Thursday, October 09, 2008

Victim of Beer Bigotry

I hope anyone who's reading this can tolerate a brief diversion from some of my usual "heavy" topics. I want to beef a little about an all-too-common problem in American culture.

Beer bigotry.

Yup. This culture is hung up on beer. Liquor and wine are there as they always have been, but in most situations the only other alternative is beer.

Oh, I know there are the hard lemonades and Zima-type things and stuff like Smirnoff Ice, but these all have a common foundation: malt.

In other words, they're slightly reworked taste blends on top of brewed malt - which is the same basis as beer. Heck, for that matter even most of your pre-bottled "mixed drinks" like pseudo-margaritas and pseudo-daiquiris are malt based (read the label carefully.)

This puts me in a fix, because I've never been able to develop a taste for brewed malt beverages like beer, even the premium brews. Even distilled malt such as Scotch I can only take so much of. I prefer an alternative, and I don't always like wine. I'd like a real alternative to the aisles and aisles of beer cans and bottles.

Like what?

Oh, how about cider? Hard cider was a very common drink in colonial America - far more common than beer, for that matter. A good cider has about the same alcohol content as beer, but isn't sweet. It's dry, but with a fruit base that hasn't a touch of malt. My favorite is Strongbow cider, imported from England, but that's hard to find and rather expensive. More available is Woodchuck cider, brewed in New England. Our daughter, who passed through Ireland on the way to her semester of study in Europe, reports that Bulmer's Cider is quite tasty.

Ellen and I both love cider - it's something we can sip together. In fact, during our Stratford week, one of the things we love about Bentley's Inn is that they serve draft Strongbow.

But can you find cider in the U.S.? Despite gallant efforts by the Woodchuck people, cider remains a scarce commodity. It's a shame, really. You don't have to hate beer to love cider - it's a nice taste sensation no matter what. Our sons-in-law, who appreciate good beers, also love cider. But there's a beer bigotry that's hard to overcome - so much that some people don't even know that there are alternatives to beer.

This leads to a catch-22 situation: because cider is hardly known, there's little demand, so distributors don't push it, so stores & restaurants don't stock it, so it remains obscure. Example: when one local emporium got a liquor license, they surveyed their customers to ask what kind of boutique beers they should stock (it's that kind of place). Ellen suggested Strongbow, figuring it was sufficiently exotic. They reported back that their distributor carried Strongbow, but recommended they not carry it because "nobody buys it."


See the problem we cider lovers are up against? But there are encouraging signs. Our local grocery stores are starting to stock at least Woodchuck amber. My daughter and I found that E.G. Nick's in Lapeer had Woodchuck on the menu.

I have a suggestion: let's start a "malt alternative" groundswell. You don't have to hate beer to participate, you just have to be open to alternatives. Look for a spot with some cider (brace yourself: it's about the price of premium beer) and give it a try. Odd are that you'll like it, even if you still prefer beer. If we get some demand going, the cider brewers will be encouraged and the distributors will offer more options.

Let's break free of beer bigotry.


Mandajuice said...

More and more bars and restaurants (particularly in college towns) are stocking up on Wyder's Pear Cider. I ADORE cider and can usually find it if I ask!

(Found you through Arwen!)

holly said...

I absolutely LOVE Strongbow. I discovered it whilst studying in England and it immediately became my favorite beverage - far preferable over beer. I'll join the cider brigade!