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August 15, 2003

A Matter Of Some Import

The first full beer I ever drank was a St. Pauli Girl, in the company of several other under-aged friends, rocking back and forth on the front porch of the Inland Waterway Treasure Company in Oriental, watching the boats come into the small harbor there.

The second beer I drank was a Beck's, that same warm evening in the summer of my 17th year. There's nothing like a beer after a hard day on the water, one of us said. We all nodded, agreeing with the sage wisdom he had imparted.


The third was a St. Pauli Girl Dark, the fourth, Beck's Dark. The fifth........Molson Golden. We found ourselves vowing to drink one of each beer in the Treasure Company fancy ales and imports cooler, though for some reason after the Molson I no longer remember what I had, nor how many.

I do remember throwing up in the woods on our way back to the church camp we worked at that summer. The white cheese and shrimp pizza I'd had with my hoity-toity beers was still recognizable

It's probably a good thing that summer came before the advent of the American microbrewing revolution, else I might have died that night, trying to fulfill my muddle-headed vow. The Treasure Company no longer sells beer, or at least it didn't last time I was in Oriental, but if it did that cooler would now hold upwards of 100 different beers. We'd of had to drink there all summer, and a regular weekend crowd of underaged Methodist youth would undoubtedly have drawn the attention of the town cop.

In the beer desert that was North Carolina in the 1970's and early 80's, the imports were large frogs in a small classy beer pond. Heineken was the undisputed lord of the lake. Coors, because it was unavailable east of the Mississippi, enjoyed a mythical reputation just below that of the also unavailable Corona. The revolution was on the horizon; the appearance of 8 or 9 previously unknown imported brews in what was still a sleepy fishing town on the Intracoastal Waterway was the sign of new things a-coming, but the change was still a few years away.

Even later that year at Carolina, where local lore had it that during the semester the average Chapel Hill resident consumed more beer than the average German, the story was similar. The upper class beers at the bars were Michelob, or the ubiquitous Heineken. Most of the students drank 75 cent pitchers of Schaefer or Geobel, which inevitabley came to be known as Goebbels if you were drinking with a geek, as indeed all my friends were. Despite the fact that both were basically cheap swill, each had its passionate defenders and detractors. A man will defend his chosen alcohol against all comers, no matter what kind of horse it originally sprung from.

Despite the endless debate, we'd drink whatwever was put in front of us. The absolute best beer at that time was one someone else had bought.

Occasionally. when money was at hand and the weather was nice, we'd troop down to the walk-in cooler at the long vanished Foster's Grocery, to gaze in wonder and confusion at not only Heineken, Beck's and Saint Pauli Girl, but Grolsch and La Belle Fisher and dozens more besides.

We'd spend fifteen minutes picking a six of just the right import, then grab a case of swill on the way out. Even when we had money we couldn't afford to get drunk off imports, but damn if it didn't impress the women, or so we told each other.

"Besides, after the first three who can tell the difference?"

My friends still say that, just to annoy me, but nonetheless can be counted on to show up with a six or twelve pack of import to go with their choice of swill, long after we became invisible to impressionable co-eds.

So, in deference to long-standing habit, and because I've discovered that more people participate in the polls if they've actually heard of the choices, here are the latest contestants.

Ten Beers Enter! One Beer Leaves! - Import Bracket

The poll will appear here permanently, and over on the right until the next poll runs. All the polls will eventually appear here. Vote early and often. Write-ins will be counted, but only if they are in the style of the pool above. If anyone is upset by the omission of their favorite import, send us a six-pack, and we'll apologize profusely.

Posted by Bigwig at August 15, 2003 02:55 PM | TrackBack
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It's difficult to choose... Harp is good, but Red Stripe helps our white friends dance.

Posted by: eli at August 15, 2003 03:09 PM

I like the crisp, hoppy taste of St. Pauli Girl, but the beer quality is really hit or miss here in Arizona. You never know when you're going to get a skunk in the bottle.

Posted by: J. Austin Wilde at August 15, 2003 07:45 PM


Not a Chimay, Hansens, Huyghe, Kreuzburg, Closter Andechs, Diebels, Fullers, Bitburger, Dortmunder Actien Bier, Budvar, or even Four X on the list.

These things you list aren't foofy imports. These are highly overpriced foreign mass market swill. Can you say "Budweiser" in German? Grolsch is almost passable; Harp about the same. But that's it. I'll drink that other stuff if it's free... but I'd never pay for it.

I keep Miller Hi Life and Juengling in the fridge, in case it happens to be 95 degrees out, and the water just isn't thirst quenching enough. Otherwise, I stick with the stuff Michael Jackson (We are not worthy, we are not worthy) says competes with the best in the world - Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam, anything by the Magic Hat folks, Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale, or the afforementioned foofy imports.

Honest to God, why bother being a beer geek if you are just going to keep spreading the gospel of mediocre swill?

I know you'll get more responses if everybody has had the beer... but if responses are the goal, why not just stack up Bud against Miller against Natural Lite? Hell, if it will make you feel better, put some good beers up there and I'll vote 20 or 30 times.

Just make it stop! Ow.

And yes, I have a snootfull from my local brewpub as I'm typing this. Some cask-conditioned IPA, and a little Belgian Blonde ale, thanks for asking. So my money is indeed co-located with that part I use for mastication...

And the rest of you - get out there and support your local brewpub. Ask about a beer tasting. Try new beers at random. Please - life is too short to drink bad beer.

Posted by: Blackavar at August 15, 2003 09:43 PM

What, no Guinness? Extra Stout, even?


(My recommendation: Belhaven Scottish Ale, bottled. Smokey, nutty, and rich And probably unavailable at a grocery store near you).

Posted by: Kurt Montandon at August 15, 2003 11:22 PM

Guinness is winning the stout poll as we speak, Kurt. You can see all of the polls on this page if you scroll around a bit.

Belhaven is usually available at specialty wine/beer stores. Most decent sized cities have at least one.

As for you, Blackavar, if I put Chimay up on a poll the only way it even has a chance of winning is if no one has ever heard of the other nine, either.

Besides, I'll be taking it anyway.

And honey gets more flies than vinegar. If you want a man to drink good beer, never denigrate what he has in his bottle at the moment. Buying him a glass of something decent also never hurt.

Those who become beer geeks are always persuaded, never forced. People who vote at the poll today might read the Weihenstephaner post tomorrow, and try that next time. If they like it then odds are the next Beer of the night gets tried as well.

Eventually I will have made a geek.

Unless you decide to help again. :)

Posted by: bigwig at August 16, 2003 12:03 AM

[[A man will defend his chosen alcohol against all comers, no matter what kind of horse it originally sprung from.]]


How well I remember the Chapel Hill lore ... reprinted in the Charlotte Observer in the fall of '78 ... about Germans drinking something like 27 gallons per capita per annum, and Chapel Hill drinking something like 88. It was a gap about that huge, anyway.

Moral/philosophical question: If life is too short to drink bad beer, is it then wrong to convert a person into a beer geek at gunpoint? Time, after all, is of the essence.

Posted by: Lex at August 18, 2003 05:28 PM
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