FUNNY BUSINESS


Beer nuts

by Maka MacKenna

BEER USED TO BE SO SIMPLE.

"Gimme a Bud" was all you needed to know. Back before the days of Political Correctness, even "Gimme a Coors" would get you through the evening. Ordering up a Carta Blanca was considered pretty racy.

Not any more. These days if you're going to drink Bud you have to sneak it into the house in a brown paper bag to avoid being sneered at by your neighbor who's hanging over the back fence with his bottle of medium-bodied hefeweizen from some obscure microbrewery in Idaho. Before, you could run into the store and grab a six-pack of whatever was on sale. Now it takes half an hour to inspect the vast array of ales, bocks, stouts, ciders and so on to make sure you're not missing out on something.

Of course, buying a beer by the label is like picking a doctor out of the yellow pages, but it's what most people do. The problem is that a lot of the so-called "microbrewery revolution" is really just marketing.

Have you seen those television ads for beer from the "Plank Road Brewery"? There's no such place. It's just a marketing device for the big brewer --I think it's Miller -- who actually makes the stuff. Anheuser-Busch recently joined a bunch of legitimate microbreweries in a lawsuit to require that beer be accurately labeled as to place of origin. Beer politics makes strange bedfellows.

Contract brewing is another deception for the unwary. The whole line of Pete's Wicked Ales is created by a contract brewer who slaps Pete's label on it. Those of you who thought ol' Pete was slaving over a cauldron to turn out a handcrafted product have made him a rich man.

The people who used to be wine snobs are now beer geeks and are about as much fun. They prowl the Internet declaiming on "hoppiness" and "nose" as if everyone were born with identical taste buds.

In the interests of full disclosure I should confess that I have written for beer magazines from time to time.

There are business-oriented publications, for whom I work, and there are some other, more consumer-oriented rags that are mostly graphics and hype. These latter seem to have an editorial rule that you can never refer to beer as beer, only as "suds" or "brew." Gets a little tiresome.

I confess I've only found one beer in my life that I would crawl over broken glass to get to. Unfortunately, it was in Belgium. It was Lindemann's Kriek which has a light cherry flavor and tastes a whole lot better than it sounds.

When I came home I started looking for it and found it at Safeway. Unfortunately it was $4.50 for a small bottle and from the layer of dust on it didn't appear to be exactly flying off the shelves.

I bought some. It's the only beer I ever drank from a shot glass trying to make it last, it was so good. Safeway doesn't carry it any more. Unfortunately.

Here's another insider tip: Don't buy anything in those awful blue bottles. They're hellish to recycle. Of course it is one of Maka's Universal Truths that blue food and blue drink are generally to be avoided. This does not apply to so-called "blue" cheese, which isn't really very blue anyway, and, by the way, goes great with crackers and beer.

There are three microbreweries a WEEK opening for business in this great nation. Nobody seems to know what the saturation point is, but I suspect we may find out soon since it is rumored that we have another one about to open in McKinleyville. If McKinleyville, with 15,000 inhabitants, can support its own beer bars -- excuse me, brewpubs -- that means we ought to have one in Cutten, by gum.

Meanwhile, support your local micros -- Lost Coast, Humboldt, Mad River and Eel River all deserve your patronage. And while you're up, gimme a Franconian dunkel with a hoppy finish.

Maka MacKenna is a Eureka freelance writer.


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