Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #23: "Light" beers

Three wimpy cheers for our choice of light beers!

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

Americans have always loved beer, but as our populace grew fatter, we began to look at ways of living a healthier, less overindulgent lifestyle. Enter “light” beer: you get a fraction of the calories without sacrificing the gratification of drinking a bunch of alcohol.

Now, the obvious question is “if you’re so concerned with your weight, why try to swill down a beverage so culpable for fat production that they named a type of gut after it? Wouldn’t you just switch to wine or something?”

It’s kind of like veganism.

You ever look in a vegan’s fridge? It’s probably chock full of foodstuffs made of bean curd or wet grain, molded into the shape and approximation of meat. “Not Dogs.” “Tofurkey.” “Veggie Ribs” (we’re not kidding, these things exist).

There’s nothing wrong with choosing to eat only vegetable products, but for crying out loud, why does it all have to distantly resemble meat?!? Can’t it just be freakin’ vegetables? WHY?

But we digress.

It turns out, people really like beer. It’s the beverage associated with good times, good friends, and satisfying, resonant belches. People wanted to lose weight, but they still longed for their brewskis. Thus, the light beer market was created, and the megabreweries jumped in with every marketing dollar they could muster.

Light beer, when it first appeared in the 1970s, was received with great fanfare. It had lowered calorie content, yet was exactly like regular lager, in the same way that your bathtub is exactly like a swimming pool. Still, it gave people something to swill while mingling awkwardly, along with the misguided idea that they were sticking to rigorous diets. Thanks to very high-budget marketing, light beer soon became a dominant presence in the market and a necessary part of each megabrewery’s brand portfolio.

Obviously, Americans are still drinking the stuff by the kegful, so we’re not going to try to crusade against it. Instead, here are a couple of the more, um, palatable light beers you might find:

Amstel Light is the best-known imported light beer, and it isn’t half-bad, for what it is. Kind of like a Heineken, without the intense flavor, Amstel still manages to deliver some authentic beer taste. You may need to drink twice as many, but Amstel still offers a modicum of, um, “refreshment.” At 3.5% alcohol by volume, it can’t actually be classified as water.
Beck’s Light also comes to us from European shores. With less alcohol than Amstel (and correspondingly less flavor), Beck’s also manages to retain some beer flavor and color. It’s fizzy, but still palatable, and a good alternative at the office Christmas party when you want to be social, but still don’t want anyone to experience the real you.

A good friend of ours drinks Miller Lite almost exclusively. It’s ironic considering the guy looks like a beer keg with feet. Anyway, it’s actually not the worst of the worst, sharing the skunky cabbage aroma and corny taste with its heavier, more caloric cousin: Miller High Life. Once again, the fizz factor is very high, so you can pretend you’re drinking a beer soda.

Look, we can’t do this anymore. Between you and us, all these beers are wimpy and watery. It’s the nature of the beast. Take our advice. If you want to drink a robust, delicious beer and still cut back on the calories, the answer might come as a very pleasant surprise. Guinness Draught.

Yep. We’re talking about that jet-black stuff with the dense, creamy head. People think it’s heavy because of the dark color, roasty flavor and velvety nitrogen carbonation. In reality, it has just one more calorie per ounce than Miller Light. The black patent malt gives it a full flavor unequalled by any light lager.

Of course, you may have to develop a taste for stout, but if you can acquire a taste for that nasty, swampy, fetid ultra-light slurry water, choosing the Guinness should be a no-brainer.

By the way, some people actually enjoy light lager, and more power to them. Beer should make you happy, in whatever form you prefer. Far be it for us to judge; our motto is “Drink what you like.”

Even if you’re wrong.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com

1 comment:

'Don' Cialini said...

Alright, its time that someone stands up to this tyranny and oppression us light beer drinkers face everyday from you stuck up beer snobs.

Look, there is nothing wrong with liking Euro beers or micro brews or “full flavor” beers. Just like there is nothing wrong with liking American Light beers. For me and my people, our palate prefers the light, crisp refreshing taste of a Mic Ultra or a Coors Light or a Bud Light. Oh, and spare us your suggestions of Amstel Light or Becks Light. Don’t insult our own beer intelligence. Amstel is okay to a degree but Becks Light is like drinking liquid leather. No thanks. And for those of us watching that waistline…Guinness? Bitch please. We like our light beer for its light, clean, crisp, refreshing taste as mentioned. We are not looking to “eat” our beer with a fork and a knife. So anytime you want to stop discriminating against us, please feel free too. Otherwise, you can take your hops, your roasted malt flavor, your faggity fruity scents, your hatred of America, your alcohol content, your hefewhatever porter lager BS and your velvety nitrogen carbonation and stick them in the bottom end of your own beer keg and head the hell off to Europe. You will blend in there with the rest of the fruity Euro trash while you drink fruity smelling beer and burn American Flags. You can even catch a Soccer riot or two as well. We light beer drinkers will be by Saturday afternoon to help you pack. In the meantime, we have to go read “The Insider’s” beer articles. Rumor has it they are much more objective and far less discriminatory.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. There are a couple Mic Ultra’s nice and cold in the fridge just waiting for consumption.