Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Old-School Beer Backlash is Coming

First is was German imports, then American microbrews, then organic artisanal craft brews and high-gravity Trappist ales.  Now you can go to Whole Foods and pay more for a bottle of beer than you would for many of the bottles of wine in the store.  There are even entire stores dedicated just to high-end beers, like the Charleston Beer Exchange.  More high-quality, rare, unusual, and just plain intriguing beer is now available than ever before.

So it's only natural there would be a backlash at some point.  It's been common for a while to see a few old-school interlopers slipped into the middle of the long beer menus at brew-conscious places, complete with the requisite place of origin--"Pabst Blue Ribbon (Milwaukee, WI) -$1.75".  But I predict you're going to see a wholesale movement of beer drinkers turning their backs on gold-rimmed goblets of high-test ales and looking to an older way of beering it up.

A leading indicator: Cork Bistro down in North Charleston has, in addition to its tony craft beer selections, a separate "Beers of Our Fathers" menu, which entreats you to "Enjoy the beer you dad used to love."  The lineup includes Old Milwaukee, Ballantine XXX Ale, Miller High Life, PBR, Coors (the original stuff, not that Lite water),  Dixie Lager, Budweiser, and Genesee Cream Ale.

And while bottles of craft beer at $9 and $12 might have an influence, the backlash is not necessarily about price.  It's more a conscious effort to turn back the clock and drink old-school American lagers.  Full Sail Brewing in Hood River, Oregon, for example, has its Session Lager, "a classic all-malt pre-Prohibition style lager that reminds us of what American lagers used to taste like."  The company just started distributing to South Carolina, and you pay a premium price for the history lesson (over five bucks for the eleven ounce bottle I had a bar the other night--and what's with the ELEVEN ounce thing?  I'd pay 8.3% more for a full glass!).  It's a crisp, tasty brew, one that's very reminiscent of, say . . . Old Milwaukee and PBR.

Old-style American lagers are coming back in a big way.  You heard it here first.

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