Contrariwise*: Why Does Craft Beer Taste So Awful?

I’m really struggling with this craft beer thing. I love the idea, don’t get me wrong. You never find the best furniture, musical instruments, or wine at the end of a mass production line. And I’m all about the taking-on-Goliath thing. (David is literally my middle name!)

But why does craft beer have to taste so awful?

For the past year, I’ve lived in San Diego, home to 120 microbreweries. Here, craft beer drinking means as much to fitting in as mountain biking and being friendly for no reason. There are meetups, apps, and podcasts dedicated to obsessing over craft beer. People are judged by their favorite. It says certain things about you, things I don’t necessarily want Miller Lite saying about me.

So I enlisted a craft beer enthusiast to beer-Yoda me. He’s a millennial hipster dude who has a beard and even his own craft beer podcast, and he asked me not to reveal his name after figuring out my sacrilegious angle. (Let’s call him Atticus. I hate that name.)

“I’m going to get you to stop drinking the crap that you’re drinking,” Atticus condescended as he ordered the first of three beer “flights” (trays of a number of four-ounce samples) at a snobby gastropub. “A beer like Miller Lite is scientifically done well, but it’s lacking flavor.”

There are a number of reasons Atticus argues that craft beer is superior, including that “no two batches taste the same because the ingredients and brewing conditions differ.”

This is a good thing? The reason I order a Miller Lite is not because I want it to suddenly taste skunky so I can discuss it with my friends. It’s because I want the exact taste of a Miller Lite in my mouth!

Technically, “craft” isn’t a beer type. It just means it was made by an independent brewer producing 6 million barrels or fewer a year. The same dozens of beer types exist in craft as in what Atticus likes to call “big beer.” Miller Lite is a pilsner, the least-respected craft beer type (obviously because commoners like me prefer it).

Most craft beers sold in the U.S. are India Pale Ales (IPAs). Heavy with bitter hops, IPAs taste like what happens when you accidentally bite into a Tylenol gel cap. I would rather finish an IPA than pull all my toenails out, but it’s a closer call than you might think.

My problem, according to Atticus, is an unrefined palate. The flavors of an IPA will start resembling degrees of cheddar cheese sharpness as soon as I learn to stop being such a loser. “You can live your life drinking Miller Lite, just like you can live your life eating McDonald’s,” Atticus said.

Force Krazy Glue down your
throat enough times, and your brain will probably find that taste enjoyable, too.

Despite his efforts, however, nothing in our three beer flights topped an ice-cold Miller Lite to me. There were three pilsners, but one tasted like lemon, one like air freshener, and one like mildew. I only declared an oatmeal stout the winner because it was tolerable and I didn’t have a designated driver.

“You’ll come around someday,” Atticus said.

My palate isn’t unrefined. It likes Brussels sprouts, seaweed salad, and 200,000-Scoville peppers. Force Krazy Glue down your throat enough times, and your brain will probably find that taste enjoyable, too.

Look, if I could easily find a craft beer that tasted like a better Miller Lite, I wouldn’t complain. But I don’t think anyone’s making a beer like that for a person like me. And some craft bars don’t even list their beer types on their digital menu screens, which are so crammed with fancy-schmancy names, they continue on the next screen like departures at LaGuardia.

Like I said, I’m not against the idea of craft beer. It just has to be willing to stop with the snob appeal and the awful taste. Is that really too much to ask?

This article is featured in the November/December 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

*“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”