Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The End of an Epic Feud

Let's get one thing straight: Michael Jerome Cialini is one of my oldest and most treasured friends. I met him when he was a mulleted, bespectacled 9th grader, and I immediately thought he was an asshole ... but my kind of asshole. We rode the bus together, made fun of the entire class of 1994, then later I would send him mix tapes while he was in the Air Force and he would send me illegible letters. (This was before the internets, mind you.) Mike was good enough to let me be a part of his wedding to his wonderful and lovely wife Brenna, and hopefully I will be able to punch him 32 times this coming May 1st.

Through our nearly two decades of friendship, we have probably agreed on perhaps four things. Everything else has been a bitter feud. I like rap music with a positive message, he likes it only with lots of swearing. He likes Stern, I like Opie and Anthony. I like baseball, he likes the Mets. We are on polar opposites on nearly every spectrum of ideas. And that's an okay thing; it's good to have dissent.

Many topics I take with a grain of salt -- politics, sports, philosophy. But when it came to beer, I could stand silent no longer!

Mike launched his new site, The People's Beer Drinker, and I reacted in a visceral -- and as one person has told me -- overboard way. Point taken. And as expected, Michael fired back, taking umbrage with my assessment of the need for a macrobrew blog.

In the course of his retort, Mike made his opinion known, and naturally I read it and understand where he's coming from. But I had to take exception to a few things, mainly three main assertions I find to be patently incorrect. Hopefully they will clear up a few points and Mike and I can go back to fighting about the NFL (the best sports league in the nation).

Myth #1: I am a beer snob and I don't like ANY macro beers.
I consider myself a "geek," not a snob. Contrary to my misunderstood "internet persona," I don't actually look down on anyone who likes macro brews. To the contrary, I still will enjoy a few of them from time to time. I never said that I think people who drink what I consider to be lesser beers "lesser beer drinkers." The truth is -- as my compadre Javen recently pointed out to me -- the macro lagers of today are by-and-large pale copies of German styles. The microbrews are the true "American" beers, because like jazz and baseball, they were invented here, or at least finely tuned to become their current incarnations. In my very humble opinion, microbrews and craft beers are truly in the American tradition, in that they eschewed the Xeroxing of old tried-and-true, popular styles and went off the beaten path by innovating. I am the furthest thing from a snob, to be honest. In "real life" I have never chastized someone for drinking Bud or Coors. I used to drink nothing but the Big Three in college, as well as maybe something from Labatt or Molson. I drank Blatz and Stroh's in Milwaukee, and three pitchers of Coors light in Baltimore. I own a Miller High Life t-shirt! And these are just examples from the last few years. I can't deny that expanding my scope has opened me up to a new and exciting world, but I don't look down on those who drink something I don't like. Drink what you like and be happy, dammit!

Myth #2: I believe that anyone who doesn't agree with me is wrong.
This could not be further from the truth. I would never tell anyone to drink something they hate any more than I would have anyone tell me to eat green beans. I was speaking to a friend today and told her that I probably dislike 2 out of every 5 beers I try, and I spend a lot more money than most people do on beer. Like, an embarassingly lot more. No one will ever convince me that beer that is mass-produced with inferior ingredients is as good as craft-brewed beer, on the whole. I still think that there is a craft brew for everyone out there, and that no matter what macro style you like, there is a micro waiting for you that you will love. However, if you don't want to do that, I'm not going to call you out just because of that fact. Will I offer that you try something I'm drinking? Yes. Will I suggest an alternative based on what you like? Sure. Honestly, I never even discuss the subject of beer superiority with someone else unless they take the tone -- which I feel Mike had toward me, unprovoked -- that for some reason I'm some sort of elitist because I don't buy cases of Blue Light anymore. People who know me know that I have never "forced" a beer on anyone, but rather I shepherd anyone who is interested toward beers I think they may like, or give them a sip of mine. And more often than not, they hate the beer. But at least they tried it, and that's all I ask.

Myth #3: I am shitting on Mike's new blog.
I think Mike could actually make something out of this blog that would be worth reading. I will certainly be checking back from time to time. I do have to admit I question the motive behind it, whether it's to actually explore and celebrate American macros and pale lagers, or whether it's just to sort of "stick it" to so-called beer snobs. (Mike has a history of inflammatory internet speech.) To me its like -- to use an example to which Mike may relate -- starting a mainstream rap blog as a reaction to the undue attention that independent hip-hop blogs get. The fact remains that Miller/Bud/Coors account for 75% of the beer industry in the United States, and are therefore hardly underrepresented. I find it hard to believe that someone would want to stick it to the "little guy," small businesses in America that are trying to stay afloat while the Big Boys are constantly swallowing them up. To me it's akin to a site lauding how great Microsoft is, as a reaction to, say, Linux, or a lesser-known entity. If Michael can do something with it that is good for beer as a whole -- and not just the beers I like -- I will be a regular reader. My initial, emotional reaction to Mike's post is one that goes way way back to when Mike would simply say "_______ sucks" to any post I made regarding a topic I liked. There are a lot of "soccer sucks," "the NFL draft sucks," and the like out there with Mike's byline, and when it came to this subject I thought a counterpoint was in order.

So I hope I cleared a few things up for everyone. Mike, let's one day get together somewhere we can enjoy both Cascade- and Amarillo-hopped Imperial IPAs as well as Genny Cream Ale. It's time we let America being healing.


'Don' Cialini said...

I love you man!

'Don' Cialini said...

BTW - As Brenna and I talked about this blog, she did say the following line...

"What rap music with a positive message?"

As for the I only like rap for the swearing...I hat it coming after that Bio Final reset.

Bill said...

I like to listen to rap songs about throwing ones hands in the air, and then waving them around as if they were completely indifferent.

Yes, I got a 63 on my 10th Grade Biology Regents Exam and had to go to summer school. But I learned a lesson about myself. Namely that I am not smart at biology.

SUE said...

I invite both of you to DC to sample the best of the best at the Brickskeller...


They serve over 5,000 kinds of beer and are in the Guinness Book of work records for their selection. It's also a whopping 4 blocks from my crib.

Bill said...

As for the Brickseller, all I can say is "Jesus Hefeweizen Jiminy Joseph!"