I’ve enjoyed any number of Robert Christgau’s music commentaries over the years, even if I don’t always agree with him.
I was delighted, then, to find out that he and spouse Carola Dibbell once tackled my other favorite subject — beer.
In the May 1975 issue of Oui magazine, Christgau and Dibbell wrote a piece called “The Great Gulp,” including shorthand reviews of a whole bunch of American and imported beers.
I’ve long been interested in the American beer market before the craft-brew revolution. Those days are frequently — though not entirely accurately — depicted as a bland sea of Old Milwaukee.
Christgau and Dibbell’s reviews probably aren’t representative of what the average American beer drinker could get in 1975.
It sounds like they combed New York City for everything they could find, then invited a couple out-of-town friends to fly in with their regional favorites as well. A more provincial city might not have had quite this much choice on hand.
Still, it’s an interesting firsthand look at what an earlier generation drank, and what they thought of it.
And you can read it here.
A few of my own thoughts:
Interesting to see a couple brews from Allentown’s late, generally unlamented Horlacher Brewery included in the roundup. Horlacher was already in its death throes in 1975, and would go under three years later.
Also cool to see Natick, Mass.-brewed Carling in the survey, even if it was lousy beer. I was in that brewery 25 years after the story ran; it had been converted to the headquarters of a high-tech company.
The mention of the old Coors cult makes me notice the absence of Yuengling on the list. Yuengling wasn’t a regional favorite in 1975; it was just an obscure family-run company hanging on in the middle of nowhere.
I love the line about first trying Pearl Beer in Big Bend National Park. Makes me want to stow a six-pack of something in a cooler and set out for the Great Outdoors.
Also love the reference to Stegmaier, the pride of Wilkes-Barre, as “a Pennsylvania cheapo.” It’s too bad Christgau and Dibbell didn’t try Stegmaier Porter, which for a number of years was the best beer you could find at less than $20 a case. (In their infinite wisdom, Steg’s corporate owners have since turned the porter into a seasonal release. I’ve not seen it in years.)
By my count, I have had 18 of the domestic beers mentioned in the article. Not too shabby. (Anyone got a can of Ortlieb I can try?)