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Not the Yosemite of Beers

Someone told me the other day I was on my way to being a true Californian because we’ve lived here for years and haven’t been to Yosemite.  I was so horrified we immediately planned a camping trip.  I wasn’t horrified at the prospect of being a true Californian, but horrified to realize that a natural wonder was merely hours away and we had never been.  We packed up The Van with kids, dog, and camping gear and headed out to see the sights of Yosemite.  It was amazing.

The worst part of camping, and any vacation, I suppose, is returning.  Camping seems to amplify all of the bad parts about returning to normal life.  Everything you own is dirty and smells like smoke (including you).  There is more to sort and put away when you return home.  And of course, while camping is relaxing and amazing and we always wish we could do more of it, sleeping in a tent isn’t the most refreshing way to get a nights sleep, so you are inevitably tired when you return.  After the car had been unloaded and the bags (somewhat) unpacked, it was time to shower and sink into a chair with a beer.

Upon opening the fridge, my shoulders sank like the air mattress we had been sleeping on.  I had one beer in the fridge; something left there by a guest a few days ago.  It was, gasp, a macro brewed beer: Miller Genuine Draft.  Thanks in large part to the gracious and knowledgeable Pope of Beer, Dr. Charles Bamforth at UC Davis, I’d previously resolved to understand that all beer has its place, and that labeling something “industrial swill” is not only naive, its being a bit of a jerk.  Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean I was happy to see the black label and golden beer staring back at me from within the depths of my cooling box.  Still, beer is beer and I was thirsty and tired and the Red Sox had just lost their chance at the playoffs and Charlie told me to appreciate all beers and….well, I was thirsty.

I cracked it open, sank into said chair, and had my first sip of Miller Genuine Draft in years.  MGD is a standard American Lager.  It isn’t trying to win any medals at this weeks Great American Beer Fest in Colorado.  What it is trying to do is quench your thirst.  Unfortunately, it didn’t even do that.  It was certainly cold and crisp – something it seems to always want to point out in its advertising.  Which brings me to a side note life lesson: if a beer is advertised as “cold and crisp,” it doesn’t say much for the beer.  The crispness is up to the brewer, the coldness is up to you.  So why any beer would promote itself as being really cold baffles me.  So the lesson is, if a brewery is trying to sell you there beer on anything other than how it tastes, its probably best left alone.  That’s wisdom to pass along to your kids around a campfire.

That said, the beer was crisp and smooth.  It isn’t harsh or jarring or incredibly bitter, but even had a hint of malty sweetness.  The problem most beer snobs have with macro brewed beer is simply a lack of taste.  MDG had taste, but that was part of the problem.  There was an odd aftertaste to this MGD that left the inside of my mouth begging for water – an odd thing when the goal is to quench your thirst.  I checked for a freshness date to see if it was old but found nothing.  I took a few more sips thinking it must be me but every time found myself just as thirsty as before.

Not all macro brewed beer should be avoided, no matter what your beer snob friends insist.  Just because its brewed in large batches doesn’t make it bad, necessarily.  But this beer was, well, bad.  It was bad enough that I didn’t finish it – which is saying something given the context.

If you’ve lived in Davis (or California) for years and have never been to Yosemite, take it from me, its time to go.  If you are thinking about bringing a lighter beer to sip at your campfire when you do, take it from me, leave the MGD at home.  Do yourself a favor: head to the Davis Beer Shoppe and grab something as unique and full and amazing as the sights and sounds of Yosemite.


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