How Low Will You Go?

limboEvery time we’re at an average restaurant and I order a beer, I give my wife the first sip. And every time she takes that sip, she wrinkles up her nose and says, “you’ve spoiled me!” You see, we only drink really great beer at home and I’ve turned her into a bit of a beer snob. On top of that, we both prefer big-character beers, like Victory Storm King Stout (our house beer), Stone Arrogant Bastard, just about anything from Southern Tier, etc. You can see where a draft of Bud might fall a little short. 
But for me it goes beyond Bud. Unless a place happens to have a special seasonal on tap (like a Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest) I can’t find anything to be excited about. To me, Stella is the Bud of Belgium and Sam’s Boston Lager, my typical go-to beer (actually more like my settle-for beer) doesn’t thrill me either. And Blue Moon makes me angry for some reason, probably because I view it as a macrobrew posing as a micro import. And I won’t usually even consider a mass-produced domestic, except when I’m visiting my folks in Milwaukee and I’m at the State Fair, then a Miller High Life tastes pretty good, especially with a roasted ear of corn dipped in butter.
So the question is this – where do you draw the line? How low will you go when you’re out and the selection is less than ideal? Will you drink a Bud or will you opt for a glass of water? Is bad beer better than no beer? Do the beer offerings determine where you dine?

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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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20 Comments on “How Low Will You Go?”

  1. Don
    November 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    Coors Light at a Colorado Rockies ball game goes down pretty good. I haven’t figured out the difference between a Bud and a glass of water yet.

    • Jim
      November 3, 2009 at 3:08 pm #

      One is refreshing and the other is from St. Louis.

  2. November 3, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    Is this a trick question? I order a Diet Coke!

    I’m not going to order a beer I don’t enjoy. But if I’m really hankering for a beer, my safety net is usually Sam Adams Lager or Brooklyn Lager. At least these beers have some character / body to the beer.

    • Jim
      November 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

      I’d go Brooklyn before Sam, but I usually don’t have that option. I agree with having a Diet Coke, as that’s usually what I do as well.

      I’ve gotten to the point that drinking a regular beer is usually a joyless experience.

      • Don
        November 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

        Perhaps if you drank more of them there would be some joy.

  3. steve
    November 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Jim, c’mon, you know the answer to this question is Budweiser. Is it mass-produced and somewhat “swilly?” Of course it is, but it’s about as classic as apple pie and baseball. You talk about situational enjoyment, for my money, summer time, sitting outdoors at a restaurant and drinking from a pitcher of Bud is what it’s all about.

    You are dead-on with Stella, though I like the “buds of the world” Stella is like the Beglian-Busch.

    • Jim
      November 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

      I’ll take a Leinenkeugel’s Summer Shandy on a hot day, but I generally agree with your assessment, Steve. Most of us started with mass- produced American beers and have fond memories associated with thier taste.

      For me, it’s drinking Miller High Life in Milwaukee or drinking a can (blech!) of Coors Light while camping. Both feel right in a certain context, but I otherwise am repelled by them.

      • Don
        November 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

        For camping you should really go for Bourbon! Nothing like sipping a pour of Old Grand Dad 114 proof out of a tin coffee cup around a camp fire in the evening. Plus it is much lighter to carry 🙂

  4. November 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm #

    It depends on my options as well. Usually bars and restaurants won’t offer Pabst Blue Ribbon, so I’m generally stuck looking at bud/light, miller/light, coors light, and if I’m lucky guinness and blue moon. Upon which, it’s guinness or diet coke. When I come across the rare place that actually serves PBR on draft, I’m in crap beer heaven.

    • Don
      November 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

      It is hard to beat PBR for crap beer! Although I miss the Steel can flavor with the lead seal chaser!

    • Jim
      November 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm #

      PBR in cans was our dad’s favorite beer and the first one I ever tasted. Subsequently, it also kept me away from beer for a decade! I think it was more the can taste then the beer, but I’ve never doubled back to find out!

  5. November 3, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    I don’t go very low. If there is something local that I’ve not had, I’ll give it a try. Stella is the about the same for me as it is for you. I agree with Simply Beer about Sam Adams Boston Lager. I’ve to fight and re-evaluate my urge to denigrate some beers. Simply said, sometimes it pays to be content with a beer that you might not normally drink, especially as tap and bottle drink differently. I certainly won’t as low as macro, but I have had Shock Top (and AB/INBEV) product and enjoyed it on tap. Sometimes it seems better to lower your expectations at certain places that carry beer. Maybe a I’ll drink a Newcastle, Guinness, or something along those lines but I often skip.

    • Jim
      November 4, 2009 at 1:25 am #

      I’ve never carried in my own beer, but I’m getting close to doing so. You can bring beer to Wendy’s, right? 🙂

  6. November 3, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

    Also want to mention that personal preferences play a huge role. For instance, you mentioned Leinie’s. Under no circumstances will I order anything by them. However, I’m sure I’d order something you might despise. But we can probably all agree that macro is not the way to go.

    • Jim
      November 4, 2009 at 1:23 am #

      I first tried Leinie’s Summer Shandy while on vacation in the Wisconsin Dells one summer. It was a beautiful summer’s eve that capped a hot, but fun day spent outdoors (The Dells is the waterpark capitol of America). When I took that first sip I thought it was the most refreshing beer I had ever tasted, which makes sense as it’s a mix of wheat beer and lemonade.

      From that moment forward, Summer Shandy is my “taste of summer” and part of my early summer ritual. I really don’t enjoy anything else Leinie’s makes, but the Shandy has carved a special place in my heart. If I had first tried it under difference circumstances I might have been underwhelmed, but this one hit me just right and at the right time.

      • November 6, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

        You’re right. Sometimes context, nostalgia, or something else is paramount. I can always understand that type of thing. I can go to a brew pub with horrible ambience and great beer then have a bad experience.

  7. November 4, 2009 at 6:30 am #

    I think the Summer Shandy idea was British? Anyway, it rhymes with dandy so its out for me.

    Usually, I’ll just have a soda. Free refills vs. $4+ for a glass of standard beer? I’ll save the money for buying what I want and enjoying it. Otherwise, Sam Adams seasonals can be good, I’ll do Blue Moon too, Bass or Guinness. Otherwise soda. Love me my Pepsi Max!

    • Jim
      November 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

      A Shandy is a bit dandy – kind of like a beer-based wine cooler. But when I’m in the mood, it’s dandy indeed.

      The other thing I’ll do when out is order a mixed drink if I want something. I usually first have the waiter list every beer they have, both on tap and in bottles, then make an unhappy face and order a Bombay and tonic. They just love that!

  8. Jeff Schwartz
    November 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    I will freely admit that when its in the high 90s in the summer in San Jose and the bbq is going – we have been known to purchase and subsequently drink Miller lite. There really is no strong defense of our actions – but it seems to go down well on a hot day and since it is so close to water – you get the illusion that you are hydrating while dehydrating at the same time…

    • Jim
      November 4, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

      There’s always the Rule of Twenty One to fall back on. Any beer (or music) that you enjoyed while you were a younger person (and subsequently takes you back to good times) is grandfathered in and has no ill reflections on your current tastes.

      So fire up the bbq, pop open your Miller Light, crank the Kenny Loggins and cut loose, footloose. It’s all good!

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