A friend of mine sent me an e-mail today with a link to this
piece by syndicated sports columnist and ESPN poker commentator (and
people say my job is silly) Norman "Couch Slouch"
Chad, his latest column, in which he asks for help in picking his
next beer. Not while sitting at a bar, not while standing in front of a
cooler. He's not talking about the next beer he's going to drink. He's
talking about the next beer he's going to make part of his branding
experience; the next beer he's going to drink exclusively for
years and years.
And my friend said, "I know. It’s a guy
that was brand loyal to Rolling Rock. But he’s opened his
life. He’s willing to expose himself to new things. Set
him on the straight and narrow.
Chad's not just brand loyal to Rock, he was obsessed
with it. "For more than a quarter century, I depended on Rolling
Rock. It was my longest-sustained relationship - by at least 19
years - and arguably my most rewarding. Brett Favre has started 237
consecutive regular-season games as an NFL quarterback; I watched 479
consecutive "Monday Night Football" games with a remote in one
hand and a Rock in the other." But when A-B bought Rolling Rock, he
dropped it. He asked his readers for suggestions on a replacement (Chad
asks his readers a lot of things), and took Shiner Bock as his
new beer bride.
It didn't work out (as Chad's marriages
apparently often don't). "Shiner Bock turned out to
be a little too elusive, a little too expensive and a little too Quentin
Tarantino." Elusive, okay. Shiner Bock's not available
everywhere. Yet. Expensive? Jeez, pal, how cheap do you
to be? And Quentin Tarantino? Can he possibly mean that he finds
Shiner Bock over the top? Or does he feel uncomfortable with the beer's
image? Interesting: Shiner Bock, like Rolling Rock, has a different
image in different parts of the country; some places, it's a hipster
beer. Maybe he was just drinking it in the wrong place.
But Shiner Bock is not the issue here. Chad
himself says so, he's rejected it, and he's asking for suggestions for
his new "perfect sports beer." He's even got requirements, and
that, my friendly readers (and you not-so-friendly ones, too; you know
who you are), is where I'm going to start setting Chad on the straight
and narrow. To wit, Chad's "ABC's" for choosing his beer:
It can't just be sold in some tri-county area of North Dakota. Couch
Slouch has to travel a lot. And when I'm on the road, I don't want to
have to fall back on Michelob or Miller Lite.
and bowlability. Is it affordable and is it lane-worthy? I need a
beer that doesn't dent my champagne budget and I need a beer to
complement my 147 game at the AMF Bowling Center.
I want a versatile brew. I want a beer that goes well with peanuts and
popcorn and with grilled salmon and coq au vin. I want a beer that can
taste just as good before breakfast as after dinner.
Wow. I took a look at those and realized that
this was a deeper issue than it seemed. This strikes right at the heart
of things. Norm is just the guy I want to reach: a guy who's a steady
beer drinker who's realized that there are plenty of places, choices,
occasions, and flavors in this world, but who has never thought
to broaden that world just a hair to include his beer.
So here's my open letter to Norm "Couch
Saw your plea for beer help the other day, and
it touched me deeply. I'm always thinking about my next beer,
it's kind of my job. I want to help you with the benefit of my years of
I read your three requirements, your ABC's of beer
standards, and I'm with you on them. I want to be able to get my choice
of beer anywhere, because I travel a lot too. I want something buyable
-- beer-writing probably doesn't even pay as well as TV
poker-commentating...er, poker-commenting...um, poker-commentatering,
but then, I don't have any alimony to pay -- and bowlable,
although in my case, I guess that would be euchre-able. And I
damned sure want beer that's going to go well with everything
from salad to dessert and all edible points in-between.
But there's one radical difference between thee and
me. You want all this in one beer. I just want it all,
any way I can get it. To do that, I've got a beer philosophy that's never
failed me in 26 years, and I'm going to lay it on you: there
is more than one beer in the world.
Awesome in its simplicity, isn't it? No? Not
sure you get it? Lemme explain. You obviously get the idea of variety
being pleasing: you follow more than one sport, you like food as
simple as peanuts and deep as coq au vin, you've enjoyed the
company of a variety of women (whether through their choice or yours is
So why are you limiting yourself to one beer?
It's like you've got blinders on. Think of it: you say you drank
nothing but Rolling Rock for over 25 years. Did you only eat coq au
vin for 25 years? Did you only watch football -- live games, taped
games, XFL, CFL, Arena Football, high school, NWFA (don't knock it: I've
hung out with some of these women and they're serious beer drinkers) --
for 25 years? Did you only see one woman -- well, never mind. You get
You clearly get the idea, the beauty of variety. Why
not try more than one kind of beer? Good God, man, is it to save you
time at the store? Save precious brain energy when you reach
in the fridge? Or is it some misplaced fan mindset that makes you think
only one beer deserves your support, and that makes it the very
best beer in the world!
Newsflash: there is no very best beer in the world.
Just as there is no very best food, very best team, or very best woman.
There are lots and lots of good ones...and arguing over which is the
best is a lot of fun, but to get in the discussion, you have to try
them. Then you can have an opinion that's more informed than "That
beer's not my beer, therefore it sucks." Argue like that on sports
and you'd get your ass kicked.
There is no one beer that goes well with all
the foods you mentioned. There is no one beer that is not a national
brand of the type you apparently don't desire ("I don't want to
have to fall back on Michelob or Miller Lite") that is available
all over. There are LOTS of beers that are bowlable (see my plea
for the session beer), and no one beer has a corner on that.
It's when you come to "Buyability"
that we run into a problem. How cheap do you insist this beer be? I
don't buy the cheapest beer available, I don't really buy based on price
except when it gets exorbitant. But six-packs are up over $6 today for
almost anything. I buy cases, usually -- it's Pennsylvania, we have
to...it's a long story -- but I buy on the road, too, and there's not
a lot of difference. Besides, if you're eating grilled salmon and coq
au vin, you're not cheaping on food, right? Why cheap on beer when
it means so much to you?
Open your eyes, open your mouth! There's a
whole damned world of beer out there, there's a damned banquet table feast
of beer. And what are you doing? Sitting in the corner, eyes to the
wall, sipping from one warm can. This is America, pal, the land of the
individual. Are you a man, or a sheep?
Now get out there and try some beers. You're in
SoCal, try some Karl Strauss,
get some Ballast Point
Yellowtail Pale. Then when you go on the road, try something
local, instead of something that's been shipped 1,900 miles in the back
of a semi. I guarantee you'll have some beers you won't like. But
I also guarantee you'll have some you'll like every bit as much as you
ever liked Rock. And you won't be married to them. Bonus.
Happy drinking, Norm!