Friday, March 4, 2011

The Session #49: Regular Beer

Regular beer has been an ever-shifting descriptor during my life. I came of age in the Pacific Northwest during the early heyday of craft brewery explosion. That means my memory crosses the generations. High school was all Olympia and Rainier. Sure, they were domestics, but they touched a cord and addressed a need. You wanna talk game? Vitamin R hired Mickey Rooney, and Olympia was already on the national circuit. In college, everything changed. I recall the times as an undergraduate in Eugene when Widmer Hefeweizen was fighting for tap space and pricing itself to beat out domestics. This was the same time where I could roll into the local 7-11, and score 22 bottles of Rogue, which was something that I took for granted until I moved East for graduate school. I also recall summers in Seattle when the bartender at Red Hook’s Trolleyman would fill our bike bottles with beer as we headed out the door.

With all this said, one of my regular beers for a long time was Rolling Rock. This was in part inspired by moving to Buffalo for graduate school, where Saranac didn’t inspire me in the ways that Northwest brewing did. They tried, but they weren't living up to what I had left behind. Rolling Rock was an easy-drinking beer, and it had been a favorite of my mother’s. (Note: one of my brothers recently crushed my fond memories by informing my that my mother liked Rolling Rock because Dirk Pitt drank it. Yes, Dirk Pitt of Clive Cussler fame. And I guess this inspired my mother to like Rolling Rock. When I thought it was her own interest in beer. But I didn’t know this at the time.) So I drank Rolling Rock, and several of the East Coast beers that were trying to be good. When Ommegang and Southern Tier came around, and Victory started showing up in Buffalo, life turned over a new leaf. Things were good. But Rolling Rock was always there for me, too. And I remembered that.

Then one day I noticed that the horse on the beer cap and label changed. Not a lot. But it had changed. Then I noticed that the city at the bottom of the front of the label had changed from Latrobe, PA to St. Louis, MO. I felt violated. No, really. The glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe aren’t in St. Louis. When I realized what that meant, I felt really violated. You can laugh. But I did. Something died in me that day.

I still drink Rolling Rock on occasion, but the taste is always bittersweet. Maybe it is because I’m angry. Maybe it is because craft brewing caught finally caught on on the East Coast, and I could finally find the beers that hadn’t been there before. And now, with the craft brewing explosion, there are things I like all over the place. “Regular” beer is much more plentiful than ever before. Even in Dayton, OH, I can find beer that fits. Southern Tier Pale Ale does the job, as does Rivertown Dunkel and Jeffrey McElfresh Smoky Brown. That’s right, I rely on local homebrew to get my regular fix. I also travel enough to see the regular beer I wish was local as well as regular: Full Sail Session, Bruery Humulus Session, and Iron Horse Hop Hub Pale Ale offer a peek, but this list could go on and on. To the break-a-break-a-dawn even. But regular beer. I want more session-strength American craft beer. And I want more local beer. Maybe you don’t live in he hinterlands, but I do. Who is with me?



  1. Rolling Rock, believe it or not, got me hooked onto craft beer. Growing up in the 70's in Bowling Green, OH, my dad would let me take sips of his Saturday afternoon glass of Rolling Rock. remember Dad getting exciting when Rolling Rock Bock came out in the spring, one of the few seasonal beers of that era. Back then, drinking Rolling Rock in Northwest Ohio was "supporting your local brewer". When I went to school at Ohio State in the early 90's, we'd all drink Rolling Rock, still the local brew at the time. Now it's become a souless InBev product kidnapped from Latrobe, PA to Newark, NJ. Last time I tried it 3-4 years ago, I thought it was horrible. I simply refuse to drink it now.

  2. I do hear you, Derek. Rolling Rock is linked to many many good times in my mind. The bittersweet I get is more about the broken memories than anything that is actually in the beer. But sometimes, that little touch of nostalgia leads me back down the Rolling Rock path. I get the same way about Olympia and Rainier, the Northwest versions of Rolling Rock that are also now owned by other much larger and less likeable corporations. I still look for that 12 pack of cans when I'm our West, though--either Oly or Vitamin R--mainly because it is an itch that needs some sort of scratching, even if it is the rough irritation of disappointment. Nostalgia and beer--now there's the connection that's hard to leave behind.