Tonight, I came home and I needed a beer. It was one of those days. A million things going on at work, hardly any time to focus on anything but work. No time to catch my breath. My computer was being slow all day, it was just awful. I used to work construction: people in the trades know what kind of a day I’m talking about. Physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. When you crash through the door after the sun has gone down on one of those days, it’s time for a beer.
I’ve been reviewing beers, expanding my horizons, getting to know hops and malts and yeasts and sugars and smells and three-finger heads and beer glasses and beer styles and beer jargon … gasp … so I decided to drink Old Style. I needed to simplify, to veg out. To emancipate myself from the loftier, more intellectual beer culture, and reconnect with a blue collar beer.
Old Style is a Chicago staple but is actually native to Wisconsin, where it was first brewed by the G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1902. It’s an American Adjunct Lager, like many of its commercial competitors. Old Style is known for its “kraeusening” (kroi-zen-ing), or double fermentation process that is typical of bottle fermented beers. Old Style claims this kraeusening gives their lager “extra carbonation and complex richness,” as well as makes it “doubly aromatic and singularly intricate in taste.” Unfortunately, the brewers of Old Style should have just left it at “Think local, drink local,” their most recent mantra. Because this beer is anything but intricate, aromatic, and complex. Friends, this is simply beer. It pours from a cheap, 20 oz. can into my beer mug. It is highly carbonated and therefore boasts an enormous head, if you want it to. But this head fades within a minute or so, leaves almost no lacing at all (since there isn’t much in this beer). It barely embodies the yellow hue of a light lager, and is crystal clear. It smells faintly (and by faintly I mean, “I’m so used to smelling beers that actually have an aroma, that I can’t be sure my brain didn’t just fabricate the faint malt aroma all on its own) of malt.
The taste is forgettable. It’s so narrowly a beer that it’s really hard to even describe the taste. But there is something about Old Style, and again, the experience of drinking factors largely here, that satisfies. Old Style ain’t everywhere, but everywhere has its own form of Old Style. When I was in Seville, Spain, it was Cruzcampo. Here in Chicago, it’s Old Style or PBR. Tonight, though my gold-ish beer tastes more like nothing at all, there’s a smile on my face. When I’m sitting down the first base line at the Friendly Confines with a Maxwell Street Polish in the other hand, there ain’t a beer on earth I’d rather have.
Thanks, Old Style, for being so terrible … ly lovable.