Dancing Sparkle in Each Glassful


The Beer Nut has decided on a most compelling theme for this month’s session– lager.

There are lovely lagers out there– Brew Dog’s Zeitgeist being the first that comes to mind.  But I’m more interested in talking about the unlovelies. Homer with his can of Duff.  Billy Beer. Hamm’s Beer Bear– one of the first commercials I remember, and I can still sing the jingle. Marketing beer to children works! But I digress.

In the US I knew lager as simply beer, and I thought there was no other kind.   My mother loved Michelob and would drink it very cold, just one bottle, after her game of tennis. For most of my childhood I thought this was a very sophisticated drink, as my mother was a very polished sort of lady.

The first beer I ever tasted was a Michelob– I was very small and we were on a trip in Florida, lost in the swamps there.  I had to take my tablets and there was no water, only beer, and not cold.  Poison! Suddenly this sophisticated drink didn’t seem so elegant after all.

In college I tried to drink Miller.  I think I liked the sound of the initials, MGD.  But once in a seedy bar in San Francisco my friend handed me a cold bottle of Rolling Rock.  Beer in a green bottle was a revelation!  It seemed colder, happier from the neck of green glass, which is of course how we drank it.  I can still feel the braille of the white and blue printed label and I confess it makes me thirsty just thinking about it.  It wasn’t good beer of course but if I was drinking it, it meant I was with friends, people I loved, and we were having a good time. I’m glad at the time the brand had not yet attempted their hoax marketing gimmick of “moonvertising”, where they claimed to use lazers to project an ad onto the surface of the full moon.  I contemplated a tasting of this beer, knowing it would bring on a bargain-basement of Proustian revelries, but lucky reader, I could not find a bottle of the stuff.

When I moved from San Francisco I just couldn’t drink Rolling Rock anymore.  I flirted briefly with Mickey’s Big Mouth (technically a malt liquor?).  The bottle was green and round, it fit nicely in the hand and the caps featured a picture puzzle on the inside which served as a handy drunkenness test.  But the love didn’t last– I switched to martinis and stuck with those for many years, swearing off all beer.

During my martini phase I was teaching and one of my students worked as a Bud Girl.  One of the writing assignments was to render a formative moment in a few pages.  She wrote about her experience peddling lager to lunkheads and titled her narcissistic ramble, “Beauty and the Beast”, concluding that by the time she was done with the job, Bud would have basically paid for her plastic surgery and she could go on to “real” modeling. The Beast in her story was not the mega brewery and its sexist approach to marketing, but the louts she enticed.

It’s hard for me to see a can of Bud without thinking of her, even now, and how the lager stigma goes beyond just bad beer– it represents advertising’s cartoonish gender divide and the bonehead banalities of our culture.  A Bud Girl doesn’t drink the stuff, she just wears the branded bikini, and the lager lout “beast” has the power to turn your beloved Burberry plaid into trash and your local A&E into a WWF smackdown.

Last night I was with a dear friend and drinking buddy who loves lagers and is not interested in drinking anything else.  I’m not a very good beervangelist– I’ve tried to tempt her to try other styles but she’s having none of it.  Yesterday, as we were putting a few pints away in the Cockpit,  I’d commented that most ladies in the UK seem to drink chardonnay, so what did that make us, drinking pints in a manly place like this?

“Oh, there’s a word– Ladettes,” she joked.  I’d never heard it before, though apparently there have been reality teevee shows based on sending these individuals to finishing school, etc.   I mentioned I would be brewing some beer, you know, probably whilst skipping out on my deportment class.  She said if I could figure out how to brew a lager we would be BFF.  I’ll be calling it Ladette Lager.

11 Responses

  1. I have a huge soft spot for Rolling Rock but it’s so hard to find over here – the dad of my housemate at uni run a few off-licences and they sold it there so we got a few crates sent down to us (RR actually made it into the first draft of my Session piece this month but got cut!). I haven’t had it for sooo long so I’m sure I’d have similarly indulgent Proustian memories.

    The Bud Girl piece sounds fascinating; the lovely looking lady vs. the lager lout (forgive the OTT alliteration). And there’s some kind of short fiction story in there somewhere… Great post 🙂

    • I wished the Bud Girl piece was better written– it was terrible! But as you say, there was great material there.

      Would Desperado be considered a lager?

      • Desperados is totally a lager. That was in the first draft too but it didn’t feel right having it there for some reason.

        I’ve been thinking about bud girl all day. It’s had this strange effect on me; I want to write her story. It’s really intriguing, kinda fun but also sad, strangely cyclical. That idea has entered the note book!

        • Desperados has this crazy Mexploitation vibe to it! I’m now going to have to try it one of these days, but I know it will remind me of when I was teaching on this Marine Base– the guys would do these boilermakers with tequila and Corona.

          It was years ago that I had that Bud Girl as a student, but I totally remember her too– it was so sad and absurd. I’m sure if she ends up in a story of yours it will be more soulful and interesting than the real thing.

          • That’s the power of story: taking an essence/idea and making it your own and making it real. I’ll worl on it someday…

            You gotta try a desperados! It’s too sweet and pretty strong but chuck some lime in and chill it so that it’s cold enough to hurt your brain and it shamelessly works (for me anyway – and it’s not like a boilermaker so you should be ok!)

            • Fiction redeems life– when it’s really good!

              “Cold enough to hurt the brain”– Haha! This sounds like the kind of summer project I can get behind. Or, you know, the kind of sympathetic magic that will bring on summer, even temporarily.

  2. Ladette lager. Brilliant!

  3. There’s some very drinkable lagers out there even in the macro world. Miller High Life (Not MGD; I don’t know what the difference is but one’s really nasty and the other is crisp and clean) is one of them. Schlitz is good too and only $2 for a 40 oz. Yes, a 40 oz.! Not that I drink them often. Hell, I don’t even drink but maybe 5 times a month at most and that’s just to blog. I drink to blog. Pretty sad, isn’t it?

    • I blog to drink so, you know, I’m sure yours is the more admirable path!

      I wanted to write about Hite, a Korean lager, but it didn’t make the cut. It tastes of nothing really but I totally love it.

      I’m not a beer snob at all. I find it interesting that in the UK lager and lager drinkers are almost demonized and many social ills are blamed on the stuff.

      I don’t know what the difference is between High Life and MGD. I always thought ordering a “high life” was embarrassing, just because of how the words “high life” sound kind of cheezy, but now I think there’s some hipster cred to drinking it?

      • Maybe it’s hip because Bukowski was drinking one in Barfly when Chinaski walked by!

        • I thought maybe it was because the old man in Do the Right Thing ordered the stuff but that’s not cool at all, is it?

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