Back when I was in college, what beer we’d serve at a party was NEVER (and I really mean NEVER) a factor. It all came down to price: what was the cheapest beer the nearest twenty-one year old could procure in keg form at the soonest? In those days, that would have meant Budweiser, Schlitz, or Miller. Coors hadn’t yet made it east of the Mississippi. None of the beer choices were good, and since this was my only experience with beer hitherto, I just thought I didn’t like the beverage.
A beer is a beer is a beer. That was how most people thought. If it has alcohol, if it can get me drunk, then it’s good. This attitude is most prevalent among the underaged who think they look like cool young adults with a mug of anything in their hands.
Some of us grow out of it. Many of us don’t.
When my father-in-law once came to visit from overseas, my wife and I took him to one of those chic bar establishments sprouting up all over town serving imported European and American beers, mostly craft ones. After tax and service charge, the cost per Imperial pint came to about $10. This seemed like a lot in a city where one can stop at a market restaurant down the street and have a bowl of red curry, a plate of stir fried morning glory and rice, and a large local beer (30% larger than an Imperial pint) for just $7.
“How’s the Belgian beer?” I asked him.
He just smiled. He could have cared less. On subsequent visits, he never suggested we go out and sample those same beers again. He was content to stop by Family Mart or 7 11 and pick up a cheap 630 ml bottle of Chang Classic, cost: $1.60.
Now if I had spent five times the money to buy a European bottle half the size for something twice as good, he would have happily sipped it. He would have happily sipped anything put in front of him. So is it the right thing to do during his future visits and let money be no object when it comes to family?
My father-in-law is an easy case. He’s a party of one and he really, really has no preference what beer he is served as long as it has a lot of alcohol in it. That explains his predilection for Chang Classic with an abv of 6.0%, one of the stronger local beers in Thailand. If I laid down serious coin to buy him rare Trappist ales, it would be tantamount to me feeding caviar to a homeless man. The homeless man would appreciate the caviar because it’s food, but he’d enjoy a much cheaper sandwich just as much or possibly even more.
What if you’re throwing a party or having some kind of small social gathering at which beer will be the predominant alcoholic beverage? As a host with well defined quality beer preferences, should you practice the Golden Rule, treat others as you would like to be treated and fork out for the dear stuff?
Over the decades, I’ve found that when it comes to taste, there is no such thing as the Golden Rule. If you were having a few close friends over and you knew their exact beer preferences, I assume you would go to greater lengths and spend greater sums to provide them with the beers they like. That references more a general friendship rule than any Golden Rule. When you’re throwing a party where people you’re friendly with are coming, as opposed to close friends, I think a better tact is to procure the highest quality lowest common denominator beer.
On a typical evening, my wife and I don’t sip on exotic and expensive Czech pilsners and American IPA’s. We’ll tipple a Singha, an Asahi, a Kirin, or, if we can find one, a Federbrau. Each of these beers is local and costs roughly the same, between $2-2.25 per 640 ml. Therefore, if we were throwing a party and not privy to the guests’ beer preferences ahead of time, we would be most likely to serve Singha. It’s the cheapest, the easiest of the four to find, and probably the one most guests will be most familiar with. Singha is the least offensive/controversial beer on the short list, just the sort to appeal to a crowd.
But notice that we’re still practicing the Golden Rule. Sort of. We’re not serving our guests anything that we would not sip ourselves. And if, for some reason, the guests don’t like it and we’re stuck with it, so what? Our cupboards then overflow with a product we can eventually finish.
It is not my responsibility to educate people on better brews when they have no desire for that education. In fact, nothing is more frustrating than trying to impart upon someone wisdom you’ve gained which the other party does not value. On a trip to Korea to visit my wife’s family, we picked up a few Belgian and Japanese brews. These only incur a slight price premium over there compared to the watery Korean beers typically imbibed. Her family agreed, without much enthusiasm, that the Belgian and Japanese beers were superior, but this made no difference in their future buying habits. If they don’t care enough to buy the better stuff for themselves when the better stuff is only $1-1.50 more per bottle, how can I be faulted for not laying down $4 more per bottle to buy them that stuff when they come to visit me?
They say the best things in life are free. However, the best beers in life are not. If a beer is a beer is a beer to your guests, then any beer, subject to your approval, will do the job. Be hospitable enough to give them the cheapest stuff which you also enjoy, and you can’t go wrong.