"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Barley Sammich
Inspired by a pair of blog posts, I must weigh in on the subject of Budweiser, beer and breakfast drinking. Please note the large brightly colored comma separating Budweiser from beer, as I would hate to have anyone confuse the two.

Let me first address the attempt by Crooked Timber's Daniel Davies to defend Budweiser and even to sing its praises. I don't hate Bud because it is an American mass market beer -- though that would be reason enough. As any good Canadian beer drinking hoser knows, American mass market beers are like making love in a canoe, that is to say, it is fucking close to water. There are many fine American beers (Anchor Steam anything for example) but Bud isn't one of them. I don't hate it because it and tap water are the only two things you can get to drink almost anywhere in the civilized world ( I don't see that there is much difference between the two). I don't hate it because it's made with rice -- I'm enjoying a rice-based Kirin as I write this. It isn't any of those other reasons either -- I agree that micro brews are often overrated and beer snobbery is as pretentious as wine snobbery, but also admit it exists for a very good reason - because there are some very good obscure small beers and some really crappy mass market ones. I don't care about Budvar's claim on the name or whether it is "for poufs" -- though if we are dealing in stereotypes, I'd argue that "poufs" are supposed to have better taste than to be caught drinking Budweiser.

I hate Budweiser because it is lousy beer. I'd say it tastes like crap, but the flavor isn't strong enough to even say that. It's the weak instant coffee of beers -- a horribly bland vaguely beer-like beverage with a hint of crap. Cold Bud and warm Coors Light are what is on tap in Hell.

"Snap, crakle and burp -- the breakfast of ex-champions"
--Hawkeye Pierce, pouring beer on his corn-flakes

As to the esteemed Mr. Noon's post over at LGM on beer as a breakfast beverage and breakfast drinking in general (go read the post and the many many comments), for a cool spring morning, Guiness or a good coffee stout would be breakfast on their own - the venerable oatmeal sammich. I agree with the points made in the comments about Irish whisky and coffee, but then I think a healthy measure of Bushmills is good for just about anything, except maybe driving, surgery or operating chainsaws.

Before going further let me say that I do not condone or encourage breakfast drinking, nor do I regularly participate in it. Drinking in the morning will not make you Hunter Thompson or Charles Bukowski -- neither of whom you'd want to share a house with no matter how well they might have written. But on the occasional lazy weekend morning, when breakfast is served at the crack of noon, an eye-opener is not a criminal offense. Certainly some cocktails are designed with breakfast in mind -- like the Mimosa or the Bloody Mary.

The beer and tomato juice cocktail -- I've heard it called a Canadian Sunset -- is another morning type drink for those who like tomato juice ( I hate it) and I've actually seen it served as a Red Eye with a raw egg and hefty shot of tobasco as a hangover cure. I think the theory on this was "Whatever doesn't kill you, make you stronger."

Personally, I find Guinness a bit heavy to add to a actual full fry-up breakfast, but if you're just having a bagel or toast or a bacon sandwich, it goes down a treat. The Budweiser fan is right about one thing, lighter rice-based lagers do make better breakfast beers.

Tokyo in summer is as close to Hell as I'd like to get; humidity of 80 to 90 percent and temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s (over 90 F for you non-metric types), often you wake up in the morning drained of all bodily fluids, feeling like you've just run a marathon through the Sahara. The tap water is blood warm in July and August and you forgot to make ice last night. Your wife is drinking the last of the iced coffee you put in the fridge yesterday. You stagger to the fridge and all you can find is milk - which will curdle in your stomach and make the pasty texture in your mouth even worse - some kind of evil, sweet yogurt and fruit juice concoction the kids drink, a diet cola guaranteed to eat a hole in your guts if the medicinal aftertaste of the aspartamine doesn't kill you first, and a frosty can of Sapporo. It's a working day, but you don't have to be in until 11 and you're not driving anyways. I ask the court -- is it a crime to pop the top on a can of suds or is it better to die of dehydration?

When doing the full Hunter Thompson breakfast, I tend to favor a lighter lager or pilsner, preferably ice cold, and a few shots of amber rum, Cuban if possible. The rum goes especially well with any citrus or tropical fruit.

The ultimate Canadian breakfast is, of course, a back-bacon sandwich and a cold Sleeman's Cream Ale or, if you can find it, a Big Rock Brewery Traditional Ale or Grasshopper Wheat Beer.

Over here in Japan, beer in the morning is not so rare, especially among the salaryman set , though many prefer a morning pick-me-up of chu-hi, a concoction of soda water, shochu (distilled liquor made from rice or sweet potatoes that runs the gamut from nice, vodka-like pricey hooch to industrial solvent) and usually some kind of citrus flavor, that come in at about 6 or 7 percent alcohol by volume -- imagine a weak vodka-and-soda with lime. Not bad if you are hungover, but the sho-chu is usually closer to industrial quality and tends to be hangover-inducing in the long run.

I've seen I've seen guys quaffing on the train platform at 9 am and I've seen quart bottles of beer set out as part of the breakfast buffet at hot spring resorts. Get on a bullet train here at any time of the day and people are drinking before the train leaves the station, no matter what time it is.

Japan is also awash in some low-priced, nasty-tasting imitation beer-like substances called happoshu and "third category beer-like drinks" the latter of which are like drinking soda water and grain alcohol with some hops flavoring.

Shandies are also nice - I prefer the beer-and-ginger ale style one to the beer-and-lemonade one. Some girls I knew in college taught me a variation that adds a double shot of iced vodka to the pint of beer and lemonade called a strip-and-go-naked, but that's a whole other post.


scout said...

when i did drink Bud was never touched...not even in desperation. in fact i don't even like to see the cans or bottles on the shelf...just makes me go 'ew'.

egads, i can't imagine the heat of toykyo now!!!! on hot days we used to cool down with pimms (a slice of cucumber mandatory). beer usually rules....but cuban rum mixed as a mohto is tres excellente too.

perhaps they could come up with a special 'bullet train brew'?

the rev. said...

Tokyo is just starting to heat up now, with temperatures in the low to mid 20 during the day. I think the hottest day last summer was 44, with about 85 percent humidity -- just plain ugly.

jj said...

To paraphrase Samuel L Jackson: "BEER. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast."

Beer for breakfast, those were the days. (Not so long ago, actually.) Beer was a staple breakfast at the weekend biker bashes I used to attend... of course, many of us still hadn't slept by dawn, so it could also be considered a Late Dinner.

cl zoomer said...

*some girls I knew in college*, eh? :-)

If I do have a quaf in the morning (usually on holidays) I prefer a nice cold cider. I have some of my own that I made but it's a bit too potent for first thing in the morning. I find that I have to have a nap if I drink anything stronger than 7% or so during the day. Strongbow's is a good alternative although I must admit to drinking Lucky Lager first thing in the morning with a Japanese documentary crew on a boat in the middle of Queen Charlotte Sound (in the interests of international diplomacy, of course).