My father wasn’t a huge beer drinker. All the same, it wasn’t too terribly uncommon for there to be a few Miller High Life bottles in the fridge either, and if memory serves, we’re talking about those little ‘pony’ bottles too. Seven ounces of the Champagne of Beer, ice cold and drunk straight from the bottle – clear glass and all.
Now, the grocery store beer aisle as we know it today is a vastly different world than when I was growing up. We won’t go into any specifics of year or age – I assure you it was a while ago. And while the choices might have been a bit limited to my father back in the day, I’m pretty sure dad was perfectly happy with what came in those clear glass bottles. They were a “go-to” beer for him. Now, I may be losing my way just a bit inside of some odd, nostalgic haze, but I often begin to wonder…
…does the idea of a “go-to beer” exist at all inside the world of craft beer drinkers?
At first, the idea of a “go-to” for a “craft” drinker seems relatively ludicrous. With so much diversity lurking within every craft drinkers’ fridge, the idea of a regularly imbibed beer seems about as foreign as finding something actually foreign among all the beer in there. Consider all the various ways we seek out all those different beers. Between the travelers and heavy traders, the purveyors of online beer stores, and the folks who will still try just about everything, the possibilities can be endless (even a beer with horseradish added). And even if you prefer your Porter without the addition of something which should be acceptable only on a roast beef sandwich, your local beer bars and stores will likely keep you entertained enough. Likeliest of all, most “craft” drinkers are a hybrid of all of the above.
So after all that, what would possibly constitute a go-to within the craft world? And why might you even want one? First, a shot at a definition. Obviously, a “go-to” beer is one that has to be easily found. After all, it has a particular standard of availability to live up to. But I’d like to think such a beer is not just the convenient selection at the moment. It is not the one tap handle among the twenty five others at the concert venue which did not end with the word “Light” that at the least, you can put up with. No, I believe any go-to beer is something much more. It’s something you might seek out not just because it’s the only thing going. No, it aspires to be something much, much more than being simply convenient.
When I think back Dad’s High Lifes, I believe that he picked them up with certain times in mind – while he was grilling burgers for the family, or even for a time as simple – but enjoyable for dad – as after mowing the lawn. I’m especially sure that I saw one being cracked open when the Braves game was just minutes away from coming on tv. When I think of the times that I saw those little clear bottles, I don’t think my dad was not only reaching for something good, I think he was going for a beer because the times were good. On the Fourth of July. Taking in a summer’s night on the porch. When the neighbors who we did like came over for a cookout. I think a “go-to” beer is part of a larger formula, some wonderful combination of individual preference for a beer and just as, or likely much more importantly, one that will fit a particular state of mind. There’s a certain relevant-to-the-moment charm in such a drink.
Now, I’ll admit, this all does sound remarkably like the premise for every macro beer ad that’s been produced – well, ever. You know the ones, where a group of buds are sipping on their freshly poured, overly frothy mugs of Buds, and from the looks on their faces, the apparent fun being had, and hell, even the music that is playing in the background, life is just about as peachy as it can possibly ever get. Of course, no such cheesiness really exists. Not even for Bud drinkers. (I think.) Nevertheless, there are certain times when the times are quite good, and that is true for both the macro and the craft drinker.
Now, perhaps the typical craft fan can truly enjoy themselves and the company of others while simultaneously brooding over whether the beer at hand is a 3.5 or a 3.25 check-in on Untappd. However, I think (and hope) that if a go-to beer truly exists for most craft drinkers, it is a beer that can be consumed without much discussion or break down over grades or scores, and as a bonus, is one that can be enjoyed without feeling as if any standards have been sacrificed. Of course, for the Bud drinker, it’s unlikely that their thumb is quivering uncontrollably over a quarter cap difference in rating.
I think this is all safe to say because for your strictly macro drinker, the whole thing is mostly about the moment and less about the beer, and for the strictly craft drinker, it’s fair to say that there is more of an expectation for the two to meet in the middle somewhere. But give all of this too much thought, however, and you’re wearing away the charm of both the beer – and ultimately, what’s worse, the moment. I’ve always believed that beer is the ultimate social and conversational lubricant, and is certainly one that knows no distinction between types of beer drinkers. So if you can deal with the revelation that you, the likely craft drinker who’s reading this post, shares a similar beer drinking experience with those who are likely to buy strictly Bud – well, congrats. Any over introspection, be it about the moment or the beer – be it a Two Hearted or a Miller High Life – should not be given a second thought. Do so, and you might be missing out on the very act of enjoying beer at one of its most basic, fundamental levels altogether.