Nobody sets out to be what Kingsley Amis refers to as a â€œbeer bore.â€ When youâ€™re a teenager you donâ€™t drone on about Belgian Lambics, how you only drink KÃ¶lsch in Cologne and mercifully you never utter the word â€œhandcrafted.â€ No, when youâ€™re eighteen you drink whatâ€™s available, familiar, cheap and geographically appropriate. And thatâ€™s as it should be.
For us, summers in Wisconsin meant Leinenkugelâ€™s, which came, like Annie Hall, from nearby Chippewa Falls. The bottle declared that itâ€™s â€œbrewed by 73 people who careâ€ which is reassuring. Itâ€™s been around since 1867 and has been run by many generations of Jacob Leinenkugelâ€™s descendants, which is good. Then it was bought by an international conglomerate in 1988, which is not as good, but perhaps not surprising.
Even for those of use who are devoted wine drinkers, it remains a very fine beer. Well, perhaps not very fine, but certainly good enough. Thatâ€™s one of the funny things about the beer you grow up with: Your associations are so strong that they can overwhelm your judgment about the taste. This comes into sharp relief when you try your friendâ€™s favorite beer from Washington or Maine and hint that itâ€™s subpar (perhaps over the years you have acquired a few habits of the beer bore). Your friend looks at you icily, as if youâ€™ve insulted his motherâ€™s cooking.
Yes, itâ€™s all highly subjective. Leinenkugelâ€™s has gone through some changes. Theyâ€™ve introduced seasonal flavors for some reason. But itâ€™s best to stick to the original, which is a beer you drink on the shore of a lake. Thereâ€™s also been some back and forth about the woman on the bottle. For a while she had the look of a fierce Native American woman, which I always found inspiring as a kid, though in terms of corporate identity thatâ€™s probably frowned upon these days. Perhaps not coincidentally her ethnicity has changed, and now sheâ€™s of no specific culture, just a tanned girl with a feather in her hair, possibly an environmental studies major from a good family. Who can explain these things?
On the wall of the Sapporo brewery in Hokkaido, youâ€™ll find the saying: â€œAs long as man has been civilized, he has been brewing beer.â€ Now thatâ€™s downright inspiring. The equation for beer endures because it canâ€™t be improved upon. Most men want consistency in their beer, their scotch and, for that matter, even their clothes. Over the long run they donâ€™t want novelty flavors or strange new bottles developed for no reason. Itâ€™s like baseball: itâ€™s a great game, so just play it without endless music and absurd contests on the video screen. In fact, the only thing you need at a baseball game beside the baseball is beer. Thatâ€™s nature, my friends, and itâ€™s as elemental as it gets. â€”DAVID COGGINS