Beer Inanities:
Myths, Misconceptions,Misinformation  
and General Stupidity about Beer

Since the birth of the microbrew revolution beer has been
steadily achieving rightful recognition as a beverage worthy
of the same homage paid to wine. Craft brewers, with their
seasonal offerings and resurrected styles, have created an
awareness that beer is much more than Bud, Miller and
Coors, even among those who don’t share our love of the
beverage. Food and drink sections in newspapers, regional
magazines and even the electronic media frequently feature
articles on pairing food and beer and styles of beer to match
a particular occasion.

But all the positive press about beer also results in excellent
examples of the old adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing”. Some people read the occasional piece about beer
and immediately fancy themselves mavens on the subject,
passing along misinformation and perpetuating myths.

One of the biggest beer myths, and one which never seems
to go away, is the misconception that breweries clean their
equipment in the spring and, using the residue left from the
cleaning process and the previous year’s brewing, create
bock beer. One man I met at a party INSISTED that this is
true, supported by the information that his brother-in-law’s
neighbor’s father, who had worked a summer job at
Ballantine’s in the early sixties, told him so. He even informed
me that it was called “buck” beer (he didn’t even get the
name right) and that it sold for a dollar a case because of the
lower cost of the ingredients. Would this then indicate that
doppelbock (double bock in English) meant the mash tuns
were cleaned twice and that the resulting brew sold for two
dollars a case? Most bock beers are actually brewed in the
fall and lagered for several months untill spring, when this
fuller bodied “liquid bread” sustained monks during their
Lenten fasts. Since they made it themselves, they didn’t even
have to pony up a dollar a case.

Many folks who are out of the beer loop observe a pint of
Guinness and remark “I could never drink something like that.
It’s too heavy and too strong”, furthering the myth that dark
beer is stronger than light beer. This fallacy is fairly easy to
dispel by means of a drinking contest. The logistics are
simple: a dozen pints of draught Guinness for the
knowledgeable beerfan and maybe four bottles of Baltika
Extra Nine or Victory Golden Monkey for the believer that
darker is stronger. At the sound of the gun start downing the
beers and see who hits the deck first. Light wins every time!

A similar delusion is that “ale” is stronger than “beer” (with
no acknowledgement that ale IS beer), an idea continued by
ignorant lawmakers in some states that require malt
beverages above a certain alcohol level to be labeled as
“ale”, apparently without a clue that the difference between
ales and lagers has nothing whatsoever to do with the
alcoholic content of either. Another testimony to the stupidity
of some of those who call themselves our leaders.

Not long ago I attended a dinner at which the usual insipid
bottles of Bud and Coor’s Light were all that was offered.
Never being one to let my feelings go unannounced, I
remarked to a co-worker that I wished real beer were
available. She responded by asking what beer I liked best.
Obviously hard to answer, this was a question akin to asking
a democrat politician what kind of voter he’d rather pander
to. Far too many choices. But without thinking, I replied with
the statement “maybe a Guinness” which she immediately
corrected by informing me that Guinness isn’t beer, it’s stout.
I tried to explain that stout is merely a style of beer, but she
shot me down with the indefensible argument that she
should know because she was of Irish extraction and
Guinness has it’s roots in Dublin. Sure….and being partly
English I’m practically on a first name basis with Prince
Charles. “Hey Charlie, what say we knock back a few pints at
the George and Dragon this weekend?”

The subject of stout reminds me of last March when, seated
at the bar of a pub in Massachusetts , I witnessed a thirsty
fellow who, apparently after reading somewhere that
Guinness is an appropriate drink for St. Patrick’s Day, ordered
one. Only he pronounced it “Gweeness”, positive proof of his
beer expertise.

California Common is a style of beer most often enjoyed by
homebrewers trying to duplicate Anchor Steam beer of San
Francisco , to my knowledge the only commercial brewery still
making the stuff. Displaying no knowledge of the style or
brewing process, a man once explained to me that he’d never
try Anchor Steam because he didn’t like “hot” beer.

Ignorance can sometimes best be demonstrated by the
printed word, since the ‘hard copies” can be saved for
posterity. Reviews of the Gaslight Brewery on Pubcrawler.com
afford two perfect examples of this. One disgruntled person,
posting his displeasure after a visit that found eight house
brews and four guest beers on tap, a cask conditioned ale on
hand pump and at least twenty five bottled varieties
available, rated the Beer selection as “so so”. The Gaslight
doesn’t sell Anheuser Busch products but maybe if they had
offered Michelob Ultra Light his review would have been
upgraded to “average”. Another person with a grudge to
bear stated with emphasis that the reason he rated the
Gaslight beers of poor quality was because they were
“obviously brewed with yeast”.  Duh….I guess the reason I
didn’t like last night’s spaghetti was because it was
“obviously made with pasta”.

Stupid questions are not to be ignored in this discussion of
beer inanities. When I tell people I’m a homebrewer some
people respond with the query “Does it taste any good?”, to
which I usually give the sarcastic response “No! I spend thirty
or forty dollars on ingredients, three or four hours brewing
and cleaning equipment (maybe if I only cleaned once a year
I could make buck beer and lower my initial cost) and another
hour or so bottling the fruits of my labors because I’m
attempting to make something that tastes like hell and that
nobody would want to drink.” The proprietor of the Gaslight
informs me that he has been asked this question hundreds of
times by patrons who are oblivious to the fact that they have
entered a brewpub.

In beer discussions over the years several people have told
me about Ballantine’s “Indian” ale, evidently a reference to
the great but no longer brewed Ballantine IPA or India Pale
Ale. The Paper City Brewery of Holyoke, Massachusetts helps
to perpetuate this misnomer by calling their IPA “Indian Pale
Ale” which features a picture of an old Indian motorcycle on
the label.

The biggest beer myth of all is one promoted by the
temperance crowd which decries beer as being bad for you,
when in fact most studies concur that beer in moderation,
especially darker beers, is good for you. So, I think I’ll do my
constitution some good and go have a beer.



Cheers,
        
Dan
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