Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Glass of Yeast Piss

Ed, the Hall Tutor, was the consummate preppie from Downeast. He had his obligatory Topsiders (worn without socks, of course) and corduroys, but what distinguished him from the others of his kind was his choice of shirt. In most strips, he was pictured wearing a tee-shirt that was an homage to his favorite beer, which was Coors.
Today, Coors is a pretty ordinary beer - you can get it anywhere - but in 1977, Coors was not made outside its home state of Colorado. It also was not preserved, which meant that it was not widely available. In the early '80s, Coors built a brewery in North Carolina, and ended up destroying its mystique. Today, Coors is foreign-owned (Molson's of Canada bought the brand in 2005, and SAB Miller, a South African brewery that bought the legendary Miller Beer brand, went into a joint venture together a couple of years later to brew Coors in the United States), and other beers have captured the attention of beer connoisseurs. The thought of Miller and Coors together would have horrified purists in the '70s. Miller Time, it might have been back then, but not if we could help it.
In 1972, it was the rare Coors bottle that made its way to the East Coast. Texas was able to get occasional imports of the beer, and it was prized by Texas liberals who took their vacations in places like Rocky Mountain National Park (in fact, Coors was the only beer served in our household). Coors was cold-filtered and made with Rocky Mountain water, which meant that the beer was as pure and fresh as the mountains. Other beers were heat-pasteurized, and though it's hard to fathom how heat pasteurization could kill the taste of a glass of urine, cold-filtering was considered to be natural. Naturally, anyone who treated his body as a temple but still loved a good beer buzz early in the morning would drink Coors. It was an easy beer to drink - perhaps too easy. In fact, it was said that the only difference between Coors and piss was 30 minutes. At least there was a time difference involved, as opposed to Shiner Beer, which was concocted in a little brewery in Shiner, Texas, and could strip your innards.

What was ironic about the liberal worship of the Coors brand was the fact that the Coors brewery was owned by some of the most fanatical conservatives to venture into politics. Adolph Coors had started the brewery in Golden, Colorado, back in 1913, and it had stayed in the family until the 21st Century. There was an unwritten rule that no outsiders were allowed in the brewery, which essentially meant no blacks and no Mexicans. It was also an anti-union shop, which also rankled those trying to organize the brewery workers. On top of that, there were the outspoken politics of Joseph Coors, who formed the Committee for the Survival  of a Free Congress in the '70s (later, it became the Free Congress Foundation) and was an early backer of Ronald Reagan's run for president in 1976 and again in 1980. The Committee's principal mission was bashing liberals and liberal causes, which was basically Coors thumbing their noses at their biggest beer-drinking constituency.
The attempts to organize the Coors brewery, and the rumors of their discriminatory practices against Hispanics led to a boycott effort in California, and that boycott was a heated topic on the Stanford Campus in 1979. The esteemed Senate of the Associated Students of Stanford University decided that the issue required further study, and in early 1979, the Senate sent a delegation to Golden, Colorado, to discuss the boycott with the Coors family. They came, they saw, they quaffed, and they left. The four student senators came back to Stanford and issued a final report: "Burrrp!"

The delegation also reported back to the Senate that they had found out, among other things, the secret to Coors Light, which was a light beer that managed to produce a nice, foamy head when poured into a glass (supposedly, Lite Beer, which was Miller Beer's pioneering brand, had no head). Miller Beer had captured the attention of beer drinkers with its "everything you wanted in a beer - and less" ads, featuring any number of personalities from the worlds of literature, motion pictures and especially sports. The other brewers tried to counter the runaway popularity of Lite Beer by introducing their own light brands; I'm not sure of the origins of this ad, though I suspect it was Coors again. Whatever it was, a cartoon was sure to follow.
Now, I already mentioned my skepticism that heat pasteurization could kill the taste of urine. When someone says, "This beer tastes like piss", they are not far off the mark. The brewing process essentially consists of introducing yeast into a porridge of malt, barley, hops and a few other choice ingredients. The yeast, who cannot believe their good fortune at having been invited to an all-you-can-eat buffet of their favorites, proceed to gorge themselves, and then their tiny little bodily functions take over. The food acts as a powerful diuretic, and the yeast piss themselves until they drown. You drink the piss. Now, while you may be tempted to tell your bartender, "I'd like a glass of yeast piss, please", you may want to refrain.

And let's end this essay with a story about Budweiser's mascot. In 1988, before the Budweiser Frogs had been created, Anheuser Busch came up with another cute little animal to sell their beer products - a lumpy, nondescript bull terrier named Spuds McKenzie. Spuds was described as a party animal, and he was competition for Alex, the beer-fetching dog popularized in commercials for Stroh's Beer. But Spuds had a decidedly Jamaican lilt to his attitude, which was kind of hard to fathom in a bull terrier. Nonetheless, I was inspired to come up with a poster that played on the brief popularity of Spuds McKenzie.
I've got to admit - the potato looks like that dog.

1 comment:

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