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I’m a Beer Pussy, and I’m Proud of It

Nobody enjoys their first sip of beer. Maybe, like me, you have a dad who allowed you the mistake of sampling his favorite brew at some backyard barbecue around age nine. You decided that it had to be good if it was forbidden, only to pull a face of disgust that got the tipsy adults chuckling. Meanwhile, the impossibly patient weirdo who waits till the ripe age of 21 to crack open a cold one or fill a cup from a keg must be even more disappointed by the discovery that malts, hops, and yeast do not a delicious beverage make. To convince yourself that beer is a delicacy — that you enjoy its flavor entirely apart from the buzz — you need to put in quite a few hours of apprenticeship swilling it.

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But, like many dedicated drinkers, I got there. I could finally distinguish between the cheap, skunky light beers (all we could afford in college) and the fancy beer that didn’t come in 30-racks, which offered tasting notes besides “metal ashtray.” By the time I hit my extremely inebriated mid-20s, I hardly fucked with Budweiser or Miller unless I was sneaking tallboys into a movie theater — and if I really felt like slumming it, there was always Four Loko (until there wasn’t). In a bar setting, Pabst Blue Ribbon was permissible only as a cost-saving move, and everyone knew it. Otherwise, you squinted at the blackboard on which the list of available drafts was scribbled before carelessly picking one that sounded halfway palatable, and ideally somewhat masculine. Does it have “mountain” or “bastard” or some kind of goofy pun in the name? Great, cheers.

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In the past few years, however, I’ve begun to again feel overmatched by “quality” beer. Part of it is routinely facing off against menus of triple IPAs and imperial porters from small regional breweries; I’m sick of happy hour as a gauntlet of macho pints. Then there are my older cousins who now pack the cooler with low-end domestics on the holidays or at the beach, as if rebuking snobbish craft culture. I did an artists’ residency a while back where almost every night we played beer pong with — and indeed never drank anything other than — Coors Light. As I became more of a wimp about rich brown ales, I embraced my ability to crush can after can of 95-calorie Michelob Ultra, which I discovered at a well-stocked wedding. I brought up my love for these thin, piss-yellow brands of beer to a friend who is likewise enamored: He uses the term “party water.”

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Unfortunately, many bros will still bust your balls for swinging back from the high-ABV stunt brews to the stuff you used to buy with a fake ID. Apart from an ice-cold Corona on a hot summer day, they sneer at you for ordering anything “refreshing” or “crisp” or “not comparable to a dissolved loaf of rye bread mixed with old coffee filters.” I took guff from a former colleague for drinking a 22-ounce Stella Artois at the airport bar before a cross-country flight, I guess because it’s only fit for teenage soccer hooligans. Well, screw that — I’m trying to get sloshed in the 20 minutes ahead of boarding, not find out how fast I can chug a goddamn chocolate stout. There’s familiarity and coziness in the weak-ass lagers and pilsners on tap wherever you go in this country, and who am I to pass that up? Read between the lines of the U.S. Constitution and you’ll see the part that guarantees the right to guzzle as many Carlsbergs as your sense of shame allows.

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I’ll remind you once more: No beer actually tastes good. We’ve concocted a massive industry around the idea that it can, but it doesn’t. Never has! The sooner we admit that each new tropical sour weisse is an attempt to sustain the illusion of drinking as a connoisseur’s hobby instead of a habit, the sooner we can give up the guilt of ditching expensive novelties for the basic beers of our wasted youths. It’s not that a Bud tastes better, just that it tastes closer to nothing, or pure neutrality — a liquid whose purpose is unrelated to how it may linger on the tongue. Anyone who wants a delicious path to intoxication can try a piña colada, or a weed brownie, for that matter.

Free your beer experience from bourgeois expectations and intangible nuances that should be left to wine country. Drink it out of a funnel. Drink it in the shower. Drink it out of a paper bag on Amtrak — even though it’s against the rules! Have some pals over to share your shitty beer and, whenever anyone’s empty, toss them another like you have an infinite supply.

Because honestly? You do. This world is more likely to run out of breathable air than Keystone Light. Fear not the stigma of the beer pussy, for it is they who are truly free.