Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

January 3, 2012

Beer Diary:

An Addendum To The Myth Of The Magic Beer Truck

A new year is here and nothing has changed: what other people drink still matters.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
For some reason around the holidays I always find myself visiting rural and small town bars. And by small town, I don’t mean Grand Rapids, Michigan or Munster, Indiana. I’m talking population 2,000. Or less. Sometimes an unincorporated town, where the only operating business is the bar. Maybe this happens mostly during the holidays because I’m usually fleeing certain family gatherings that might—MIGHT—be slightly more appealing than undergoing an old fashioned medieval disemboweling. While The Fray is playing in the background. Or Coldplay, I dunno, since they’re the SAME FUCKING BAND.

But I love hitting these out-of-the-way taverns. Most of them have real character, and a lot of times you can feel the sense of community the place imparts to the people who live around it. Unsurprisingly, though, 99.9 percent of the bars like this I stop in have abysmally dour beer lists. If I’m lucky, they might have a Fat Tire or Bell’s Oberon or something reasonably local, but beyond that it’s purely shit beer Hell. But I find it interesting to sit there at the bar and see what people order. And this past holiday season when I popped into a remote country bar after I narrowly escaped a convocation of bickering Glicks I was only vaguely related to, I was reminded once again of the myth of the Magic Beer Truck.

A man walks up to the bar and orders a Miller Lite. The bartender responds, “Sure. Bottle, can, or draft?”
The Magic Beer Truck, in case you’ve forgotten, is the ludicrous notion that there’s infinite room in the distributor’s truck, space on the retailer’s shelf, and available tap handles in the tavern to accommodate the scores of identical shit beer brands while still having room for locally made, quality craft brews, as well as the equally ludicrous belief that other people mindlessly spending money on this crap because of incessant TV ads or they think they look “hip” with that tallboy of PBR in their hand in no way affects what beers get put on that truck/shelf/tap handle.

But back to my story, which is actually not an interesting story by any means, just a run-of-the-mill interaction. A man walks up to the bar and orders a Miller Lite. The bartender responds, “Sure. Bottle, can, or draft?”

I’m not sure why that exchange suddenly struck me, since I probably saw some variation of it dozens of times before. But strike it did, and I found myself aghast at the fact that while this place had virtually no locally produced beer—even though less than an hour’s drive in almost any direction would have landed me in at least half a dozen breweries—it had three methods of delivering the same shitty ass beer, a beer that was almost identical to 15 other shitty ass beer brands wasting space in the cooler.

And I’m sure distributors whose lips are firmly locked on the big beer teat present the cans, bottles, and kegs of the same beer to tavern owners as a good thing, because, Hell, it’s giving the consumer more choice, right? Meanwhile, that’s one more tap handle that’s not a Bell’s or a Capital or a Sun King or a Summit or a Two Brothers. That’s one more shelf filled with cans of Miller Lite, Bud Light, and Coors Lite instead of bottles of Millstream or Lakefront or Great Lakes or Dark Horse.

Obviously, this isn’t endemic to rural bars. As Rings pointed out in a recent article, it’s just as prevalent, if not moreso, in big cities. But this seemingly innocuous incident not only reminded me that it does matter what other people are drinking—and no matter what anyone says, it DOES affect your access to quality, locally produced beer—it also matters what they’re drinking it out of. (Pardon my participle.) Pretty damn depressing, if you think about it. Unless, of course, you believe in the Magic Beer Truck.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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