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Monday, December 17, 2007

What Your Beer Says About You

Last night, Jeff Merkley held a fundraiser with Jon Tester at the Portland Brewing Taphouse. Tester is a member of an exclusive club into which Merkley would like to be admitted--the US Senate. As the blogs reported on the fundraiser today, little mention was made of the beer. It fell to Paul Gronke, a poly sci professor at Lewis and Clark Reed who was in attendance, to raise the issue.

Sarah Lane [another blogger] raises this at dailykos, but, sadly, only illustrates her east coast bias and ignorance of those issues most vital to the future of Oregon.

For my own part, I regret to inform people that I think I saw Merkley with a Hefeweizen! A Hefeweizen?!? Can it be true? Why not just tip back a Bud Light?? If the man can't handle a dark beer, how can he handle the US Senate?

If this can be confirmed, it will indeed be a bad day for candidate Merkley (whom, it should be said for transparency's sake, I support). But perhaps Gronke mistook a cloudy glass of IPA for the offending hefeweizen. Or perhaps it was early on, and he was trying to drink something light so as to stay sharp for his speech. (And also: Pyramid Hef is more in keeping with the German original; while it still "sends the wrong signal" politically, it's a pretty decent beer.) We can't jump to hasty conclusions.

Nevertheless, for those who think their beer choice doesn't speak to their character--well, they must never have visited Beervana. Beer matters here. If the cameras are on, candidates shouldn't lightly hoist a Silver Bullet--and of course, they know that. But what if the choice is an organic pale ale versus an Irish stout? Here's a handy guide. Anthropologists and Oregonians, feel free to offer comments.

  • Macro-lager - This suggests the drinker is 83, is from Idaho, or is irredeemably clueless. A sure-fire campaign-killer.
  • Imported lager (Stella, Heineken, etc) - This suggests a drinker attuned to class but not taste, someone who probably finds Oregon ratty and parochial. Culturally, a Heineken drinker falls below a Bud Light drinker and only slightly above a drinker of Night Train.
  • Hefeweizen - (By which we mean Widmer.) Aware of the social impetus to drink local, but lacking a clue. Wishy-washy, undependable, shallow.
  • Pale ale - A pale ale drinker is good-natured and fun, the type of person who looks to have a couple at the pub and talk Blazers.
  • Porter - Porter drinkers are salts of the earth. They are straightforward and honest and hardworking, if not particularly dynamic.
  • Stout - Stout drinkers, like porter drinkers, are down-to-earth, but more avuncular and jolly. They have experienced life and are prepared to share their wisdom.
  • IPA - Tippling an IPA suggests a person of daring character, an innovator, a risk-taker, someone who will take a stand for an unpopular position. A maverick.
  • Amber ale - A gentle soul willing to nurture projects and build bridges. Someone often mistaken for being a patsy, but who has an inner strength.
  • Belgian ale - Suggests an unstable personality, someone who will actively seek out the weird and funky. Dennis Kucinich, for example, is a well-known gueuze drinker.
  • Nondrinker - Not fit for office. The American revolution was fomented in a pub; anyone who refuses a beer is likely a monarchist. And what happens when the president vetos your bill? How will you endure filibusters? When your party gets crushed in an election? If you're not drowning your sorrows in a wholesome beer, I shudder to think what you might be doing.
Aside from the first three and the last one, there are really no wrong choices. Of course, if I had been advising Merkley, I would have told him to go for the IPA. Your thoughts?


  1. What about a different type of Hefeweizen? There's more than just Widmer..

  2. In this case, it was actually a different kind. But, given that of the tens of thousands of barrels of hefeweizen sold in Oregon, 99% is Widmer, we must admit that the social clues are all taken from this industry-leading giant.

  3. What would you say about a candidate with a pint of Pliny the Elder??

  4. I'll admit to being at the same Tester event and drinking Hefeweizen - but that was because I heard from several different people at the event that it was really good there.

    I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Hefeweizen Drinking Association. I swear!

  5. Drinkers of Pliny the Elder are too august to consider running for office. They inhabit an evanescent dimension that cannot be accessed by the stairs of the mundane. So deep are their thoughts that we have not the language to capture them.

    Michael, you imbibed a more respectable phenolic rendition of the old style of hefeweizen that the Widmers failed to make. It has character and reflects a more ancient style. In Germany, the type of candidate who drinks hef is no doubt one of those very busy, robust accountant types who like a fine restorative first thing in the morning or after a game of tennis. Formerly college athletes, now wire-rim wearing financial types. Teddy Roosevelt probably enjoyed hef back in the day.

  6. Yes but there is something worse than drinking a Hefeweizen in Portland.

    It's calling a Reed College professor a Lewis and Clark professor!

  7. Your derision pains me, Paul--that's me alma mater we're talking about! But I have delivered you from infamy--correction made.

  8. Widmer and Hefeweizen in the same sentence...blech.

    A fresh hefe in 90 degree weather after mowing the yard is a thing of beauty. Quench your thirst and then move to something more substantial. Warmer climes sometimes demand a GOOD hefe, not the Widmer take on it though.

    I'll take your word for it when it comes to Portland however.

    Great blog.