brew it, we’ve observed, can be a wee bit thin-skinned. But, hey, who isn’t when they’re passionate about what they do? The online comments on Dan Bolles’ story “Craft Versus Crap Beers: In Defense of Six Beers We’re Not Supposed to Drink,” which ran in the April 23 issue, did not include any from offended craft brewers. But we’ve heard through the grapevine — aka vtbeer.org — that some people were miffed.
Dan, who worked at a local brewing company before we nabbed him as our music editor, did indeed express his personal opinions in no uncertain terms. But, rather than a flat-out provocation, we saw the article as a little satire, a little poking at sacred cows and, yes, a sincere defense of some of the beers the rest of America drinks sans guilt.
We found the responses entertaining enough to compile them (with permission from the writers) for readers who might have missed ’em. Cheers!
I grew up when these [mainstream beers] were the real thing. But the nostalgia angle doesn't work for me on these now. Unfortunately, most of these are now owned by conglomerates, and some of the original breweries have been closed for years. The original Pabst brewery in Milwaukee had an awesome tour, which I took in the early '80s. Pabst was bought out in a hostile takeover in 1985.
Miller was bought by the cigarette kings Philip Morris in 1969. Miller High Life was ruined soon after with a new process called "lightning aging," i.e., chemicals — which made more money for the corporation.
Budweiser was taken over by the world's largest brewing company, InBev, in 2008. You'll notice that "Lager Beer" no longer appears on Budweiser labels because it's more efficient (costs less) to make the beer in a shorter period of time. Lagering legally requires a minimum of 28 days. Good old Bud is no longer good old Bud; it's only vaguely familiar to the original. The Narragansett brewery in Cranston, R.I., was closed in 1981 and has never reopened. Now you're just buying an old familiar label and somebody's marketing campaign.
BTW, 'Gansett was sold by being the lowest price and a cute ad campaign. Just really cheap beer and lousy quality. I went to school in Providence back in the day of the 18-year-old legal drinking age, and 'Gansett was 15 cents a draft at my neighborhood bar. And yet we all pretty much stayed away from it. It was so awful (Nastygansett) that if you had more than a few, it would induce severe, flu-like symptoms (you had it coming out of both ends of your body).
The best of the above were good light-colored lager beers in their day. But most are not good, honest beers any longer. For a nice, lighter-styled beer, I like Trapp's [Trapp Lager Brewery in Stowe], an authentic, Austrian-style lager. With their new brewery opening this year, we'll be able to buy six-packs at local stores. I think more local breweries will be offering lighter styles of beer in addition to the robust and hoppy styles that dominate today.
Dan, totally get where you are going with this. I worked for a brewery. I also worked for a beer distributor and have been in the craft-beer world for the better part of 12 years, since Stone [Brewing Co.] Arrogant Bastard [Ale] popped my craft-beer cherry. But Bud? PBR? Coors Light? No, no, my friend. No. Coors Banquet. The Banquet beer. Promoted by Mr. Sam Elliott himself. High-country, three-row barley. No adjuncts. The Banquet beer. You can find my fridge stocked with Dogfish Head, Victory, Stone, the Alchemist, Sierra Nevada, Founders and, I wish, oh, I wish I still had access to Bell's, Sun King, Three Floyds, Dark Horse and a host of others, but two 12-pack cans of the high-country Banquet also have their rightful place.
The best reason to "hate" all the beers you mention is when you find out exactly what they use to make them. Bud (and PBR and, I believe, Coors and Miller) all use GMO corn. Don't know about you, but I choose not to have that crap in my food. (Thank God my state, Vermont, just passed a law making labeling of food containing GMO mandatory.) Sure, they may taste great. But so do a number of things that are bad for you. Sorry, give me a Heady Topper any day. At least I know what they put inside.
John Crossett III
A more compelling reason not to drink some of these beers is because you'd be putting money into the coffers of companies who actively try to push craft beer off shelves, not because of how they taste. In Florida, the Anheuser-Busch distributors' association made donations to politicians who, in turn, have introduced a bill that would quash the craft-beer industry by putting undue restrictions on small brewers' distribution and retail sales. As for 'Gansett and PBR ... they're very good representations of the style without that baggage!
This is hilarious and I can't agree more with these selections. I always tell people I drink PBR because it is simply delicious and one of the cheapest beers out there, and I could care less if I am considered a hipster for doing so. Personally, I think that craft brews are way overrated, and the whole obsession with taste blinds people to the fact that they're paying way too much for a small amount of beer. Heady Topper is only popular because, as a company, it's managed to fabricate a demand by intentionally slowing supply. Plus, if you don't finish a Topper in 10 minutes, it starts to taste horrible, and I mean horrible — as in, worse than any beer I can think of.
Hear, hear! Although, I think Switchback is the Budweiser of Vermont, and I mean that in a good way. It's ubiquitous, highly quaffable and enjoys a refreshingly down-market niche. There are a lot of "Bud guys" who would just as soon drink a Switchback, and that's pretty cool. It's reassuring to know that Switchback is usually on draught when the only other choices are beer styles so obscure that only Jack Black in High Fidelity could discuss them with the requisite amount of affectation.
Bud is not an American beer, it's a foreign-owned, Czech-named product made with rice and corn, not true beer ingredients.Last I checked, PBR is swill. Any Lite is an abomination.Narragansett Porter used to be one of my favorites in the olden days, when you could buy a six-pack of pint bar bottles for about $1.50.Carling Black Label wasn't too bad for a cheap beer back in those days.
If you want some real, all-American beers, including ale, porter and Black & Tan, look for Yuengling. It's America's oldest brewery. Nothing fancy, but it doesn't have a poisonous aftertaste like the swill this article promotes, and you won't get a hangover from drinking just one (like a Michelob does for me).Long ago my dad shared this piece of wisdom with me: De gustibus non est disputandum.Everybody's tastes are different, there's no arguing over them. However, Bud and the like are not beer or ale by definition. Marketing is what sells them, not taste.