I expect that our history is very much the same as yours. In our younger days, beer was an inexpensive, and legal (when of age), way to reach an altered state of consciousness. Our Dads drank beer. Our friends drank beer. It seemed the natural order of things that we would drink beer too.
As you probably did, we started with the ubiquitous American megabrewed light lagers: Budweiser, Coors, Miller. When money was a little tight we might lower ourselves to buy Busch, or Schlitz, or, in a pinch, Old Milwaukee. When we wanted to trick ourselves into thinking we were spending more for quality brews we might indulge in Michelob, Molson (“It’s imported!”), Corona Extra (“It’s imported, too!”), or Heineken (“It’s imported—from Europe!”). If we were feeling especially quirky we might buy Rolling Rock (painted labels!), Red Dog (how can you not like a beer pitched by Tommy Lee Jones?), or Yuengling (at that time, a small, regional brewer whose beer was the swill of choice in the northeast Pennsylvania area, since it was cheaper than Bud).
Al’s Dad’s beer of choice was Schaefer. Remember their slogan? “The one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” (Stroh’s bought them out in 1981 and tried to resurrect the popularity of the brand with a very much watered-down slogan: “The one beer to have when you’re out to have some fun.” Stroh’s was in turn bought out by Pabst brewing in 1999.)
Schaefer was, in fact, the best-selling beer in the U.S. for a time, eventually losing out in the seventies to 800-pound gorilla Budweiser. (Well, perhaps not. Data at Beer History seems to indicate that Schaefer never rose to such heights on a national level. Perhaps it was just a best-seller in the Northeast region? That’s what I get for relying on Wikipedia too much.)
Ron’s Dad’s beer of choice was Schmidt’s. His Grandfather was also a beer drinker and at the tender age of 8, Ron recalls that getting just a sniff from Grandpa’s mug was a sweet treat. Grandpa would even let him have a taste on his tongue of the strangy, bubbly, drink.
We came of age shortly after the launch of Miller Genuine Draft. To our primitive palates it actually did seem to be significantly better than, say, Budweiser. We probably would have stuck with MGD for years.
Jim Koch saved us.
The Microbrewery explosion was just starting. We didn’t know anything about it. What we did know was that Jim’s commercials, with that unique raspy voice of his, piqued our curiosity. (We are children of the media, that’s for sure.) Sam Adam’s Boston Lager was what he was pitching. We figured: What the heck, let’s try it out. (Pete’s Wicked Ale was going nationwide at around the same time. With a name like that, how could a young, red-blooded American boys not want to try it? There are some doubts about which of the two we tried first.)
It was good. Can beer taste this good? We were not prepared for what beer—prepared without adjuncts and in small batches—could taste like. By golly, if beer can be made like this, who would drink that other stuff?
We’re curious guys, so we started doing research. There were other micro/craft brews out there now, so we started sampling. Ah, but there’s a catch. Buy two six-packs of some beer that none of your friends are drinking, or, for a few dollars less, get that 30-pack of Budweiser? And so, our days of drinking quantity ended.
We also started reading, and since this was the start of the microbrewery revolution, and the world wide web was becoming huge, there was plenty to read. We even found out you could brew your own beer. How had all this been kept from us for so long? Well, if all your beer education is from commercials during American sporting events, you’d never know that there was any other style of beer in the world.
Fast forward several years. We’re older now, with families of our own and live some 400 miles apart. But, we still love beer, and technology allows us to keep in touch.
For those of you who were actually curious about us beyond beer, we’ve been friends for over twenty years, are both married, each with two children. Ron lives outside of Saratoga Springs, New York, Al in the D.C.-Metro area.