Thursday, July 31, 2014
Guinness: Prelude to a Question
I was never much of a beer drinker in my early twenties. I had (and still have) a pretty strong love for sugar, and bitter flavors just didn't do anything for me at all. Then I moved to Ohio, went back to college at a slightly more-advanced-than-usual age, and I discovered the joys of social drinking. My friends and I would get together at local bars and pubs on a fairly regular basis and we'd talk about movies and coursework and politics and philosophy and whatever else occurred to us, all over a nice steady flow of alcohol. I very quickly discovered that of all alcohol's various forms, beer was the best suited to this task. It comes in a more modest ABV range than other drinks, so one can consume it for extended periods of time without degenerating into a drunken mess or spending a fortune. Its subtle bitterness makes it feel more contemplative and substantial than flashy flavored shots or elaborate mixed drinks. And its wide range of varieties make it a stable drink choice with lots of room for personality in its specifics. I found that a fresh beer every half hour or so kept my thirst quenched, my mellow mood consistent, and my pleasant conversations at their most enjoyable.
Before long, I found myself casting about for a go-to beer. Something that I could depend on finding at whatever establishment I entered. Something that, despite a generally high level of availability, would still reflect a degree of discerning personal preference on my part.
It was around that time that Yuengling expanded from a well-established local operation in eastern Pennsylvania into a regional brand, and suddenly you could find it everywhere. It was mild, sweet, reasonably-priced, widely available, and establishing its status just as I was beginning to get a taste for beer. This proved to make it a perfect match, and very quickly Yuengling lager became my beer of choice.
Then a little over a year ago, I moved back to Nevada. Yuengling is a regional brand, and my new desert home falls well outside the boundaries of that region. Thus, I was forced to move beyond my previously-established preference and explore new territory. As always, there were craft beers and specialty brews both good and bad, but these were not dependable enough for this purpose. There were also all the usual national brands, but Budweiser and Miller and Keystone and Coors all taste like carbonated urine to me so I had no interest in them. I tried Rolling Rock, having heard that it was similar to Yuengling, but I was disappointed to say the least. After some time and some thought, I remembered that on cold winter nights in the cozy confines of a local pub, I had occasionally partaken of (and rather enjoyed) Guinness. It seemed like something of a heavy, warming drink for chilly evenings (which we don't see around here too often), but I decided to give it a try as my regular go-to selection anyway.
As the opening sentence of this post would indicate, the experiment was a success. As I've aged, my ability to handle bolder, more bitter flavors has increased. The strong coffee aspect of the beer's taste used to bother me because I hated coffee in even its more watered-down milk and sugar and chocolate syrup forms. Now I drink coffee black. Yuengling was the right beer for me at the right time, but now is a different time and I have different tastes. Guinness is the right beer for this time. It has shot to number one on my list of both dependable options for any bar and just favorite beers in general. I won't claim it is as finely crafted or expertly balanced as boutique beers, but I don't really care. It is my favorite beer, and for the time being I can't see any reason why that should change.
Now that I've set the stage, I'm going to clarify the title of this post. I had set out to write something very different, but I got sidetracked in the prologue, as it were. The question that the title refers to, and the topic of my next post, is simple: can or bottle?