November 7, 2003
I have a confession to make. I’ve got to get it off my chest. I don’t like wine. I don’t care whether it’s red, white, or ripple. I just don’t care for it. It makes me feel desperately insecure when drink orders are going around the table and there’s one Chardonnay, one Merlot, one Shiraz, one Sauvignon Blanc, and when it comes to me and I say, "Do you have anything in the way of a microbrewed stout?" the server looks at me as though I just asked for Wild Irish Rose. At least in most of the restaurants I can afford I don’t have to worry about some guy with a toothpick-sized moustache who walks as though he’s holding a dime with his glutes glaring over his pince-nez trying to decide whether he should have the local constabulary evacuate me from the premises. But the looks I get from fellow diners make me feel just as low. I can’t even go to wine and cheese parties, which is hard because I’m a big fan of cheese. People can turn down cheese by saying they’re lactose intolerant, but the reaction I get when I turn down a glass of Pinot noir by saying, "I’m vitaceae-intolerant" is that I’m told the stilton’s off limits too.
Even though the world has changed and societies have become more egalitarian the wine drinkers–and you know who you are–see the world of alcoholic beverage consumers split into two types: those who drink wine and those who eat things they fish out of the sewer. Historically speaking this is understandable. Beer was the first alcoholic beverage. It was invented by the Sumerians, who really invented just about everything. Their beer of course was thick and crude and you could stand a fork up in it. In fact they invented forks just for this purpose, until around 2800 BC when someone realized you could also eat with them. Beer was easy to make; it was everybody’s drink. Then wine was invented. Wine was harder to make and was very expensive. It could also only be served to you by a Hittite with a funny accent so it was the drink of kings and other nobility. Then the Akkadians came along and opened liquor stores, and gradually wine became what everybody drank–except for those of us who secretly prefer beer. Despite the fact that wine is the choice of almost everybody–aside from those who completely abstain from alcohol, and even they drink sparkling fruit juice to fit in with the crowd–it’s retained that historical trace of snootiness. Wine, so the old wisdom goes, makes you look like an intelligent drunk, while beer leads to riots, fart jokes, and the hanging bellies of Babylon. We beer swillers aren’t even good enough to be considered the dregs of humanity. We’re at the sub-dreg level. Wine drinkers, take this as a warning: exclude beer drinkers from your homes, your restaurants, and your dinner parties at your own peril.
A preference for wine may seem like the one thing that separates you from the chimpanzees, or maybe you’re just afraid of looking stupid in front of that guy who always wears turtlenecks and blazers, but beer drinkers are people too. And we’re quietly staging a revolution. Think about this next time you sneer at those six-packs of Cherokee Mocha Wheat Sri Lankan Blond Lager, or those draft cans of Vic’s Double-Pumpkin Autumn Harvest Super Dry Bock: fancy brews are at least as expensive as that bottle of Grenache you picked up at your local supermarket. And although good beer can be enjoyed by anybody, beer snootiness is on the rise. We beer drinkers can if we choose, take tiny sips of beer, spit them out into silver buckets, and say, "Yes, that’s a sardonic little lager." We don’t for two reasons. The first is, beer is tasty, and who’d want to spit it out? The second is, no matter who you are, you should be slapped if you describe a beverage as "sardonic". But we could be snobs if we wanted to. Who knows? Beer snobs may soon appear in restaurants everywhere. You might be sipping your Peruvian Riesling somewhere and overhear a sommelier telling another patron, "Zeez wun eez made wiz zee watairz of zee Rocky Mountenz." Ask yourself, When the local constabulary comes for me because I turned down a perfectly good pint of foaming ale in favor of a tiny glass of alcoholic grape juice who will speak up for me? I’m not saying it will happen. Okay, I’m not even saying it could happen. Beer snobbery may be a passing phase, like pet rocks or nuclear fission but the fact that it exists at all is a warning sign. You can’t repress a group of people forever, no matter what they drink. We beer drinkers have been forced to sit at the bar for too long, and you might be unpleasantly surprised to find how mean we can be when sober.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender says, "What is this, a joke?"