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February 20, 2007

Mug Shots: Bulk up better beer lists

 Of all the inexplicably deleterious burdens inflicted on beer by the multinational corporations that specialize in its degradation (they refer to the pillage as “marketing”), the very worst is relentlessly cheapening the conceptual essence of beer to sell more of it.    Conversely, America’s wine industry learned long ago to tolerate Boone’s Farm while aggressively pushing up-market imagery. Designer spirits drive their respective categories, even if rotgut’s still in the well.     The traditional response of our bloated megabrewing conglomerates is to utter variations on the same vapid battle cry: “30 packs — cheap and ice cold!”    Unfortunately, owners and bar managers put little thought into the beer list, as it is the habit almost everywhere to defer to the suggestions of wholesalers. I submit that drinking establishments must be more proactive in their beer choices, basing these selections on reasoning from within, rather than relying on the slippery self-interest of the supplier.    It is an article of faith that creative cocktail and wine options must be offered to attract a key demographic. Why doesn’t this same consideration apply to the beer selection?    Why are bar customers duly challenged with a Godzilla Fart cocktail and not Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout?    Why is it accepted that Japanese lager beer goes with sushi and Chinese lager beer goes with egg drop soup, when the Japanese and Chinese lagers are precisely the same and possess neither the brains nor the brawn to make food matches interesting? Why not Bell’s Two Hearted, BBC Dark Star Porter, La Chouffe or Franziskaner Hefe Weisse?     Beer gets short shrift. Dining and drinking establishments that are in competition for the discretionary income of consumers stand to benefit from differentiation, but although they commonly understand this in other ways, many seem unable to extend the analogy to beer.Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. He writes about beer for Food & Dining magazine. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.