Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Great Mediocre Beer Experiment, Volume I: "Enter the Hipster"

It's a point of contention for some people (read: the most important thing ever) whether Canadian beer is better than American beer. It's a stupid argument, really; just part of the Great White North's pissing contest with its louder, wackier, older brother.

Pictured: America.

We have such a hilarious inferiority complex it's almost cute. We have to be better than Americans at some things, and when any of those some things are called into question, we get pissy and make loud, mindless commercials about it. After men's hockey, women's hockey, and junior hockey, beer is our number-one source of Canadian pride. (Also, we're bigger. And way better in bed. Seriously, ask Sweden.) It's truly amazing; ask almost any Canadian about American beer, and you'll usually get a response peppered with phrases like "hot dog water", "toilet water" or "those yankee pussies." It's so unbelievably stupid how entrenched Canadians are about the quality of American beer, which completely explains why the number one selling beer in Canada last year was Budweiser.
Wait, what?

That's right: fucking Budweiser is the top selling beer in the Great White North; Molson is number two. Coors and Bud Light aren't too far off the map. As we go around bragging about the quality of Canadian beer, we're not-so-secretly drinking our mortal enemy's swill by the bucket load. Molson and Labatts have got patriotism so intrinsically linked with beer sales that we automatically respond to the beer question with "duh...Canadian Beer, Eh?", but our tastes (or lack thereof) are different. The fact of the matter is this: we drink macro lagers based on what the hot, big-boobed commercials tell us to do, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. We drink Budweiser because the hot cheerleaders and the NFL want us to. We drink Blue Lite because some guy in a blue pantsuit guarantees us sexy action after he solves some stupid dilemma in a mildly amusing fashion. We drink Molson because if we don't, the ghost of Don Cherry and the covert operatives of the CBC demand that we do.

"You know who drinks good beer? Bobby Orr."

Of course I know full well that the beers we use to decide the Cold War of Beer are pretty much all the same. In fact, they're all the same style of beer (pale lager, or American adjunct lager), and are owned my multinational corporations, often with increasingly diminishing connections to their country of origin. In other words, these are the name brands, or as they are sometimes derisively referred to in the beer community, "macro lagers." Same shit, different bucket. Sometimes you'll see the term "adjunct lager" to describe them. "Adjunct", in this case, means that the beer is light, fizzy, crisp, and probably made with rice or corn, rather than barley or wheat, in order to cut costs. (Fun fact!: Budweiser, not Uncle Ben's, is the largest consumer of rice in the United States. Eww.) Cheap, bland lager for the masses, and a truly a terrible way of determining brewing pride. Seriously, Belgians and Germans piss this stuff out.

I personally feel that if American and Canadian crafts and micros could bring their products to the table, Canadians would realize full-well that Americans do not suck at brewing. They are in fact quite good at it, and they have significant advantages: there's more people to sell to, and there's more people to brew it. If you check out, one of the web's largest beer review websites, you'll find under their "Best of BA" section that there are a lot of American brews in the site's top 100. Granted, a great deal of the website's users are Americans, but you'll still find incredibly high reviews from folks in Europe, Australia and Canada, all in praise of these American brews. (Don't worry, there's quite a few Canadian brews on the list too). We're completely basing our "American Beer Sucks" mentality on their big name brews, which isn't really fair, considering how much a lot of us despise the Canadian big name stuff. It's like comparing their kick to the gut with our kick to the head. Nobody's winning here.

But craft brews are going to have to go by the wayside for a moment, because the battle truly comes down to the forces of General Labatt and Field Marshall von Pabst. In the red trunks, Freddie Molson; in the silver trunks, Charlie "The Kid" Coors. The heavy hitters. El beeros grandes. And so, it is with great pleasure that I announce the beginning of Matt's Great Mediocre Beer Experiment, a month-long project in which I pit the continent's finest (read: highest selling) brews against one another in a no-holds barred competition!! The rules will be like the Westminister Dog Show: I'll get an initial look at each entry, check out its coat and muscle structure, make sure it doesn't poop on the stage, and then try them all at once to determine which brew reigns...average! Just like the dog show, only with more drinking. Actually, the way I drink, it's about the same. No light beers though; my tastebuds can only handle so much mediocrity. I'll only be drinking from cans, if I can manage it, just to keep things level.
Here are the heavy hitters!

Molson Canadian
Labatt Blue

Pabst Blue Ribbon
Old Milwaukee

First on the agenda, because it went on sale, we start with the Hipster's Choice (later renamed PBR)!

Beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Brewery: Pabst (Chicago, IL)
Type: pale lager
ABV: 4.8%

As you can see, this one pours like a "beer". It's golden, it's clear, it's fizzy. I'm amazed I was able to catch any of the head on camera, because it dissolved fairly quickly to a thin rink. Pretty much no lacing, which I can't say I didn't expect.
The nose is corn meal, a bit of light hoppage, and perhaps maltiness, but it's hard to tell. You can see where I'm going here.

The taste is surprisingly (read: not surprisingly) inoffensive. It's extremely light, crisp, certainly refreshing. Corn meal, hops and water. Boring though it might be, there's a light, airy character to this brew that makes it quite drinkable. You know how some people claim they drink light beer because they want something crisp and refreshing, whether it be after practice or on the beach? This one does a pretty good job in that respect, and it doesn't have the "light" attached to it that so often leads to vicious taunting and abuse from your fellow drinkers.

Mouthfeel is, of course, thin and watery. The brew is very well carbonated. Like a beer-spritzer, I guess you could say.

Like I said earlier, this beer isn't that bad. I'm very eager to see how it'll stand up to Canadian and other brews of that kind, but as far as I'm concerned, I could drink this one if need be. It's cheap, it's boring, it's a beer-like product. And it isn't skunky. I'll delay giving this one a proper grade score until I'm done the bunch, but generally PBR passes the test.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting matt. Take a look at Schlitz next, or as one of my oh so clever former collegues called it, Shitz. I think they sent alot of their beer free to the troops in Korea... (hence their sudden stop at the 38th parallel...