Hot take: There’s no such thing as ‘I don’t like beer.’
I will readily accept ‘I don’t drink’ or any of its variations, or ‘I am passionate about/prefer ____’, but ‘I don’t like beer’ is just one of those statements that doesn’t make sense anymore.
That’s because there is no one ‘beer’ anymore. It’s a statement that made sense 20 years ago, hell, even 5 or so depending on where you live but the world is changing. The market may well still be dominated by the corporate macro-brew giants peddling mediocre lagers but the craft beer movement has given rise to a wholly new animal, and myriad novel options.
Gather round children, it’s story time. When I was but a lad, there was a beer you could drink. That beer was lager. Perhaps it was made interstate, or overseas, or even by some fancy place that put more of the good stuff* in. But ultimately, it was lager. That was your choice. And due to the parochialism that has traditionally surrounded beer, really your choice was Your Local Lager or Nothing. As a Victorian, that meant CUB. I drank Carlton Draught. VB was acceptable. And some people drank Melbourne Bitter. That’s… just how it was. If you were from NSW, it was Tooheys. If you were from the North, probably Milton Mangoes and in the West, Bush Chook or Swan. It was probably Cascade or maybe Boags for the Taswegians. South Australians had West End, but they also had their own little cult going on with the sparkling and pale ales of the Coopers family, one which we joined readily in our university years. I never really sat down and did the side-by side comparison of the Nation’s Favourite Brews** (perhaps a future post?) but I certainly had strong opinions about why everyone else was wrong.
As I said, narrow minded provincialism which I – and my friends – subscribed to, though we were perhaps less set in stone than some others. As poor students, we often bought whatever was on special, or branched out to try something ‘new’, or perhaps treated ourselves with something ‘Premium’ like a different lager from overseas. On special occasions, we may even have had a cheeky Belgian. But mostly it was the Macro-Beer-From-Your State that we went back to time and time again. And while those lagers did have some flavour variance, and certainly different degrees of delicacy, there really was only one flavour. Beer was beer flavoured. You *could* drink Guinness, I guess? There were a few British ales or honey flavoured blondes and their like around, but 99 times out of 100 you had a beer flavoured lager.
Which brings us to the question – what did you do if you didn’t like beer? Simple enough. You drank something else. Wine, or spirits, or alcopops. Or you sucked it up and developed a taste for beer, coz you’re not some kind of horse’s hoof, are ya mate? But this is a very different world, and thankfully its one in which we no longer need to live. Beer ≠ lager anymore. Beer is flavour. Beer is practically anything you want it to be. If you say ‘I don’t like beer’ you may as well say ‘I don’t like chocolate. I don’t like lemonade. I don’t like floral, and fruity and fresh, and sour and bitter. I don’t like citrus, or herbs, or spices. I don’t like maple syrup and bacon, I don’t like cocktails, and I don’t like coffee. I don’t like whisky, or salt, or tangerines; I don’t like smooth, or fierce, or funky, or interesting, or challenging, or comforting. I don’t like tea, or wine, or creamy milkshakes, or tropical juice, or lemon meringue pie or pavlova. I don’t like cherries, or cola, I don’t like rough-and-ready, and I don’t like nuance or elegant refinement. I don’t like craftsmanship, or boundary pushing, or the pursuit of perfection. I don’t like the fruit and flowers of hops, or the bubblegum and bananas of yeast, the acidic bite of lacto, the sweet richness of malt, the sparkling clarity of water, and I don’t like the infinite variance of adjuncts.
If you don’t like the lager that was pressed upon you in your youth, that’s ok. Try a chocolate porter, or a raspberry sour, or a hazy pale, or a grapefruit IPA. Try a barrel aged barleywine, or a cherry kriek. And you know what? If you like lager, that’s fine too. It’s not like it’s a dirty word, even if some do treat it like it is. Sometimes there’s simply nothing better than a crisp lager, whether you’re on your porch, in a smoky izakaya in Japan or on the beach with your toes trailing in the water. Liking lager is not a bad thing at all. But if you don’t, then just be aware that there is a whole world of beers/styles/flavours out there for you to try. ‘I don’t like beer’ just… doesn’t make sense anymore. Try ‘I don’t like beer yet’.
**Citation definitely needed