Of Cheap Beer and Baseball: Part I

Intrepid freelance reporter D.G. Dunford has had this piece “brewing” in his mind for several months now. He even did some research on it! Some would say this research includes well over a decade of drinking cheap beer out of cans, and nearly three decades of infatuation with the game of baseball. It turned out to be so epic that we had to split it into two parts.

In 1979, then-United States President Jimmy Carter signed a law that repealed federal restrictions on small-batch home brewing. This law cleared the way for microbreweries to gain a serious market share in today’s beer economy; according to the national Brewer’s Association, there are currently 2,000 breweries in these United States, 1,400 of which are classified as “craft brewers” (independent breweries that produce fewer than two million barrels of beer per year).

What does this mean? Well, first, it means that a beer blog such as this one has its work cut out for it, 1,400 craft breweries means a lot of sampling and writing. However, I’d like to focus on one of the less obvious ramifications of this act, the lessened restrictions on small-batch home brewing changed the way that brewing occurred on a regional level. Between this shift and the triumph of marketing achieved in the 1980s by major brewing behemoths Anheuser-Busch and Miller (which was in and of itself furthered along by eased federal restrictions on television marketing of alcoholic beverages), the last three decades have witnessed the slow decline of a once-great American tradition: the locally brewed cheap beer.

How to define the locally brewed cheap beer? You’d know it if you saw it. It comes in cans, and can generally be found alongside national cheap beers like Busch (an A-B product), Milwaukee’s Best, and Pabst Blue Ribbon (both produced by Miller). It’s the kind of beer that, by its very presence on the shelves, reassures you that you’re close to home. Previous posts in this blog have discussed two pretty solid examples of locally brewed cheap beer; Utica Club, a lager brewed by the FX Matt Brewery of Utica, New York (a mere 70 miles away from the Capital Region of Albany), and Genesee Cream Ale (a favorite of many of ours from way back, brewed at High Falls Brewery near Rochester, New York).

Over the past few years, after a decades-long decline in popularity and consumption, some cheap beers have seen a resurgence of sorts; spearheaded by a hipster-led desire to drink cheaply and ironically, brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon have achieved a sort of credibility and have been seemingly re-energized by a new consumer base. However, from all appearances, this has only been occurring with brands that have support on a national level, like the aforementioned Pabst as well as brands like Hamm’s and Rainier which are produced by Miller. Ultimately, despite this ironic resurgence, it seems as though the locally brewed cheap beer is dying a slow, painful death, replaced by nationally brewed cheap beer and locally-brewed craft brewing. While we generally think that this is a good thing, we have some sad feelings, as there is a character that locally-brewed cheap beer has that can’t really be replicated. For this freelance reporter, that character is inherently tied to our national pastime, baseball.


~ by bojangles on June 29, 2007.

One Response to “Of Cheap Beer and Baseball: Part I”

  1. […] Brewed Beers Our fondness for locally brewed cheap beers is well documented, especially as it relates to […]

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