Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

September 17, 2007

Beer Issues:


A quality beer experience must supercede all.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
I guess this has been a long time coming.

The impetus for this article comes from a few weeks ago, when I went to the bar to try Goose Island’s latest release, Harvest Ale. I was really looking forward to it since the Goose’s last outing, the 312 Urban Wheat, was absolutely horrific, and I was hoping that they’d redeem themselves. So I traveled to the nearest establishment that had it on tap, bellied up to the bar, and ordered a pint. I leaned forward to take a whiff, but just as I pulled the glass toward my schnoz, the dude sitting next to me and his girlfriend both lit up smokes. So, of course, the miasma of smoke completely blotted out any aroma I could detect from the beer, and my virgin taste of Harvest Ale was basically ruined.

Before I get any further, I want to say that this is not a general anti-smoking rant. I don’t smoke, but normally I don’t care if the guy next to me sucks on a cig until smoke starts rolling out his ass. More power to him. Unless I’m drinking a quality beer. That’s where I draw the line. If I can’t taste the beer I paid good money for (and, in some cases, I can’t get anywhere else within a 100-mile radius) because of someone smoking, I become officially annoyed and suddenly transform into a proponent of an ultra-harsh worldwide ban.

I know, I know. You smokers out there are shouting the arguments at the computer screen right now, and I’ve heard ’em before. So let’s go through all two of them:

Argument #1: If you don’t like it, leave. Actually, I really wished this argument did hold water. But it doesn’t, and I know this because I’ve tried to use it on several occasions while getting eighty-sixed from a bar. For instance, a few years ago I was into this habit of spitting. I didn’t chew tobacco or anything, I just would spit every few minutes. It made me look tough and, yes, even a little bit dangerous. Chicks dug it, people respected me, it was good times. Anyway, I spat on the sidewalk, in the car, at work, even on the carpet here in the folks’ basement. And I spat in the bar in between sips of beer. Even though I spat a lot, I still had trouble with my aim sometimes. So every once in a while it’d land on someone’s shoes or socks or toes, if they were, say, a woman wearing sandals. And there has not been even one scientific study so much as suggesting that my spit can cause cancer, and people still got pissed off. “You don’t like it?” I responded. “Then leave.” I reiterated that to the bouncer while my arm was bent behind my back, too. Like I said, that argument doesn’t work.

The point is, society gets to decide who leaves and who stays. Don’t believe me? Try going into the nearest bar with a boombox and blasting some Behemoth at top volume. If you don’t get kicked out, let me know, because that will be my new hangout. But if you get your ass booted (and you will—trust me, you will) it’ll prove that Argument #1 only works as long as the number of people smoking outnumbers the people who are annoyed by it. Live by the sword … you know the rest.

Argument #2: This is America and it’s my right to smoke. I read through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and nowhere does it say that one of our inalienable rights as American citizens is being able to smoke in all public places. There are precedents after precedents after precedents of laws that govern what people do, or put into, their bodies, narcotics being the prime example. Besides, this isn’t about you smoking, it’s about where you smoke. At least you can buy cigarettes whenever you want them, smoke in the car, and smoke in the street. That would be pretty harsh if you couldn’t, right? Well, you can’t buy beer at certain times, drink beer—or even have a beer open, in some states—in a car, or walk around outside with an open beer in nearly every municipality in the Midwest. Once again, in a democracy, society decides the rules, and a lot of times they override individual freedoms, for better or for worse.

One way we could all get along would be to encourage bars to decide for themselves. Good beer bars could ban smoking, letting beer dorks enjoy their drinks in unsullied glory. Other joints would allow smoking, since there’s really no point in actually tasting mass-produced swill, so a choking fog of smoke would even be a little bit welcome. I’ve been in plenty of bars with shit beer lists where the smoking doesn’t bother me in the least. In some places, it’s an integral part of the ambience.

But there’s one major hole in that solution. It won’t work because while most non-smokers will only go through relatively modest lengths to avoid smoking, many smokers will literally walk on live coals to feed that nicotine addiction. To wit: one time I was driving by an office building while it was raining, the temperature just above freezing, and I saw this guy standing in the rain, not under an awning or anything, without a coat on, with one hand jammed in his pants pocket, the other holding a butt as he puffed on it as fast as he could. That’s almost as pathetic as the dude I saw walking down the street with his pants falling down and his shirt was tucked into his underwear. And that is pretty goddamn pathetic.

So in other words, given a choice, a bar will cater to smokers even if it alienates a couple of non-smoking patrons. Most will come to the bar for the good beer list, while quite a few smokers will stay away if they can’t smoke, even if that beer list is the best in the world.

Which leaves as a final solution a total smoking ban. Two states in the Midwest—Minnesota and Ohio—already have bans in place, and Illinois has one going into effect in 2008. And I have to say, I’m for them. When I buy a good beer, I need to get the full tastes and smells. If smoking didn’t interfere, I wouldn’t have a beef. But it does.

The beer has to come first. Period.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...