Screwed Up Beer Week (vol 4) - Been Brainwashed by Ferrets, Bikinis & Ribbons Lately?
Written By: Kevin Patterson on 01/31/2014
A baby boomer walks into bar. He bellies up on the friendly side and says.... well, nothing really - at least through beers number one, two or three. But during beer four he engages in a conversation about how great these new microbrewery beers have become. It was quite obvious that the gentleman was a recent convert from the "sex-in-canoe" type of beers to those of Porter, Pale and Belgian ales. His questions were quite common of those from somewhat who was just finding the craft beer light. So I knew what was coming and I wasn't looking forward to it at all. And then he finally asked that dreaded question...
"What kind of folks are hardest to get to like this stuff?" As I hummed and hawed trying hard to find the impossibly diplomatic answer, he begins to answer his own question with what he thinks will be the answer.
"Its got to be the youngsters - those just turning twenty-one because they can't possibly have a palate mature enough for full appreciation of what I'm tasting, right?"
"Or perhaps its the Nascar watchin', pretend to be fishin', John Deer ridin' types who only reach for beers that are offered in buckets or thirty-packs of cans?"
"Maybe its the Cabernet types who pull up in their '82 Mercedes and wears his '94 fraternity shirts even though he's now thirty-seven and has three kids. He'll brag about that recently purchased $50 wine but can't tell you anything about it. Yet, he'll contemplate it over this secret box-wine at home. That's gotta be him?"
But once he ran out of demographics, I had to level with Cletus. "It's you!"
If anyone is going to give me flack about the stuff that's selling right now, its most likely going to be that guy who's somewhere between 50-70 years old. Think about it: That's the generation that were told, "Only buy Ford" or "Only Wear Levi's". The only bread on the shelves were Wonder Bread, the only drink was Coca-Cola and the value coffee consisted of instant granules. And everyone who was old enough to buy their own stuff fell for those adds.
The "buy local" movement then meant "don't buy anything Japanese, only buy USA!" Yes, it was a simpler time but it was a time without diversity, without options and without much craft. As they fell in love with the price of things that rolled off of a conveyor belt, quality and craft fell behind. And the same thing happened with their beers.
When the the "baby-boomers" came back from the war, they found that the lighter lagers of America were quite suitable. It was a time of unconditioned homes and small refrigerators so the closer that the beer tasted to water, was the less likely it was to offend anyone and an argument can be made for their refreshing qualities- similar to seltzer water. Some think that the lighter brands were a result of barley shortages or because the ladies left back home found favor in the lighter suds. Regardless, the message since the lift of prohibition was that all beers should taste like bastardized German-style lagers.
The deep pockets of the larger industrial lager makers were able to outlast prohibition where the smaller ones could not. So once prohibition was repealed, the mass-marketers were ready to promote only things they sold. For generations folks saw least-common-denominator beer promoted by race cars, frogs, scantily clad pin-ups, ferrets, clydesdales, rocky mountains, blue ribbons, and "the coldest taste in the world". And generations upon generations bought it- hook, line and sinker.
It just happens that most of those generations have come round. They're ok with sushi for lunch. They know the value of the corner coffeehouse. They know that better cheese doesn't come from an aerosol can or an individual wrapper. They price compare Toyotas, designer jeans and might even choose an alternative ketchup or soda pop simply for the sake of surprise. And even our youngest drinkers who were born in 1993 (yea, do the math) haven't lived a day in their lives where the likes of Goose Island or Sierra Nevada wasn't known. Sure they find the humor in ferrets, frogs and even bikinis, but they're just not brainwashed by them anymore.
Most generations are embracing the culinary arts with an open mind and a fresh palate. And they're stepping out of the beers that are "fucking close to water" (See paragraph 1) and into craft... "except for you Cletus! You and your baby-booming pals have the hardest heads. You are my last frontier, you're my uncharted territory. You're my next target. I'm coming for you!"
Follow the conversation with me on Twitter: @BEERchitect #ScrewedUpBeerWeek to keep things rolling.