Issue August 4, 2009

Mugshots

Sharing the wealth

I’m packing tonight for our annual (and purely educational) NABC company jaunt to Madison, Wis., and another fervent immersion in the city’s unequaled craft beer celebration, the Great Taste of the Midwest.

As always, the Great Taste takes place on a single Saturday afternoon at a pleasant wooded park alongside Lake Olin, with a gorgeous view of downtown Madison.

A better-behaved, more conducive open-air forum for enjoying the liquid benefits of America’s craft beer revolution simply does not exist hereabouts. Each year, hundreds of ales and lagers are available for sampling, many rarely seen. Few seasonal beer festivals inspire such good-natured competition among the attending breweries. They bring their very best, and lucky ticket holders cherish the reward.

And “lucky” these ticket holders surely are, because they’ve beaten the odds. The Great Taste sells out months in advance, and last-minute road trips are discouraged unless you have an “in.” One possibility for those without advance ducats is a thriving “resale” market near the entrance.

What better way to espouse good ol’ capitalistic values than negotiating with a scalper who probably voted for FOX News’s favorite backdoor socialist, Barack Obama?

That’s right: There’s a leftist tint to Madison. Apart from the wonders of its one-day craft beer fete, the city’s fair-minded, intrinsic liberalism never fails to impress this unrepentant Social Democrat. When one considers the strong likelihood that frothy right-wing politicians like Kentucky’s lame-duck Jim Bunning habitually refer to Wisconsin’s state capital as “The People’s Republic of Madison,” it’s a reminder for people of my persuasion to go there whenever possible, investing early and often in the local beer-making economy, and recalling that in political terms, Kentucky remains lamentably “in the Red.”

Come to think of it, for the very first time since I’ve been visiting Madison for the beer experience of the Great Taste, my own Hoosier state has turned a shade of blue, albeit tenuously, thanks to Obama’s ascent to the White House.

•••

Last week, the president’s first foray into writing an intelligible beer list for those coming to his new residence to discuss weighty issues rooted in the American historical record predictably fell victim to something else inexorably tied to our cultural experience: Fear of flavor.

The chief executive opted for mass-market, low-calorie lager (Bud Light), formerly American but now mass-produced by a multinational consortium based in Europe. One of his two visitors chose Blue Moon, a deceptively marketed, Belgian-style mockrobrew brewed by another internationally industrialized entity. The final panel member selected Sam Adams Light, which is indisputably American even if it epitomizes nothing about the creative advances achieved by the nation’s craft brewers.

Big issues, small beer.

If golden was to be the color of a chat about race, my suggestion would have been Brooklyn Lagers all around. Brooklyn Lager hails from multi-ethnic New York City, in a reliably blue state, and it is not an emasculated low-cal abomination. It is devised and brewed by Garrett Oliver, an African-American brewmaster who knows food and beer pairings better than anyone else, and has written about them in “The Brewmaster’s Table.”

I recommend that President Obama read Oliver’s book — after he’s through imposing communism on Ayn Rand’s disciples. 

•••

Last Friday night, a Bank Street Brewhouse customer asked one of our servers to explain my political beliefs in light of the red stars on the shiny new brewing equipment.

Our man on the floor made a game effort to interpret these complex threads of geopolitics, economics and the art of brewing, and phrase them in a snappy sentence that is reproducible on a bumper sticker for a Lexus, and yet the customer remained unimpressed, writing this on his charge card receipt:

“Tell your commie boss to share the wealth.”

Harrumph! I share the wealth of knowledge every day, and I think he may have been joking, but just in case, I’ve circulated this memorandum on the topic of what to say when someone asks such a question. The proper answer is:

“We don’t care what sort of ‘ist’ he is, just as long as he keeps signing the paychecks.”

Don’t forget to support your local breweries. They’re your bulwarks against creeping swillism.