Saturday, December 13, 2008

Short's: Only in America

Ignorance may be bliss, but the ignorance people show when they talk about "great beer" makes me rethink the meaning of bliss. Dealing with beer for a living, I hear people gush about Euro lagers like Stella Artois and Heineken, or speak about how Tsingtao is better than American beer because of their ancient Chinese secret ways, or Guinness/Beamish/Murphy's...and Red Stripe??? You like these beers, fine, but don't give me the "it's better cause it's imported" argument.

We know that Bud and Bud Light are the biggest selling beers mostly because of their massive advertising, but what about Sam Adams? I personally can't hear "Who do you Love" without thinking of their commercials, which is a switch from the days where I couldn't hear it without quickly tuning to another station. They have barely made a dent in the public's idea of what great beer is. People also are unwilling to change their beliefs as to what is good, even if what is good to them is piss wrapped in European smugness and fueled by American insecurity. It has to be great if they make it, right? While advertising and complacency may be big culprits here, ignorance rears its head most prominently when these same people talk about the great beers. This ignorant thinking about the superiority of Any Beer Not Made in the United States is infuriating. Don't these people wonder what all those exotic looking six-packs in the American beer section of their local markets hold, as they saunter past in search of a 24 oz. bottle of Beck's?

This rant comes a few days after finishing a growler of Uber Goober, a peanut butter oatmeal stout created by Short's Brewing. Short's had long been on my radar of beer to try, and I finally got my chance at this year's Great American Beer Fest. Their line was the second longest of the day, only surpassed by Russian River Brewing, so I knew I wasn't the only one interested in this company's beers.

Short's is a brewery that epitomizes the spirit of American craft brewing: calling the town Bellaire, Michigan home, in the upper, upper, area of the state (these guys are almost north of Ottawa), with a population of under 1,200 people, they still have managed to crank out 50 varieties of beer- atypical beer at that: black cherry porters, smoked apple beers, beers fermented with over 400 pounds of bananas, a bloody mary-inspired beer with Roma tomatoes, dill, horseradish, and peppercorns, and the aforementioned uber goober, an oatmeal stout which is fermented over peanuts. Uber Goober is one of the richest stouts I have tasted, with a full chocolate mouthfeel initially, with the nuttiness coming through in the finish. We were enjoying this beer so much that the growler was gone before we knew it. That's too bad, because in my peanut-chocolate-alcohol euphoria I had visions of soaking bread in Uber Goober and making French toast with it the next morning...but that will have to wait until the next time I can get my hands on this treat.

I remember reading a piece about how some breweries were skipping the Great American Beer Fest because of the overall cost of putting everything together. Short's justified the cost as "We think of it as a way of rewarding our employees". Hey AmBev: you hear that? Those 1,900 layoffs are one hell of a Christmas present to those folks in St. Louis, don't you think?

So the next time you see the person in line with their 12-pack of Foster's, case of Bud Dry, or silver bullet-style cans of Sapporo, relish in the fact that you have the knowledge of choice. The knowledge that you don't have to settle for one bland style...rather a million choices fueled by the ingenuity that is American craft brewing, from amped up pilsners to Imperial Pumpkin beers to 20% IPAs. Cheers to Short's and other breweries like them, with the drive to keep pushing the envelope and making the best beers possible, whether the rest of the world takes notice or not.

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