The Beer

While I am dispositionally non-confrontational, I am also something of a natural critic/analyst, finding myself compelled to comment on the positives and negatives of different things.* Unfortunately, it is often difficult for me to verbalize exactly why I like something and dislike something.** To describe something effectively, you must be an expert on it, probably down to the mechanics of how that something is actually made or done. So, as much as I like to comment on various things, the only things I am really qualified to comment on intelligently are in some fairly narrow history fields where I have done primary source research. Everything else requires a degree of finessing reality a bit, or at least papering over some of its intricacies. (See: my discussion of different Bruce Springsteen songs. And I know a LOT about the Boss' catalogue.)

*I usually manage to keep my mouth shut in public, and then bombard Katherine with why I think something was stupid. Lord knows why she puts up with it. This makes most people think that I am a quiet, unassuming guy, which is my preferred self-presentation.

**I get the feeling that this is a common problem for just about everyone. Read reviews of wine and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Katherine and I set out a few weeks back to meet with our caterer and to check out our venue for the second time, and she asked how many varieties of beer we would want to provide. As someone who likes to encourage variety and choice, I suggested "seven or eight." Our contact Samantha gently noted, "You may want to stick to something a little lower..." and added that four choices usually works well. Seven or eight would be difficult to manage.***

***I would swear by Samantha, who is among the most competent people I have ever dealt with.

This brings me to our beer choices. Unfortunately, I am not a trained beer expert, so there will be a bit of finessing reality here. I also don't have the words to describe the taste, so I have appropriated the words of more confident reviewers from the interwebs. I hope they don't mind.

So, here's where I stand on the Four Beers:
  1. Coors Light: While I am no beer snob, I don't drink crappy American macros. Still, Coors Light is the least offensive of the Big Three, to me. It has basically no taste but is refreshing. Bud Light tastes like lightly-carbonated rice water. Miller Lite tastes like I imagine that urine would taste. I decided that some people actually prefer drinking bad tasting or weak beer to the alternative, and I can sympathize, at least. I have been in situations where the only food options are gourmet and elaborate (where everything has truffle oil) and I found myself desperate for some chicken pot pie or a burger.
  2. Yuengling Lager: This was an easy choice. I find Yuengling to be an excellent value beer with a very deep, beery taste. I am not a huge fan of Yuengling, and I rarely, if ever, buy it in 6 packs. But it is certainly drinkable, and it is very popular in our generation.
Those two are in, and, barring some severe beer shortages or accidents at their breweries, they should be available at the wedding. The other two, though, are more challenging.

First and foremost, there should be a contrast between the two remaining beers. It wouldn't make sense to have Miller Lite and Bud Light, even if they didn't suck; they would be too similar to Coors Light. We want variety in our choices here.

So I came up with a couple of options. Here's what we have, modeled after a student council style election.

Running for "Lighter Beer at the 2011 Jersey Hootenanny Wedding":

Samuel Adams Summer Ale
  • Beer style: American Pale Wheat Ale
  • How it got the nomination: Sam's Summer Ale is my third favorite Sam specialty beer, behind the Old Fezziwig Ale and the Chocolate Bock. Those are both winter only, so the summer ale is a worthy consolation prize. Plus, the wedding is quite close to the start of summer.
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "This is the quintessential summer beer. The ale has a very smooth ale feeling to it, and does not leave your mouth dry. The flavor has a nice fruit taste without over powering you with too much sweetness. Some places garnish this one with fruit, but I like it as it is. Cheers." - chiccabeer,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "The taste is dominated by lemon and spice. Standard wheat beer flavors are not noticeable. There is a sharp flavor apparently from spices rather than hop bitterness. The aftertaste is strange and 'soapy' ... I would not call this refreshing or drinkable. I give the brewer credit for trying something different than a standard American Wheat style, but I don't care for the heavy-handed, strange combination of spices." - Radome,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Periodically adopting a horrible Boston accent.
Kronenbourg 1664
  • Beer style: Euro Pale Lager
  • How it got the nomination: I first had this beer about a year ago at a tavern in New York, and was quite impressed. I had halfheartedly been looking for the beer for a while to try it again, to the point where I asked about it at a bar and they said that they were all out (even though it was on a menu). The next day, I was at a gathering of friends when one of them brought it. I took it as a sign (and had a very satisfying bottle right then and there).
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "very nice lager and example of the style, nice balance of malt and very crisp hop bitterness and dryness on the back end, very nice and super enjoyable flavor... drinkable to the extreme with a very lot of flavor for the style, definitely worth trying and so much better then most lagers out there today." - Stunner97,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "... The carbonation seems quite low for the best-by date not even being near. Mouth feel is that of cold, lightly carbonated water and is therefore easy to drink, but flavors are not prominent enough to enjoy. I had a lot of trouble separating the ingredients on my tongue to analyze the taste at all. Stick to wine, France. Stick to wine." - BFrost,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Detailed discussions of sad history of Alsace-Lorraine, where this beer hails from, along with international relations theory, because Alsace is the textbook case of irredentism.
And, running for "Heavier Beer at the 2011 Jersey Hootenanny Wedding":

  • Beer style: Irish Red Ale
  • How it got the nomination: I asked my sister's long-term boyfriend for some recommendations for a fourth beer, after having told him that Sam Summer, Coors Light, and Yuengling would be the other three. He has good taste in beer.
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "The beer possesses a near perfect mouth feel. Nice and light with lots of carbonation, yet really creamy. It feels very velvety on the tongue. There is a slight metallic taste, and then lots of roasted/toasted nuts and malts. Also some smoky/woody flavour and a sort of port wine taste. It finishes with a nice light bitter sweet after taste. A great beer that is tried and true. It's no wonder it's so popular - delicious!" - spinrsx,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "Mouthfeel is thin and watery with no character or appeal. Feels like a light coffee flavored water in your mouth. Flavors follow. Light, weak and watered. Like a weak cup of coffee to which one added light carbonation and some water. No reason to drink this one, unless one needs to hydrate and there no water in sight." - GRG1313,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Deliberate mispronunciation. The beer is technically pronounced "SMITH-iks" but I could easily go with "smith-WICKS."
Bass Pale Ale
  • Beer style: English Pale Ale
  • How it got the nomination: See above.
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "In my opinion Bass is a wonderful Ale. Upfront you get blasted by the bitterness of the hops and then the malt kicks in with the swallow. Carbonation is light, not heavy. Fits very well with the beer. I also get a bit of a fruity/nutty taste with it... Seeing as I drank down a whole 12 pack of bottles that evening, I believe it's safe to say that it is very drinkable." - PapillonJohn,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "Appearance is copper color, topped with light foamy head that produced little lacing. Aroma consists of musty yeast and bruised apples. Yuk! Initial taste contains a minute amount of bitter hops and malt, those danged apples again, followed by fruit and brown sugar. This under-carbonated beer leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, and DO NOT drink it warm. Hard to believe this beer is selling well." - palliko,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Did you know that Bass Ale's famous "red triangle" logo was the first-ever trademarked logo in British history? This could quickly devolve into an uninformed discussion on intellectual property.
So, now it's your turn. (Note: this is a non-binding preference poll. So I might ignore the results.)


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