I hate mass-market American "beer." And not just for the obvious reason -- that it's the root of all evil. We all know that just about every college kid in America is controlled by brain waves transmitted via television commercials that feature the Coors Light Twins or the Miller Lite Incredibly Nubile Half-Naked Amateur Wrestlers or Bud Light's Cedric the Entertainer.
If you believed some pundits (for example, the Denver Post's Diane Carman and Jim Spencer, Queen and King of the Negative Spin, who are forever taking potshots at the University of Colorado and the Air Force Academy), this corporate power is strong enough to override the basic biological and social forces of sex hormones and newfound independence. It turns college kids into simple automatons controlled by "big alcohol." Automatons who have no responsibility for their actions, who didn't binge-drink in high school and who wouldn't party now if not for these subversive advertisements. I find such beliefs insulting, because if college kids actually knuckle under this easily today, what would they have done after watching one of the old-school beer commercials? Although I might have thought about it, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have driven my car into oncoming traffic, even if a Miller Lite commercial featuring Joe Klecko, formerly of the New York Jets, told me to do so: "Hey! Fish! Get in the boat!" And he was much more persuasive than anything on the tube these days.
Commercial influences aside, there are still certain settings where consuming anything other than American "beer" would be inappropriate. One such spot is Dr. Feelgood's (1535 South Kipling Parkway, Lakewood). When I walked into this joint with the newly appointed Head of Research for the Institute of Drinking Studies and his little brother a few weeks ago, we were immediately transported back to Minnesota and Iowa, respectively. Those cow-intensive states have thousands of little dive bars that are frequented by guys coming in from the fields, women who have been waiting for them all day and a few fellows in hip-waders who spent the afternoon in ice-cold water communing with God and a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Feelgood's extended happy-hour crowd was already preparing for St. Patrick's Day, obviously the coolest holiday ever, when everyone can look forward to throwing up green liquid and not having to go to the emergency room. The good Dr. has Bud and Coors products on tap. It has a menu of artery-clogging bar-chow offerings that range from fried potatoes to fried cheese to fried chips with cheese on them. The only thing missing is a Tombstone Pizza oven.
We started pouring down the Bud and, once lubricated, careened down memory lane, recalling all the places that bad beers have proven appropriate.
"It doesn't get any better than this." That's the slogan for Old Milwaukee, and while beer obviously does get much better than this, I fondly recall when I was able to buy cases of returnable longnecks for four bucks each in Wisconsin. Not only did Old Milwaukee serve its purpose as a refreshing adult beverage, but the heavy cardboard cases accounted for over 90 percent of my apartment's furnishings. And let's not forget the brew's groundbreaking move of introducing multiple sex partners in the form of the Swedish Bikini Team.
Olympia's slogan proclaims that "It's the water." I don't know where this water came from -- maybe Lake Erie in the early '70s -- but after chugging a couple of Olys, there was plenty of entertainment to be found in the form of a rebus inside the bottle cap. Trying to make those little puzzles pornographic provided hours of fun.
Falstaff bills itself as "The Choicest Product of the Brewer's Art." Because it's a Nebraska beer, I've never tried it, but the Head of Research assures me that it has earned its nickname of "Falls Flat." Falstaff was also able to win an endorsement from Cream in the form of a minute-long ad; maybe it was the inspiration for "Strange Brew."
Stroh's says it's "fire-brewed," which apparently refers to the fire in your gut after consuming just one. Cooling doesn't change the taste, so we'd often stash some in our car and then drink it warm as "barley for breakfast" before school the next day. The inventor of Stroh's fifteen- and thirty-packs would have been awarded the Nobel Prize had the committee members not all been struck blind after having a few of these "beers."
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Hamm's comes "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters," and any Minnesotan knows this means the beer was made for consuming in the great outdoors. It also fends off hypothermia while you're ice fishing.
Schmidt's slogan consists of three words: "The Natural Brew." Two more words: wildlife cans.
Old Style proclaims itself as "Fully Krausened. Naturally Carbonated." And those are two good reasons Wisconsin is the second-best state in the Union. Here's a third: The Old Style brewery in La Crosse has six giant holding tanks that are labeled as the world's largest six-pack. I have the postcard.
Yes, cheap "beer" does have its place. It's an essential part of tailgating. A night at Dr. Feelgood's wouldn't feel nearly as good without it. As for college life? It would never be the same.