• ,

Food Porn: Time for a cold one

 

At Domilise's Po-boy and Bar.  How could anyone not love this?

A frosty draught High-Life at Domilise's Po-boy and Bar. How could anyone not love this?

The rise in craft breweries and beer connoisseurship in the United States over recent years has come with it a new breed of personality: The beer snob.  Also known as the “beer geek” or “beer nerd,” they have much in common with the discerning oenophiles that are a familiar stereotype of the food and beverage world; only these folks tend to favor beards and bellies over bespoke suits and goblets.

Not that I’m knocking them.  They clearly adore beer, and so do I.  A number of my close friends -- all really good people -- brew craft beer, write about craft beer professionally (yes, kids, this is an actual job!), work for breweries or the craft beer industry, or have simply adopted their appreciation of craft beer as a hobby.

I get it. I understand.  And I think that passion is admirable.  I’m the same way when it comes to oysters, crawfish, and the perfect dark roux.  That said, hearing them discuss beer with one another often sounds like an exotic foreign cipher to which I have no codex, or the recounting of details from a George R.R. Martin or Frank Herbert novel.

“Dude, have you tried the Defenistrator schwarzwalder kierschtort doppelbock?” they might ask.  “It’s made with Andalusian-nightshade hops from Burkina Faso that bloom only every six years in the light of a full-sturgeon moon.  Good stuff.”

“Yeah,” another might reply. “It’s good, but the back end has a kind of amorous marmoset note that throws off the hops for me.  But I’m really loving what’s coming out of the Surly Mongrel brewery right now.  Their barrel-aged widow-maker durian lambic is fantastic, but it’s got a 96% ABV, so you really have to watch yourself.  Oh, and have you tried their septuple-smoked Flanders Oud Bruin?  I’m told their pearl barley is hand-sorted by Alsatian Eunuchs...”

Okay, so picking fun of beer geeks might be low hanging fruit, but that’s the way it happens these days.  As with music, to many the world of beer seems to become cooler and more interesting the more obscure and ridiculous it gets.

While I love craft beer and the lovely people who make it, I’m going to tread out on a limb here and also disclose the fact that I love inexpensive, mass-produced American beer as well.  You might not think that a cold brewski needs any sort of apoligia these days, what with this being 'Murica and all, but I’m increasingly finding myself in the position of defending my choice to order what certain people consider “domestic swill.”  Their upturned noses and clucked tongues beg me to stick up for my fondness for the cheap stuff, and I’ll do so here.

Part of my affection for inexpensive domestics certainly has something to do with the fact that the beer companies had me all but brainwashed with their marketing from an early age.  Well before I was even able to enjoy their products legally, I knew that beer was supposed to be a whole lot of fun -- whether it was hanging out with voluptuous Miller Lite  girls in bikinis or pulling pranks with Spuds McKenzie the party dog.  By the time I came of age, I was all but hooked on the notion that beer equals hearty partying.  And who doesn’t want to have a good time?  I should also note that I went to a college in St. Louis where the law building was literally named after the Anheuser-Busch brewing company (“Gives a new meaning to the term ‘bar exam'!” was the running joke at the time.)

Beer nostalgia also extends to my family.  Until the day she passed, my grandmother would always order a frozen fishbowl mug of Budweiser at Herbie K’s restaurant in Shreveport, home of the “shrimp buster.”  I always delighted in the fact that Grandma, who I knew more as a cottage cheese and grapefruit kind of person, never failed to pair her fried seafood and thick-cut onion rings with a frosty brew.  And I think of her fondly when I do the same, whether it’s back at Herbie K’s, or at Domilise’s po-boy shop Uptown, where you can still get a frozen fishbowl goblet of Miller High Life (“the champagne of beers”) for under three bucks.  I’ll be a sucker for that every time.

Like my grandmother and her seafood, there’s simply a time for inexpensive domestic beer.  Sometimes, instead of a dark double chocolate oatmeal raisin stout with a head as thick as a milkshake, you just want a cold “oat soda” -- especially because it’s so hot here in Louisiana during the summer.  I once had to explain to a friend in London that drinking cheap American lagers here is our way of hydrating, because beer is somewhat less dubious than our public drinking water, and also more fun.  After a long day in the hot, muggy July soup, a can of cold Coors is often preferable to an ale flavored with ancient gruits, bog myrtle and reindeer lichen.  (I’m not making that last one up -- check out Earth Eagle Brewings for details on how they use mushrooms, sassafras, catnip and smoked pigs heads in their beer.  Seriously.)

So, to those who turn up their noses and scoff at the very idea that mass-produced American beer even exists, I say that, as the proverb goes, to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose -- and every beer -- under heaven.

Amen.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.