I’ll admit it: I like beer. I’m not making a bold statement; pretty much everyone in the world, except for people in those countries that cut off hands for minor criminal offenses, is fond of the stuff. When even the Turks have a national brand, you have a popular beverage on your hands. But while everyone likes beer, some drinkers are bound and determined to turn beer from a pleasant and universal diversion to a grim and sober ratings game in which beers are ruthlessly lined up and measured, after which any found to be somehow deficient or not Western European in origin are scorned and summarily eliminated.
I know, the concept sounds German, but this growing beer snobbery seems to be chiefly an American concern, a way of overcompensating for the grave sin of allowing our very worst beers to take over the world. The Germans are not beer snobs, because they don’t have to be: their tap water is 8 proof and their children are weaned on Löwenbräu. The first word of 48% of German children is “Reinheitsgebot” (the first word of the other 52%, of course, is “lebensraum“). In America, though, we have as little use for subtlety as we do for A-cups and open borders. We discovered a few years ago that much of the world’s beer isn’t pale amber and made from rice, and goddammit, we’re gonna buy it all and we’re gonna like it better than anyone else likes it. Because we’re the best.
And so we now have the cerevisaphile, a new class of connoisseur created when the overflowing barrel of national wine pretension sloshed over into the beer aisle. These are men – and make no mistake, this is an entirely male pursuit – who gingerly decant their beer, time the duration of its head with a stopwatch and make elaborate tasting notes between sips. (“Hoppy character, smells of wheat with distinct notes of yeast and an overwhelmingly liquid mouthfeel.”) But our boy Newton wasn’t wrong, and unsurprisingly the American beernaissance has given rise to a vociferous cadre of counterrevolutionaries, clinging with grim determination to the boozy soda water that slaked America’s thirst throughout the century of its ascendancy. For every dude who wants you to know that he can tell a weizen from a weizenbock, there are three who think he’s a queer for not drinking Old Milwaukee.
In a perfect world, these types would be relegated to bars, liquor stores and automotive sporting events, but unfortunately, our noticeably imperfect world has Tim Berners-Lee in it, and so every single one of these people has migrated to the Internet. Especially to beer ratings sites, where they gleefully share tasting notes and accusations of pansy-assedness. And it is those sites – specifically, RateBeer.com – that are the focus of this series of posts.
The idea is simple: I pick a terrible but much-loved American beer, the kind churned out by our major breweries and enthusiastically consumed at barbecues, sports games, pool halls and racialist power rallies all over our fair land, and then I scour RateBeer.com’s review pages for the beer for both a pretentious, overcomplicated cerevisaphile takedown and an indignant, often barely coherent glowing 5-star endorsement. Basically, I’m looking for the worst possible way to express two very basic ideas: in the former case, “It sucks”; in the latter case, “WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
We start, fittingly enough, with Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer of aggressive mediocrity which has not only retained its faithful following among the blue collar but entered the anemic embrace of those trendy Williamsburg types, who think pretending to be poor is the very apogee of arch irony (it’s funny, you see, cuz they’re not). So without further ado, the best of RateBeer.com on the most middling of American beers:
Overweening Cerevisaphile Sez:
Pours a clear straw sort of color with a quickly dissipating head leaving no lace, bubbles flying up from the bottom. Mostly a grain smell, pretty clean, with a hint of floralness. Grainy in taste, but not in a bad way, a little bit of corn, and only a touch of hops. Taste almost dances on your tongue with the amount of carbonation. I imagine this as a great beer with many different foods. Higher carbonation, but seems to be a nice addition to this one. Light to medium body, I expected very light body, but having a little something there is nice. I usually don’t save any room for macro’s in my fridge, but I may be able to squeeze a little room for this.
I’m not sure if the PBR demographic, or anyone else, is concerned with how much “lace” the stuff leaves. Or at least, nobody goes to the mini-mart and carefully considers the optimal lace-to-price ratio of all the beers sold in individual tallboy cans out of the cooler full of crushed ice.
Overburdened Cracker Sez:
Okay so you’re layin on a beach, minding your own buisness when all of a sudden…BAM!!! you get hit in the crotch with something…it’s an ice cold PBR. You crack it open & take a sip and all of a sudden the Doobie Brothers show up and they’re playin “China Grove” and it rocks…hard. You’ve just experienced Liquid Cold Sunshine that gets better each and every time. Natty Ice and Genny Cream Ale are for fratboys…Pabst is for the distinguished alcoholic.
Okay, that’s actually kind of funny, but…maybe I’m conceited, maybe I need to get the redness of my blood checked, but a product that interrupts a pleasant reverie with testicular pain and an appearance by the Michael McDonald Clearinghouse Players doesn’t get five stars in my book. That is such a beer commercial conceit, though: a man pops a beer in the overbearing drabness of the real world and is magically transported to a hoppy carnival land where real men play some real MOR rock while fake blondes shake some fake tits. That, son, is America. It’s too bad that doesn’t really happen. It would force the hipsters to move on to a new beverage of choice (Olde English eight hundos? Molson Lite? Pulque?), unless of course they find the Doobie Brothers somehow ironic.
Next up: Schlitz!