Monday, May 5, 2008

Attitudes Towards Beer Start Early

BratsI had the pleasure of going camping over the weekend with a large group of Boy Scouts. As you may know, participating in any official Boy Scout activity means that there is no alcohol allowed to be brought along. So it was a "dry" weekend for me. There was one interesting beer related conversation that came up over the weekend however. This conversation pointed out to me just how early in a young man's life the impression about what is considered good beer is given to him. This all came about one evening when my son's troop was preparing their evening meal in our campsite.

I work with a lot of boy scouts between the ages of 11 and 17. The older boys (14-17) are given a lot of freedom in our troop to cook anything they want. They plan their menus, they go out and buy their own food, and then they get to cook the meal. Many times, the boys choice of food is influenced by what gets cooked on their Dad's backyard grill. In this particular case, they chose to cook up some brats. Now normally, I don't think twice about the boys choosing to cook bratwurst, but what got my attention was the conversation I overheard between them while they were preparing to cook their brats.

One of the oldest boys who was 16 was in charge of boiling the brats over a gas stove. He was lamenting to the other boys in his patrol about how at home they boil all of their brats in a good beer and how that adds a lot of flavor to the brats, but how unfortunate it was that they didn't have any beer to cook their brats in. The boy was quoted as saying "Ah man, nothing tastes as good as a brat boiled in a good beer. I wish we had some Bud Light to cook these in." I nearly burst out laughing when I heard this. Now remember, this is coming from a 16 year old kid who shouldn't be drinking anything at his age (but knowingly that was roughly the same age I started drinking beer).

So already at his age, his impression of a good beer was a Bud Light. To me, Bud Light is about the same thing as water. I can't imagine getting much flavor at all out of a can of that stuff. Yet at their age, that's all they know about, mostly because that's what beer they see people drinking on TV during commercials. He was going on and on about his "knowledge" of Bud Light and how good it was for "cooking" brats. He even went as far as asking one of the adults if they could run into town and buy a couple of beers so they could boil their brats with it. Of course we had to say a big "NO".

The perception of what good beer is hits home to young men at a very early age. Their knowledge of beer is passed around by word of mouth based solely from what's on TV and their peers. It may also be influenced by what beer their Dad's keep in the fridge. Sadly, many households only bring home macro beer. If we beer enthusiasts want to change the impression of what good beer is, it may have to start at home.

Now of course, I was biting my tongue out on the campsite as I didn't want to encourage beer drinking to young teens. I kept my thoughts about what a good beer was to myself. I certainly wanted to suggest some other beers that would taste even better to boil brats in, but I had to refrain. After all, how would it look if a kid came home from a campout and they told their parents - "One of the scoutmasters told us all about some good beers to try". I don't think that would go over well.

I have a young teen-aged son at home and while I try not to drink in front of him too often, he at least won't see me drinking a macro beer. My beer fridge only holds craft beers. Sad thing is, my older son who is over 21 only drinks cheap macro beer. Keystone Light is his beer of choice. I offered him a craft beer recently and he put it down after a few sips and said he didn't like it. Perhaps I gave him one that had a bit too many hops in it. But still, what he was used to drinking was practically water.

So, it would appear that young men have to be "weaned" off the macro beer teet. Their taste buds (no pun intended) still have to develop as they mature. While teaching them about good beer probably isn't appropriate at their young age, they are still being influenced by what they see around them. If all they see is Bud, Miller and Coors commercials, that is what will continue to be their starting beer of choice.

How would you want to "teach" young men about craft beer? What do you think would be a decent craft beer to introduce them to?

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