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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The August Buzz: Peanuts & Salmon

The new Buzz is up on my site: an open letter to single-source beer drinkers in general, and sportswriter Norman "Couch Slouch" Chad in particular. Chad's looking for a "new beer" to replace the Rolling Rock he drank for over 25 years, and I've got a radical suggestion: how about all of them? Seems obvious to me, but I hope I provide some arguments to crack open some brand prejudices.


Jeff Bearer said...

I find it interesting the split personality of Norm’s view of beer.

Mostly he sounds like your average Macro drinker looking for one beer for all occasions. Like a person who wants a beer that they don’t have to think about; much like how we use deodorant or toothpaste. However I probably shouldn’t assume that Lew doesn’t like variety on his armpits.

One thing that is not your average macro behavior is that he seems to realize that you can pair beer with more than Pizza and Burgers. But I can’t imagine he’s really thought about this and still thinks the same beer works for everything. Somebody should send him a copy of The Brewmasters Table to fully develop his understanding. I suspect he will use this requirement to disqualify Guinness because you couldn’t possibly drink that before breakfast, Right?!

Finally there is the part that he does not want to support a national brewery. I think this is his sticking point. If he didn’t have this qualm, then he’d be happy with a beer from one of the big boys. We all know Lew’s 3 laws of beer*, and he might be happiest if you just get him to realize that it’s ok to drink a national brand. If he likes something like Rolling Rock that is cheap, not challenging flavor-wise, and widely available; then there are tons of choice in that market, why make it harder than it is?**

* Lew’s 3 laws if beer are:
1. Does it taste Good, and will it taste good next time?
2. Is it reasonably priced?
3. Is it produced free of slave and child labor?
If so then there is no reason not to drink and enjoy the beer.

** I’m not serious on pointing this guy to Macros but I wanted to explore the point of view. I whole heartedly agree that he should drink local and embrace the variety.

Lew Bryson said...

Ah. Lew's Three Laws®. It really is all about the beer.

I don't like variety on my armpits, much like I don't need variety in my drywall screws. Do they work? Yes? Buy more. I will admit that I only use one cough drop (Ricola), and they've assumed an almost talimanistic position for me when I sing: if I don't have a Ricola parked between cheek and molars, I'm really nervous.

I suspect that a lot of single-brand beervolk have a similarly commoditized attitude for beer: beer does a job for them -- it delivers alcohol in a ratio they're accustomed to. If it works, they stick with it.

But yeah, Norm seems different. So I reached out. I figure once I get him past the idea that different is bad...all kinds of things can happen.

That's a Lew Theory® almost as important as the Three Laws: the CBX+1 Theory®. It goes like this. When a person has their first Craft Beer that they like (call it CBX), the first thing they want is more of that Craft Beer. When they get a chance to think about it a bit, they realize that they tried something different, and it was good. And then they want to try another Craft Beer: CBX+1. And there's nothing wrong with that at all. It's downright anti-chain, pro-local, and all dat.

Jeff Linkous said...

Sounds like Norm is more suited for the late '70s that the 21st century.

Norm also sounds like some folks I know who don't "get" me or any other beer drinker who enjoys choices and availability of styles/flavors. These are people who live in a world where Bud C. Miller is the block captain, and they don't bat an eye.

Another thought comes to mind. Two actually:

Does Norm really need to divorce himself from his beloved Rolling Rock just because it's now in the AB family album?

And, damn man, where has this guy been in the last decade-plus? He brings to my mind Grandpa Simpson's flashback line about Johnny Unitas, circa '69: "Now there's a haircut you can set your watch to!"

Things change Norm, but I'd say they are infinitely better, beer-wise, now than they have been for that span of time you cite as your affair with RR.

Norm, dude, I'm sure you can at least find Sam Adams, if nothing else, practically anywhere.


Bill said...

Lew, I'm a big fan or yours, but I need to be the contrarian here. I'm your basic beer geek -- love many styles, love trying what's local, kinda love home brewing. Love sharing different beers with folks.

But I also recognize that there are folks who don't want to try fantastically different beers, or who will try them, but remain satisfied with one style or even brand. They may drink what I offer to be polite, they may like some of what I offer them... but in the end, beer to them is like soda to me (or pop, tonic, Coke, depending on your geography). There's a huge variety of sodas out there. I've enjoyed many of them. But on the few occasions I want a soda, it's a cola, preferably a Coke.

Now the folks at and and can talk about the wonderful styles, and local examples, and god help us all the double imperial root beers that are released one day a year that people line up for at Three Floyds Tonics and Surly Soda Co... but I'm probably going to stick with Coke. Does this make me close minded? Do each and every one of us need variety in every aspect of our eating/drinking/wearing lives?

