By Aaron Ramson
I’m gonna let you in on a little-known secret. Most professional brewers appreciate macro lagers in a way that many craft beer fanboys don’t. The same way Anthony Bourdain would get off work at his 5-star restaurant then go eat a cheeseburger at the local greasy spoon, blue-collar shift brewers will gladly knock back a Coors Banquet or a PBR after work, and do you know why? Because they’re actually good beers.
When the Stone Brewing Company debuted its aggressive marketing campaign in the 90s, they kicked the craft beer war against mass-marketed lagers into high gear. With clever blurbs on the bottle side of combatively named beers like Arrogant Bastard and Ruination IPA, Stone reinforced the idea that anything less than extreme flavor meant no flavor at all. The light, straw-gold coloring and delicate hopping that had defined what American lagers tasted like for so long was now to be considered blandly offensive, and there’s an almost conspiratorial feeling that BiG bEeR had dumbed down their products in an attempt to fleece customers of their right to full flavor.
But let’s face it; there’s a time and a place for every style of beer, and with its stubborn refusal to explore delicate flavors and subtle taste, craft beer doesn’t always hit the spot. Most craft lagers I’ve tried are grainy and bitter, occasionally hoppy. The truth is that with its simple flavors and low alcohol, those mass market American lagers that craft peeps love to hate are very hard to make and very easy to enjoy. Even though I affectionately refer to them as trash-bois, everyone has their favorite gas station lagers. And while the craft beer aficionados have no doubt stopped reading at best or burned their copy of CV Weekly in protest at worst, I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t feel bad the next time you drink a pale corporate lager.
THEY’RE EASY ON YOUR WALLET
With 12-packs of Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Coors Light going for $9.99 at your local Rite Aid, these are the cheap beers that will keep your low-key alcoholism going between paychecks. With Miller High Life going for $7.49 a 12-pack at Total Wine, it’s easy to see why so many non-discerning beer drinkers stick to the macro swill. As much as I love Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout, it’s $22.99 price tag for four bottles makes it a rare treat and not a daily drinker.
THEY EMPLOY A BUTTLOAD OF PEOPLE
I have a couple of social media friends who fret the closure of every nano-brewery, and the buyout of every popular one. While I feel like their constant reporting of bad news is just the biggest sign of their own insecurities, it behooves me to think that they might actually want the big corporate brewery to fail while the micro-brewery thrives. From growers of barley, rice and corn, to the many, many people it takes to brew, package, and distribute megalithic beer brands like Budweiser and Miller. There’re entire economies around the beer industry, and craft brewing employs a good amount of people. Big beer just employs more.
THEY GIVE YOU THE FEELS
When your 8-year old kid is grown, he may fondly look back at Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA as the beer his dad used to drink. But not us. Our dads drank old school beer, and chances are that beer was cheap. Brands like Hamms, Schlitz, Miller and Budweiser were what dads drank, and that’s probably because it held a nostalgic value for them as well. My dad drank Coors Banquet when he was feeling saucy, and Keystone Light when he was feeling cheap. When he could find it, he’d splurge on a 12-pack of Olympia. Did anyone’s dad actually drink craft beer? Like, did you have a friend whose dad drank Anchor Steam or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale? Nope. Me neither. Dads loved being cheap, and for that, cheap beer reminds us of dad. And high school parties. Frat parties. Beer pong. You get the drift.
Don’t get me wrong, I got into the craft beer brewing business for a reason, and that’s my love for craft beer. Once I discovered Samuel Adams Boston Lager, I could never go back to just Miller Light. And once I discovered Arrogant Bastard, I couldn’t go back to just Samuel Adams. There is a journey involved with discovering craft beer and the new palate you eventually create, but I’ve finally come full circle, where I can appreciate a Miller Lite as well as a Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I encourage you to do the same. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.