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Monday, June 18, 2012

Outside the Beer Geek Bubble

I was the recipient of an unexpected junket this morning/afternoon.  A friend won a Twitter contest to watch the Ireland-Italy football match* aboard a bus that roamed the streets of downtown Portland.  Why?  It's in no way clear.  One of the boons was the pleasure of hanging with serious celebrity Cobi Jones, one of most accomplished players our country has produced.  The whole thing is a promo by Fox Soccer, who parachute into one of eight cities, conduct the event, and then blast back off to LA.  (After our event, we were guiding people to Powell's to kill time before the flight home.)

That's Smithwick's in the background.
All of this is background for the part of the story I think you'll find more interesting.  The day started beautifully--in Kell's Pub in downtown Portland.  It's the kind of place that would make The Beer Nut pull out his hair.  A Diageo pub, you get Smithwick's, Harp, and of course, Guinness.  They have pen-and-ink Samuel Becketts and Sean O'Caseys on the wall along with historic Guinness adverts.  Lots of worn wood and exposed brick.  Despite this, it's a great old building and a warm, gracious space.  They invited us early so we could eat a hearty breakfast.  I learned Guinness is a decent replacement for my usual black coffee. 

Then we piled on the bus.  Now, given that this bus has no distant connection to beer, and given that it stayed well within the confines of Beervana, you'd expect the most macro beer would be what?--Widmer Hef?  Wrong.  Those LA boys had the bus full of Bud, Bud Light, and Modelo.  When they ran out of beer (as, inevitably, they were destined to do in this town), I hollered "buy better beer!"  The poor Fox employee--who, god bless him, was at work--looked a little stricken.  What possibly could I have meant?  He came back with Heineken.

Two things.  First, Bud Light is irredeemable.  I actually enjoy a decent macro.  That Modelo did me no harm.  Bud Light, though, has nothing to do with beer.  It's fizzy and sweet without expressing the slightest hint of actual malt.  By comparison, Heineken is a gorgeous, deep and resonant beer.  I gave it an appreciative hoot.  This, however, brings us to the second realization: for normal American males, this was the entire vista of beer: Bud Light to Heineken.  Modelo is, along with Corona and Pacifico, the exotica that counts as "imported."

Cobi Jones, in the scarf, at far left.
American consumers still overwhemlingly drink macro lagers.  Sports are infused with beer, and credit the bigs: they've made canned lager synonymous with loyalty, manhood, and good times.  Outside the beer geek bubble, you should expect no more than free, flowing lager.  It's a good reminder.  To even quibble is sort of douchey hipsterism.  Rarely does the real world penetrate the reality of Portlandia, but trust Rupert Murdoch's Fox to deliver the coup de grace. 

Incidentally, they actually showed us the Spain-Croatia game, which sputtered and shorted with every bump in the road--just as reported.  In the battle of the Catholics, Ireland lost, predictably, to the Italian club (it has the same number of people as Washington State).  Cobi called the Portland-LA game last night, though, so he had some fascinating analysis of MLS.  Bad beer, good times.

(Stay in the bubble.)
*That's soccer game to you yanks.

Update.  A possibly incriminating photo documenting the event below the fold.


  1. Sounds like fun. I am also convinced that Bud Light has zero redeeming qualities. We mistakenly ordered a pitcher of it at the athletic club the other week. It must be made almost completely from corn and rice. No malt flavor at all, just fizzy and sweet. Nasty stuff. Those of us who like good beer need to occasionally step out of the craft bubble and recognize that Bud Light is, in fact, America's beer. How sad.

  2. I ended up at an Orioles game last year for a school alumni event. My ticket included a pre-game beer and BBQ party. Unfortunately the "beer" was Bud Light, Miller Lite, and National Bohemian (think Pabst, but only for Baltimore hipsters). I went with water and purchased an $8 IPA. It was worth it.