If I had to guess, I’d be willing to bet that upwards of 85% of the people that read this have played the ABV Bang For My Buck Game at some point in their beer-drinking life. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when your internal monologue goes a little something like this: “Man, I really want to catch a buzz. But I don’t want to seem like I want to catch a buzz. And I’m feeling poor. I know! I’ll take the strongest beer on the menu and rave about its complex mouthfeel. People will think I’m smart and I’ll get buzzed up. Problem solved.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that that beer probably really does have a complex mouthfeel, and I’ll probably actually want to be raving about it. But if I’m being honest, in that situation (at the end of a long week, after a hard day, etc.) my primary objective is to drink something with the intent to rewire my synapses until everything is just…better. And really, I think that’s OK.
Last night, I had dinner with some of my cousins. We went to a local restaurant that’s widely regarded as a premier destination for beer lovers (what up Pizza Plant!), and we weren’t disappointed. We had a table in the dining area, but up at the bar the local Bell’s rep was ceremoniously pouring the inaugural pint of the 2014 Oberon season. He was surrounded by a crowd of rightfully enthralled worshippers, ready to usher in spring (finally) with their first sips of Bell’s beloved seasonal brew. The place was positively humming with beery electricity and excitement. In short, it was a good night to be out.
But remember, this was a Wednesday night. I wasn’t really out to play the ABV Bang For My Buck Game. But since I didn’t have access to my standby light beers, I couldn’t help having some of those instincts kick in. “Wow. For the same price I can get the Lindemans Frambois that’s just 2.5% ABV or the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout at 14.2% ABV,” I said.
My cousin, a beer lover through and through and a man with drinking wisdom to spare, responded,”Yeah, but for that same price you can also go buy a bottle of bottom shelf vodka, chug it, and be hammered drunk in less than a half hour if that’s what you really want. So don’t compare 2.5% to 14.2%. Compare the light-hearted sweet and sour fruitiness of the Frambois with the murky, smoky darkness of the stout, and decide which one of those you feel like. Think about what you want to taste, not what you want to drink.”
You know what? He was so right.
It’s not always about the ABV. It’s about enjoying the beer for what it is. Identifying the subtleties that separate this particular stout from its thick-headed brethren or savoring the raspberry tartness of the Frambois. Craft beer culture at its best is about embracing the mindset that each new pint glass is a chance to explore something fresh and exciting and maybe, just maybe, life changing.
So sure, I’ll probably still play the ABV Bang For My Buck Game from time to time. That’s just life. But thanks to my cousin, and his incisive, insightful comment, I’ve got a whole new appreciation for the idea of taking a step back and asking myself the new all-important question, “What do I feel like tasting?” I have a feeling this is going to work out well for me…