Daniel Davies needs to be slapped and the Random Ten
Early morning version this week, both because I'm up and because I wanted to write about this while the anger is fresh. Daniel Davies of the blog Crooked Timber has committed blasphemy. He's claimed that Budweiser is "quite a good beer." Not that it is drinkable, not that it's passable when everything else is gone and the palate is already destroyed by nuclear wings and Kool Aid pickles--that it is quite a good beer. And that cannot go unchallenged.
I have a personal stake in this. For the better part of a year, when we lived in San Francisco, Amy and I worked at Anchor Brewing, home of Anchor Steam Beer, and it may have been the best jobs we've ever had. (The current gig is pretty good, though.) Anchor was purchased by Fritz Maytag in 1965 when he was a grad student at Stanford. He did it because, he said, he could. He's heir to the Maytag family fortune, after all, and if you could afford to buy a brewery in your early 20s, wouldn't you?
So back to Davies' blasphemy. Most of his argument is pretty blase--of the "others do it and they don't get crapped on, so why pick on Budweiser" line--but it's his 6th point where he goes careening off the rails and crashing into the mountain at the tunnel entrance.
No, bollocks to your “microbreweries”. These so-called “craft brewers” are a newfangled modern invention and have very little to do with the traditions of the brewing industry. We have no real way of knowing what beer tasted like in Ye Olden Days Of Bavaria Etc, but it was probably horrible. Beer as it is drunk today is a product of the Industrial Revolution; it was arguably the first recognisably modern industry. It is not an artisanal product and up until very recently could not be produced in small batches at all with any acceptable consistency of quality. “Microbrews” are in general wildly overpriced – some of them are quite nice because they use extremely expensive ingredients, but they are not intrinsically better than industrially produced beers.
Microbreweries are newfangled if you consider the last 40 years ago to be newfangled. But if we want to compare company histories, well, Anchor began brewing in 1896 at the latest, roughly 20 years after Davies' precious Budweiser. But Fritz took over the place in 1965 and decided to revive this recently forgotten aspect of beer.
He made a beer that was unlike anything else on the market--an amber lager, a beer with heft and substance. He was keeping an alternative beer tradition alive, and that had benefits in the 70s when the homebrew revolution started in earnest--a reaction against beers that were so devoid of taste that the important factor was how cold they were, not how they tasted. Fritz encouraged these people, as he also encouraged the coming microbrew revolution, which introduced a new generation to the idea that a n American beer didn't have to be pale yellow and like having sex in a canoe (fucking close to water).
And beer drinkers reap the benefits today. It's gotten so easy to find a good beer that homebrewing has lost a lot of members because it's an expensive hobby. Good beer making is an art, and even when microbreweries industrialize in order to have a beer taste the same time and time again, they're still indulging in the art of making a terrific beer. So drink your Bud, Daniel Davies, but please spare us when you say that "they are not intrinsically better than industrially produced beers." Industrialization need not remove taste from the mix.
Here's the Random Ten: iTunes on party shuffle and the next ten songs that pop up. No cheating to get rid of "Milkshake" by Kelis. We know what brings the boys to the yard.
1. Don't Stand So Close to Me--The Police
2. Keep Talking--Pink Floyd
3. I Got the Power--Technotronic
4. Till the Morning Comes--Grateful Dead
5. Ugly--Violent Femmes
6. Malted Mild--Robert Johnson
7. Just Like a Gillian Welch Song--Split Lip Rayfield
8. Down By the Seaside--Tori Amos and Robert Plant
9. Shane's Dentist--Mojo Nixon
10. B-Boys Making With the Freak Freak--Beastie Boys
So which is it--Budweiser or something else? I will mock you in the comments if you choose poorly.