Here is the thing about beer. It’s basically just tea that has been fermented to give it some alcohol, and in the case of craft beer, it’s been given a name like “Monster Cranberry Milkshake Dominatrix Septuple IPA Sour.” We are in an era of great creativity around “artisan” type nouns at the moment, and craft beer may have been one of the earlier examples of this.
Did you ever notice that when people go to bars in movies and television shows, they say “beer” when asked what they want? That was the way it was for many people, up until the 80s or so. When my grandfather drank beer, he drank Coors beer. So exclusively, in fact, that when we were later cleaning out his garage, there was a grass clippings bag holder of his which held a full-size Hefty bag that was hard to close because of the bottle caps that filled it almost to the top. These days, we go in and we ask the bartender for the beer list, or we look at the huge chalkboard to figure out if we want the Imperial Stout or the Belgian Quad or the IPA or the other IPA or the other IPA or the other IPA or the other IPA or the double IPA…
So, once you make that choice, what does it say about you?
Well, say you go into a bar and just order a big brand name beer (Bud, Coors, Heineken, Stella, etc.). This says that you are basically one of two things: someone who has no issue with the same-o same-o and you like beer but do not overthink anything about it, or you have tried some shi-shi beer in the past, and you hated it for some reason. You like being able to have a few of them without being anything more than slightly buzzed, or you like drinking a large number of them and going to the bathroom a lot. It’s more about the having a beer than the beer itself. This is okay, but you may be missing out. This doesn’t bother you apparently.
If you order light beer (a.k.a. pee waiting to happen without having done anything beneficial or enjoyable for you) in this scenario, you are the type of person that car dealers sell the Tru-Coat sealant and premium floor mats to as an added up-charge to your new car. If you are going to waste this bladder space, may I suggest hard cider, or maybe just have a ginger ale.
If you order malt liquor (Colt 45, OE 800, St. Ides, Schlitz, etc.) you are actually looking for serious return on investment. Maybe you should go into commercial real estate.
Maybe you decide that you want a nice craft beer, or an imported adult beverage, or a micro-brew from somewhere local. This shows you are a person with discernment and taste, or at least that you are bored with the status quo and want to shake things up a little. Or maybe that you are looking for something a little stronger that delivers a bigger punch because after all, you just got fired for forwarding that email with the NSFW attachment to the entire group and now they all think that you really like marine mammals, but it’s more than that. That last thing isn’t very common, but maybe it is only because most people cannot stay underwater that long.
Here is the lightning round of what you might order and what it means. Keep in mind these are based on the average beers of each style, there are excellent examples of each, and this is absolute swill made in all styles. A short aside, in the Radler category shown below: the absolute best beer is made intermittently by 10 Barrel Brewing and is actually called Swill. If you ever find it, let me know, because my wife wants to buy and hoard all of it.
Craft Pilsner, wheat beer, Hefeweizen, pale ale, lager beer (Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Shock Top, etc.): Drinking this is like dipping your toe in the grand swimming pool of beers. Like if you were in the Budweiser wading pool, and suddenly figured that the big Olympic style pool next to it looked like fun, but you are still sitting on the steps, or hanging on to the side. You are wet, and it is kind of warm. People have peed in this area of the pool too, but there is chlorine in the water, so it is probably ok.
Fruity Beers (Lambics, Radlers, Krieks, Shandies, etc. Beer soda, basically): This is a kind of beer you can drink all day when you don’t really like beer. Like, you are actually in the hot tub, rather than the pool. Some types actually are half beer, half lemonade or fruity soda.
IPA (Lagunitas, Stone Brewing, Sam Smith, any number of flavored mango cucumber double or triple IPA types, weed beer, basically anything combining any enormous amount of hops with enough alcohol to make it worth your while. Seemingly 80% of the craft beer out there now): Now, you are swimming. It’s still basically the part where you can stand up in the water if you have to, and the water tastes better. It’s deeper, though, and most of these can get boozy. Sometimes, when they put too much chlorine in (this is obviously an analogy for hops, in case you didn’t know why IPAs are more flavorful) and it tastes like you just barfed up a Christmas tree or some Pine-Sol, but hey, it’s usually decent beer.
Sour (Flanders Red beers like Petrus, Oud Bruin, Goses; tart beers that are made that way by putting in wild random yeasts that make it spoiled like cheese.): This is for people who want to swim weird laps in the pool. They’re doing the butterfly or backstroke, and they can’t hear you when they get in your lane. They want the beer they want, and they like it, and that is that. They have a bathing cap on and goggles, and they are not self-conscious because they can handle many laps even after you have left the pool.
Belgian (THE BEST BEER OF ALL, BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN BREWING IT FOR MORE THAN 1000 YEARS. THE REASON WE HAVE BELGIUM) : This is beer like Jesus drinks, or if you prefer, the Platonic Ideal of beer. So many breweries and styles, including Dubbel, Tripel, Quad, Amber, Bock, Strong Ale, Scotch Ale, etc. And every other style mentioned, just better. This is like you are at the pool at the country club, your chaise lounge is reserved, people bring you towels, and you are training for the Olympic water polo team in the deep end. The gold medal is that you get to drink this beer.
Porter (this is where ADVANCED BEER starts. Deep dark beers, that are thinner than a stout, but still flavorful. Was used as medicine to be drunk at breakfast in the 18th and 19th centuries. Seriously, you can look it up.): So, this is where you are definitely committed to swimming. You count your laps, and you may even wear a Speedo without feeling embarrassed, because you were on the swim team in school. You have washboard abs, and you swim with a purpose, drowning out all distraction. You get to the pool, swim your eleventy hundred laps, and then get out and go right to the locker room, grab a quick shower and go. Nobody questions your beer cred. If you are a porter fan, try Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter. It’s really yummy.
Stout (Definitely not dilettante beer. Old Rasputin, Even More Jesus, most of the rest of the craft beers out there… Chocolatey, coffee, hoppy, strong. Usully something like 10-12% ABV, almost as strong as most wines.) This is the beer for Avatars and Zen Masters. Like beer benders. Sensei beer. You are the people who go up the high dive, walk briskly out there, and do a front flip that makes the “bump-SPROINGwhapawhapawhapawhap” sound before you swim gracefully back and forth. 9.5 from the Bulgarian judge. Such beer, so tasty, wow.
I hope this has helped illuminate the nature of beer for you. Cheers, everyone!