While prowling through the aisles of Total Wine the other day I am approached by a friendly fellow in a white shirt who asks me if I require any assistance. “You seem perplexed,” he shrewdly observes.
Maybe. I thought I knew what the word “import” means, but going through your Imported Beers section, maybe I don’t.
“Really? Well, basically, imported brands are made somewhere other than the United States.”
I grab a bottle of Fosters Lager, a beer I truly enjoyed for a while. In fact, I still have the 25 ounce can that sat atop my amplifier for many years, a reminder of my early rock’n’roll days. Unopened and rusting. It’s probably dangerous.
So-called Australian Fosters is brewed all over the world, including Great Britain and China. The swill it has become is brewed by Miller, in Georgia and Texas. He reads the label, and it’s his turn to be perplexed.
How about this one?
Bass Pale Ale, a magnificent brew from Great Britain. Now a product of the sewers of Binghamton, NY. Says so on the label. I used to adore it. Now I can’t even smell it.
He’s sorry he ever met me.
We stroll down the aisle. I point out Kingfisher, a full-bodied powerful beer from India, now a watered down shell of itself made in New York. Red Stripe, now “a Jamaica Style lager” brewed in Latrobe, former home of Rolling Rock. It’s still good, but a very different beer. Lowenbrau was ruined years ago by Miller, who brews it locally. Guinness and Harp, made in fucking Canada! Sacre bleu! And sacrilegious. Although technically still “imported.”
With nothing to reply, the poor wretch slinks off. Sorry. Merry Christmas.
Look, there are plenty of wonderful beers on the market, and while I will never get over the demise of Rolling Rock, I don’t lack for choices. My go-to beer is Grolsch, and when looking for something lighter I enjoy Red Stripe and Medalla. If you can find it, Carlsberg Elephant is a real treat, but go easy. Trust me. Go easy. You can buy Guinness Foreign Extra, a pricey 4-pack, but it tastes like what Guinness Stout used to be before they ruined it. And recently I’ve fallen in love with two blends from Pike Brewery in Washington State: Naughty Nellie Blonde Ale, and Heirloom Ale.
But back to my original grouse: if these beers are brewed domestically, why are they shelved with the imports, and priced accordingly? On this same premise, they could move Budweiser over here — the original, back before my time, is a proud Czech product of ancient vintage.
Hey, I know. It’s only beer, right? And it’s only rock’n’roll, but I like it.