Existential Beer and The State of Western Culture.

A guy walks into a bar. This guy was me. This was a bar that had the claim of 64 different beers on tap. I went in the early evening to take advantage of happy hour (it should be called happy hours). I ordered a local beer, an IPA from Prescott brewing company. Being one of the few people in the bar, and the only one sitting at the bar, I struck up a conversation with the bartender by asking what his most popular keg was. Without hesitation he said, “Bud Light.” He went on to say “Bud Light makes up about 50% of all the beer sales.” That was not all he had to say. He told me that the next best seller was Michelob Ultra, then Coors, PBR, and finally Kiltlifter from the local Four Peaks Brewery. This got me thinking, so for the next few days I walked into bars and asked the same question, what is your best selling beer? The results did not very much, PBR and Bud Light seemed to be the kings of the taps.

This shocked me. In a world that has all these different kinds of beer to choose from, the biggest sellers are the beers you can get anywhere. This got my mind working. What is it that makes people want to drink these big beer company beers and not venture out and try some craft beer? The most obvious thought I had is that big beers are simply cheaper. At the initial bar my beer costed $5.50 which is the price of a 6 pack of Keystones. Whereas the price of a Bud Light costs $4. However, this did not seem like a reason to deter people. At a bar you’re always going to pay more than what you would if you bought the beer from a convenience store, and the $1.50 price difference is negligible especially when you are paying for a higher quality beverage. So I thought, maybe it is a cultural thing, a generational thing.

Craft beers did not really hit the mainstream until the mid-90s. The pioneers like Stone, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium where relatively late in the beer game. Beers like Coors, and Budweiser, and PBR have been around for ages. The drinking populous being above 21 is comprised mostly of boomers and other earlier generations. Generations that grew up with these older brands. I applied this theory anecdotally. I’ve asked a number of people over the age of 40 their opinions on craft beer. The preeminent criticism is that it is too bitter. I cannot blame them. A Bud Light is a fairly bland beer compared to an IPA, which seems to be the most popular beer style among craft brewers. It is wildly different from the beers that people knew 30 years ago.

Even though the craft beer industry has a loyal following it is becoming oversaturated. New breweries are appearing every day. This leads me to think that because they are not really even making an impact on big beers and they are really only competing against one another that the craft beer industry will eventually implode and the ones that survive will either sell out to a big beer company or try and remain independent and only serve beer on a local level due to distribution laws. I see this happening on a larger scale, on a cultural level.

America is developing bland, comfortable taste, and this is mirrored by the kinds of movies we go to, the kinds of music we listen to, the television shows, the cars we drive, the books we read, and the beers we drink.

Think about the biggest blockbusters of the past few years. They have all been remakes or superhero movies. It does not matter what rave reviews some of the more creative movies get, the superhero movie or the reboot series will always outsell it. It makes sense if you’re going to spend your hard earned money, you’re going to want to make sure it is well spent, not blown on some movie you might regret. With a reboot or a series movie, you know what you’re getting into. How in the world will an artistic, or creative new idea ever outsell a franchise?

People do not want art, they do not want to try new things. I should say the majority of people do not want this. There are some who resist. The resistance is futile. What is ever easiest to digest will be preeminent. Listen to a symphony by Beethoven, then listen to anything on the billboard top 100. It is painfully obvious that people want something simple, something that does not require any sort extra work to appreciate. This can be said about any type of art. A Joyce novel versus anything post Hemmingway. Lettered correspondence versus emoji.  A 1957 Chevrolet impala versus a 2017 impala. Sure, all these things at their core do the same thing. Any beer will get you drunk, any movie will entertain you, any book will too. Any song can be background noise, and any car will get you there. Where is the inspiration? I am not saying that things are bad, or worse now than they were. Hell, a lot of things are better. We have some of the greatest movie and television shows and cars are better, and music quality is phenomenal. What I am saying is that despite our having access to great inspired things ultimately the easiest most bare bones soulless thing will win in the end.

This is because people as a species are lazy. This makes complete sense. In a state of nature why would we ever do something we never had to? It would be a waste of energy. Why try something new? It could be poisonous. Every major innovation is something that makes life easier.

This is why craft beers will ultimately lose, and implode. However those of us who drink craft beverages and support the higher arts will still shell out that extra $1.50.

Article by Sam Hill -sjhill22@outlook.com

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