Beer is Not Uncultured

Every Friday (more or less) there’s a “Faculty Social Hour” on campus. They have cheese and crackers, a fairly random assortment of beer, and a couple of bottles of wine, and various faculty come by to wind down a bit at the end of the week. It’s a chance to socialize a little with people from different departments, talk about our students, and go into the weekend on a happy note.

Yesterday’s social hour was designated as a “Multi-cultural Happy Hour,” to coincide with the annual International Festival thrown by students from other countries. They had brought in much better food than usual, from a couple of area restaurants, and there were a lot more faculty there than usual.

The only problem was the beverage selection. They had a couple of pitchers of sangria, some sort of lemonade punch, and a pitcher of ice water with about twenty lemon slices in it. And that was it. Not a beer to be seen.

This is a constant pet peeve of mine regarding campus social events. You see, I don’t really like wine all that much. Red wine tends to give me a headache, and both red and white leave my stomach a little unsettled. Given the choice, I strongly prefer beer to wine.

(And sangria is right out. Red wine with extra sugar and citrus fruit is just murder on my stomach and head.)

There’s this perception, though, that beer is inappropriate for cultural events. Anything involving art, or literature, or any kind of intellectual discussion always has wine, but no beer. It drives me nuts.

Beer is not uncultured, not inherently, anyway. Sure, frat boys swill watery American pilsner by the gallon, but there are plenty of sensible people who drink good beer in moderation. And, for that matter, there are some sloppy, sloppy drunks out there who drink nothing but wine.

(I knew a woman in college who drank exclusively Boone’s Farm wine– she would bring bottles with her to keg parties. Yeah, fine, it’s cheap swill ($1.39/bottle in 1993), but it stands in the same relation to real wine as Coors Light does to actual beer.)

Beer has a long and distinguished history. One of the earliest known scraps of writing is a recipe for beer, and there’s a school of thought that holds that agriculture arose in order to provide ancient humans with the barley to make beer. It’s an ancient and honorable drink, that’s been with us from the very beginning of recorded history.

And, dammit, beer drinkers are perfectly capable of appreciating art and music and literature. Beer is also perfectly multicultural– any country worth visiting produces beer, and they all have at least one drinkable brew (with the possible exception of France, but they’re near enough to Belgium to import good stuff).

So, if you’re planning a cultural event, and want to provide alcohol, lay in a few sixpacks of quality beer, along with your $10 bottles of wine. I’d much rather have a couple of bottles of a good microbrewed ale than a glass of wine, any day.

11 thoughts on “Beer is Not Uncultured

  1. Maybe it wasn’t that beer is uncultured, but beer wasn’t sufficiently MULTI-cultural? now that I read that, it doesn’t make much more sense, but it’s a thought.

  2. I’m totally with you on this one. It’s also worth pointing out that the wine served at academic events is almost always cheap undrinkable swill.

  3. I think you are looking for the BBC story I included in a recent set of links: After consuming the better part of a 10L box of wine, the guy pulled on a plastic garbage bag, pretended he was Darth Vader, and attacked the neighboring Jedi Church members. (The video of the assault makes for amusing viewing.)

    What is revolting is that they probably used some awful domestic wine for the sangria. Why not a Beers of the World selection to go with that theme?

  4. “…any country worth visiting produces beer…”

    Reminds me of the Frank Zappa quote:

    “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline — it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”

  5. And what if you don’t like beer or wine? The chair of our dept.’s parties have tons of fancy beer, a little wine, and nothing else. I bring my own girly drinks.

  6. I’ll have to disagree. I don’t think america is not worth visiting.
    Or to quote Monty Python:
    “Frankly we find your american beer much like making love in a canoe.
    It’s fucking close to water.”

  7. Actually, America produces some very good beers. They’re just no the ones you see advertised.

    (When I was in Britain recently I kept seeing people ordering Miller Lite or Budweiser WHEN THEY HAD AT LEAST 10 VERY GOOD BRITISH BEERS TO CHOOSE FROM. Weird.)

  8. There are some decent French beers, but there’s not a lot of exporting going on compared to the fermented grape juice.

    Where do you stand on fermented apple juice? Normandy puts out some really good cider if that’s your thing.

  9. I think it’s a space-saving and money-saving issue for caterers. You can serve/sell multiple glasses from liter soda bottles, wine and liquor bottles, but bottled beers are one to a customer, unless you go for canned beer or kegs. I have not really seen quality wine at cultural events featuring alcohol, either — stocking bottles of microbrews is probably a lot more expensive than stocking bottles of table wine.

    Hogarth would agree re benefits of beer: his print Beer Alley depicts a more cultured and civilized place than Gin Lane.

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