Zero Dollar Beer

Beer is gross. My editors, it turns out, are also gross, as they have decided to devote an entire issue of our magazine to it. But I am a communist, and thus oriented towards taking one for the team. As an act of protest, however, and because I do not believe in market economies/have $13 in my bank account, I am only reviewing the beer I manage to get for free: at parties, and, in an act of virtuosic mooching, from my roommate’s supply. It’s not pretty, but neither is late capitalism.

Keg

(free; party)

I don’t know what kind of beer is filling this keg, but whatever it is, it tastes like pool water. It’s Saturday night, and two friends and I stand hunched in the hallway of a very full and sweaty party, swishing the weak liquid like mouthwash and muttering into my recorder. The beer tastes like the kind of water that leaves mineral marks on your showerhead, like water you’ve soaked a penny in for a couple weeks, “like dirty water,” my friend says, “but not unpleasantly.” It’s bubbly, in a despondent sort of way, and has the tinny quality of canned tomatoes. At this point in our tasting, someone asks us if we’re in line for the bathroom. We are not.

PBR

(free; party)

On the upside, the can rests securely in my cleavage, which both cools me off and leaves my hands free to gesticulate and reach for the Tostitos. On the downside, it’s Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR’s mouthfeel is fuzzier than the keg beer’s, more rounded and softer. If the keg beer was “flavorless Pop Rocks,” as my friend claimed, then this is Alka-Seltzer. If the keg beer was making out on a shag rug, this is cuddling with a puppy. A puppy with hops on its breath. The can informs me that “nature’s choicest products” are responsible for PBR’s “prized flavor,” which I doubt, and also that PBR was “selected as America’s beer,” which I believe utterly. Nationalism is a bitter brew.

Flipside Red IPA

($2.00 to my roommate; common room)

Sunday afternoon in my common room, and I’m breaking into my roommate’s beer supply. She takes a sip in order to “refresh [her] memory,” and then stares at me enigmatically as though she has arcane knowledge of this brew’s flavor profile that I will never access. This is the same coy smile I give heterosexual men who ask me what lesbians do in bed (mostly divination), and it is maddening. But even I can tell the difference in quality: Flipside Red IPA is not as gross and coppery as the beers from the night before, and makes my tongue tingle intriguingly. I can even get on board with the “robust tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors” claimed on the label—is that a whiff of coconut? Flipside Red IPA is so alarmingly not disgusting, in fact, I find myself rethinking my orientation: Am I a beer drinker? Do I perhaps see the merit of spending more than a minimum on alcohol? Do I even have a stable identity? This beer has notes of apricot and strong overtones of postmodernity.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

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