One of the neat things about Wine Spectator is the relative lack of poking fun at those who just drink jug wine. Another is the lack of handwringing over whether those folks can be made to appreciate the wider wine world. They simply note that this appears to be the case more and more. They never use the horrifying term "convert" that folks on Beer Advocate like to use. I wonder if those of us who love the wider world of beer are getting close to this next step in emulating the wine world, and hope that we are.

Lew, I'm sure you wrote the way you did because Norman Chad writes the way he does, tongue-in-cheek, but read your piece and substitute "generic person who's a loyal brand drinker" -- do you think you come across as a person who respects said conversation partner? Do you think you come across as a nice guy sharing what you know? If someone approached you like this, would you give him the time of day? Really, in the end, did you write the article for Norman Chad and folks like him, or for those of us who think and drink the way you do?

Lew Bryson said...


As Jeff mentioned, there's more going on with Norm. First, he's asking. If someone asks my advice, I'm gonna give it to them.

Second, he does obviously get variety, and has a taste for good food. Why have a taste for good stuff and not exercise it?

Finally, yeah, he's that kind of writer, which is why I felt I could use that tone.

If he hadn't asked, if he'd just said, in passing, "I drink Rolling Rock, all the time, been drinking it for 26 years," I'd never have written anything. But if the guy asks, and I've got an answer, yeah, I'll submit it.

As for how I come across...I'm not going to agonize over it. I did write it for Norman, and I wrote it for my site. The only phrasing I regret is the "Newsflash" thing; that was cheap and a little mean. If I hadn't been a bit rushed, I would have changed that.

Anonymous said...

God I miss Norman Chad. Anyone remember that short lived newspaper he wrote for ~15 years ago? The National, I think?

If you know his personality.


Sam Adams Light. It is MADE in Latrobe, PA after all.

Anonymous said...

wait a minute...

all this discussion about someone who drank ROLLING ROCK???!!!

Ewgh - a sweet, gassy beer for those out there who were weaned on soda pop. That corn will tear you up after a night of much imbibing..'nuff said.

Kudos to you Lew for trying to educate the masses...keep up the good work!

Lew Bryson said...

I dunno, Loren. I suspect when you actually got down to it, you'd find Shiner Bock in more places than Sam Light.

Anonymous said...

But...Sam Light is actually PALATABLE!


[slam dunk]

Jeff Bearer said...


I'm trying a foodstuff where I stick with a single, or common brand like how you drink soda and I'm having a really hard time. I don't drink soda, and when I do it's usually a crafted soda, I just don't like the flavor of the mass cola's.

The only thing I can think of where I've been brand loyal is Ketchup. Mustards, and other sauces I'm always looking for variety, but for some reason I've fallen into complacency with ketchup. I don't recall ever having anything in my house other than Hinez. I've had Hunts, Value Time and a few others on occasion but never really thought about them... Until Now.

The next time I'm in the grocery store you know for sure I'll be looking for a craft ketchup. But I'd bet that it's going to be like finding an anchor steam in 1970. Maybe the organic isle will have something.

So Lew and others, what foodstuffs do you take for granted and never thought of looking for variety in?

Bill said...

Well, then, here's hoping he says "Pay the man, Shirley" and Lew receives a check for $1.25.

Loren, I miss the National! It got me through being in places with lousy local papers in the pre-internet days, and then it was gone. I think it was a Gannett/USA Today publication.

Anonymous said...

Well, here's how I see it. Not only is Norm asking for advice, he's DROPPED ROCK ON PRINCIPLE. It's no longer HIS beer now that A-B makes it. He's a prime candidate for moving up a notch, and Lew has pointed him in the right direction. My suggestion would be for Norm to figure out what styles he prefers, and focus on those when he's out exploring. Simple as that. And, to the anonymous poster holding his nose at a former regional favorite: snobs who look down on the less enlightened are part of the problem. That attitude sets us all back a step or two. Can't we all just get along? (Love them lawnmower beers!)

Lew Bryson said...

I do Heinz too. Hell, there's never more than about three choices anyway. But I'm even picky about the milk I buy; I prefer Rosenberger's, a local dairy that doesn't do BGH. Hmmm...I have a ton of mustards, too, and make my own, I have more vinegars than I care to admit (and I use them, too), I've got a couple olive oils for different uses, God knows I've got a lot of spirits, we've got olives galore... I don't think I do the brand thing.

Oh, cough drops. I think I may have mentioned somewhere that I have this superstitious thing with Ricola (regular, in the yellow bag) and singing. Gotta have a Ricola in my mouth when I sing, or I get nervous.