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Confessions of a Beer Snob

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As a result of writing some facts about Guinness Stout, a few Facebook friends have asked some questions about good stouts. It seemed like a fun excuse for a rant…

I’ll start by admitting that I’m a beer snob. Lagers, pilsners, ales, light beers and (gasp) even your precious IPAs taste like crap to me. They’re for people who don’t like beer. For those of you who need to drink a 6-pack or a case of beer at a time, I guess I can understand your need to drink watery beer. Personally, I couldn’t drink a 6-pack of WATER in one sitting! (Yuck!)

What You Didn’t Know About Light Beer
Growing up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, there was a brewery nearby called Dawson Brewery. Dawson was never a very popular beer in New England because it tasted watered-down. Budweiser and Schlitz tasted like full-bodied brews compared to Dawsons! It was second-rate New Bedford beer. When I was a teen, the Dawson Brewing company was purchased by Rheingold and Dawson Beer became Reingold’s low calorie “Gablinger’s Beer”. Nationally, there was still no one who liked watery beer and so the brewery closed it’s doors in 1977.
The Miller Brewing Co. bought the recipe for ‘diet beer’ from Rheingold. When they test-marketed it as a “women’s beer” it failed so miserably it was an embarrassment. Apparently, women hadn’t been waiting for a feminine beer to come along. A marketing firm suggested the opposite approach. Run ads with big, burly, macho sports figures drinking “Lite” beer in a barroom and have them claim they drink it because it’s “less filling”.

It worked! Proof that, with the proper marketing*, people will buy anything. Today, every major American beer company makes its own version of the ill-fated, watery Dawson Beer once made only at the corner of Brook St. and Sawyer in New Bedford, MA.

* Anheuser-Busch’s “Chelada” is another good example of how you can market just about any bad idea so people will buy it. How stoned was the executive who suggested mixing Budweiser with CLAMATO JUICE? Seriously??


When I feel like drinking a beer, I drink one beer and I’m satisfied… so I want it to be a good beer. Which means a good porter or a stout. Those are what beer should taste like. (For simplicity sake, think of a porter as a light stout.) For the purpose of this rant, I’ll talk about stouts. I also will restrict the discussion to major brands, as opposed to the thousands of local craft-brewers and micro-brewers out there.

When most Americans think of stouts, they think of Guinness Stout. It’s the biggest-selling stout worldwide. I consider Guinness to be TRAINING WHEELS for drinking stouts and porters. It’s ‘Stout Lite’. In my lifetime, Guinness has gone from 7% alcohol to 4.1%. Most good stouts range from 7% to 10.5%. Guinness even has fewer calories than many light beers!

By the way, Dawson Beer, Gabliger’s Beer and Miller Lite are all 4.2% alcohol… That’s .1% more than today’s Guinness!

Wanna taste a real stout? Start with Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. It’s a nice, mellow step between Guinness and the really awesome stouts available. Also, you can find it in most parts of the country. After Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, try a Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout. that’ll be your first real stout.

To a connoisseur, some stouts have a faint chocolate taste, while others have a faint coffee taste. You may just taste a very rich and flavorful beer. If you find you enjoy stouts, check out some of my very favorites…

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout Left Hand Milk Stout Lion Stout Ten Fidy Stout (My #1 favorite… if it wasn’t $3.50 per can, I’d drink it exclusively!)

If you come by the house, I’ll be happy to give you a can of Santa Fe Brewing Co’s “Java Stout”, which is the one I always have on hand. It’s funny, for a stout that is rated in the top 10% nationally, very few of the 500+ restaurants in Santa Fe serve it (or ANY porters and stouts, for that matter!) If you’re local, Cowgirl BBQ carries Java Stout (!) and Left Hand Milk Stout. Omira’s Brazilian Steakhouse stocks Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, one of the best out there!
Last night, we ate at a local restaurant that boasts nearly 20 brands of imported and domestic beers. Not one of them was a porter or a stout! I opted for water because it was cheaper than the yellow fizzy water that passes for beer.

I think that qualifies me as a beer snob.