The first beer I ever had on my own, as an adult, was a Corona. No lime, straight from the bottle, somewhat legally. I remember it well because – aside from the photographic evidence – I recall my college roommates goading me in to drinking it, and making fun of me when I finally did. You see, I had prided myself on not drinking before my twenty-first birthday. I was the good little boy who wasn’t going to succumb to the peer pressure of under age drinking. And besides, from what I remembered of the sips from the frosty beer mug my grandfather had given to me as a child, beer wasn’t one of my favorite liquids in the world. In fact, I would rather have drunk from the muddy stream behind my father’s house than take another sip of that bitter, bubbly stuff. So it was easy for me to avoid the temptations of alcohol for most of my life, until that point in college when my supposed friends decided they were going to put an end to my beer-ginity.
Since that traumatic first Corona, of course, I’ve had many a frosty brew. My tastes for beers of almost all kinds have refined, and while not all types of beer satisfy my palate, there is now a special place in my heart for the malts and hops I’ve come to know and love. As we all know, the craft beer world can be a contentious and elitist place, with many an argument over what constitutes a craft beer and lots of derision for people who drink so-called macro beers. While Ice House beer (“Ice brewed to conceal watered down taste”) got me through college, and Pabst Blue Ribbon gets me through thin-wallet days now, there are several surprisingly good “macro brews” that I can drink today without feeling like a dirty traitor.
Bass Ale – This is one of the better tasting ales out there. I like that the brewery has managed to keep flavor going in this beer even on such a gigantic mass scale.
Boddington’s Pub Ale – A smooth, low alcohol, low hops beer that is more like a hearty root beer than an alcoholic beverage, Boddington’s nevertheless serves up a great flavor and good drinkability for those pub nights when you just want to talk with friends without revealing your innermost secrets.
Stella Artois – I call this one my gateway beer. Stella was the first brew that taught me beer could actually taste somewhat decent.
Miller Genuine Draft – MGD is one of those ubiquitous beers that was my mainstay after college. Not wanting to feel like a cheap college kid anymore, I needed a beer that would actually taste like a beer and still get me drunk (hey, I was still young and in party mode). MGD fit the bill.
Killian’s Irish Red – Killian’s was the first beer that I actually thought was a craft beer, and drank it for a couple of years blissfully unaware of my naivete. Then someone burst my bubble. The next time I had one, I read the label and had my heart crushed: sure enough, brewed by Miller. But hey, Killian’s is a decent beer, with good color, and a nice sweet malt flavor balanced by some hoppiness. Not all big brews are bad!
Samuel Adams Boston Lager – To this day, I love this beer, despite all the arguably better ones I’ve had. Sam Adams Boston Lager is the first true craft beer (in my opinion) I ever really enjoyed. With news that the company may hit 2.5million barrels next year, its status as a “craft” brewery hangs in the balance. Samuel Adams Boston Lager was my true gateway drug, and I’ll never let it go.
Yuengling – This bad boy’s not available everywhere, so not everyone can try it. It’s nothing really special, but it’s one of those beers that is affordable and tasty, while warding off that dirty macro beer feeling.
Aside from the big guns listed above, there are a few other macro beers I’d be interested in trying, but am afraid of wasting my money on. Someday I’ll bite the bullet and buy a bottle of Bud American Ale, Michelob Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale [editor’s note; save your money on this one -J] , and Yuengling Porter. These beers sound like they’ll be pretty good, but who knows what care is actually put into making them. What really matters is that the beer tastes good and makes you happy. Based on taste alone, it shouldn’t matter whether it comes from a giant corporation or a mom & pop brewer. What most people seem to have a problem with is the politics of big time corporations vs. small time local boys. In my case, I’ll just try to avoid being any more tainted than I’ve already become and keep an open mind to beers of all shapes and sizes. Maybe a Macro Beer Tasting night is in order. Pizza and wings are on the menu for that one.