So this is a little bit of a digression for me since this column is a bit of a rant. Yet what I witnessed several years ago left me so appalled that I had to write about it. I had been out at a black-tie fundraising gala at the behest of my wife (who ran the event). Now when it was all wrapped up she took her staff out for a drink (she is a great boss as well as a great wife). We walked across Broad Street to the swanky Capital Grill. The six of us carved out some space at the bar and ordered (in case you care I order Oban 14, neat). Not being terribly interested in the group’s conversation which was focused on the various donors and how the event went, I began to people watch. The bar was filled with lots of the beautiful people but what really caught my eye was a group of ex-frat boys who looked to be in their mid to late 20’s. Now before you speculate, let me state that this had nothing to do with my sexual preferences. Rather it had everything to do with what was clutched in their hands… bottles of Miller Lite.
I just don’t get it, not even a little bit. Why, would anyone, who had the taste to come into such a nice place, choose to drink that when so many better option were available? If you are calorie conscious there are some decent light beers out there- Sam Adams, Light Ship or even Amstel Light. Heck if calories are all you care about then Guinness only has 105 of them. Given this I struggle to understand why people still choose to drink Coors, Miller or Bud? One experienced beer rep, who has worked for Bud, Hook and Ladder and now reps for the amazing beers of Great Lakes, told me that it had little to do with taste and everything to do with price. I suppose that made sense… a 22 year old wants to get as much beer as possible for their dollar because they don’t have that many dollars to spend. When I was in college we bought and drank Old Milwaukee, AKA “Old Swill” because it was $20 a keg. Ok, I am dating myself with the price but the point still holds.
But- while finances may excuse those of limited means, it in no way could be used to justify the blue labeled horror that was clutched just ten feet away. If you can afford to go into the Capital Grill for anything other than to use the bathroom, then you can afford to drink real beer. Moreover, you should know to drink your beer out of a glass and not straight from the bottle, especially in a high-class restaurant.
What should we, knowledgeable beer lovers, do in response? How do we help people come to understand that there are much better options available than what they normally drink? To such a question, I have no real answer, other than to lead by example and, one by one, introduce our friends to the joy of real beer. As with any sort of evangelism it is this one-on-one, no pressure approach that works the best.
I have seen this work first hand. When we first started our beer club at church, The Franklin Society, one parishioner, Larry, came to the first meeting. He confessed that he had only every drunk cheap beer. In fact, his mainstay was Milwaukee’s Best- AKA- “The Beast.” To his enormous credit, he tried everything we put in front of him, from stouts to IPA’s to Belgians… some he liked, some he didn’t . But the point is he tried them all and over the years has been one of our most faithful members. From time to time he will buy some craft beer to drink at home, but more often than not, he stays with “The Beast.” That’s fine by me…. after all who I am to tell anyone what they should drink. What is important is that Larry keeps on coming and trying new things each and every month. I guess what really bothers me about those guys and their Miller Lite is that I doubt they had ever even tried any craft beer. Even though they had the option of expanding their world they refused to ever venture outside their narrow milieu. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. Larry is living proof that you can, even after a lifetime of drinking cheap mass produced beer, that you can indeed broaden your universe. His story gives me hope, even for those guys at the Capital Grill.