I once had Dasani in a can. It came out of a Coca-Cola vending machine at some plantation in South Carolina whose name currently escapes me. I was a newly-minted legal drinker coming off an evening of tee many martoonis at the Embassy Suites my parents, sister and I were staying at in Charleston, SC. (Embassy Suites has the best open bar Happy Hour(s). Highly recommended). It is still, to this day, the worst beverage I’ve ever had that was poured out of a can – metallic and lukewarm – just awful. I bring this up as evidence that that there is (or was) actually a worse beverage locked behind a can’s pop top than the American Light Lager. Wait – that’s unfair…to the Dasani.
OK, OK. I’ll stop. But behind my snarkiness toward fizzy, yellow macros, I have to say that they embody the American Spirit. I write this sitting at my local bar, surrounded by pints of ice cold light beer being slugged back by weathered drinkers spinning yarns about “back in the day”, and I have to say, BMC got it right (BMC is Beer Nerd for Bud/Miller/Coors. You’ll see it a lot in this post). Making money in the beer world is about economies of scale, and the Big Boys have it down. Think about this: Tens of thousands of barrels of Bud Light alone are produced yearly, and it is consistently the same. Can, bottle, draft – you know that you will undoubtedly get the same product. That’s downright amazing. For a process that relies heavily on the surrounding environmental conditions, to regulate production to such a degree is quintessentially American. It embodies the American Spirit, that Capitalistic drive to dominate the marketplace, give us all access to the same product, one that transcends taste buds, and do it all at an affordable price. Walmart-style long before Sam Walton started rolling back prices.
But we’re (aspiring) Beer Nerds, right? We can’t succumb to the BMC-ness that is perpetuated on Independence Day. What can we do to break the chains of the Big Boys, but still celebrate the American Lager? Let’s look at its roots. The American Light Lager is based on German/Austrian/Bavarian Pilsner styles that were brought to the States by immigrants. You know a bunch of their names: Busch, Coors, and Schlitz to name a few. They made the classic Pilsner styles they knew, until they were thwarted by this little thing in the 1920’s called Prohibition. The American Light Lager was born from brewing’s post-Prohibition recovery. When the 21st Amendment was repealed, a style of Pilsner using adjunct grains (rice and corn) along with malted barley was born to appeal to more Americans, lightening its flavor and creating the fizzy, yellow, mildly alcoholic BMC beer we all know now. It has corny and bready notes, a watery mouthfeel with a lot of effervescence, and little to no hop flavor or bitterness.
The good news is that the craft world has been good enough to give us better American Light lager options. First and foremost are the regional/micro versions of the true American Light Lager. Obviously, being an East Coast boy, Yuengling comes to mind. America’s oldest brewery is darn good at what it does; making a cult favorite that is sought out, not only across WDW, but up and down the East Coast. From there, the lines between styles blur a bit, and many variations on the theme are available. Disney offers several Lager/Pilsner style beers around property, most of which are solid options. Beers such as Sam Adams Boston Lager, Safari Amber/Rix Red Lager and Kona Longboard Lager all fall under the category of Amber/Vienna Lager. Some of the more local micro/brewpub versions, such as Big River Southern Flyer Light Lager available at Big River Grille, and the Florida Beer Company’s Hurricane Reef Caribbean Pils and their Florida Lager, all of which are “good (i.e. less generic) versions of a Light Lager.” Other choices at Walt Disney World are Full Sail Session Premium Lager, Orange Blossom Pilsner, and the ubiquitous Pabst Blue Ribbon. (That last is for the Hipsters – the rest are solid options).
All of those light lager variations are available on property, some widely, and are good options when all you want is a nice, light thirst quencher that isn’t generic BMC. A good rule to follow is to look for an Amber Lager, or a Vienna or a Helles Lager. Pilsners are a good BMC upgrade, but come with a slight to moderate increased hop rate in most cases. Though some will be a bit heavier in body and alcohol content, none of them will do you wrong. And hey, if you’re in the mood for a Light Lager while at the Parks, you can find Yuengling pretty much everywhere, including its current residence in my hand. Just one last tip – if your beer comes in a can, do yourself a favor and pour it into a glass or a cup. You want to taste the beer, not its container. Have a happy, safe, and fizzy Independence Day, Dads!