When the boys from Bud came for Joe Sixpack

THE MEN FROM Bud came knocking on my door the other day. It was only a matter of time till they tracked me down.

They wanted me to drink their beer.

Suddenly, I was back in 1978. Not sure of the exact day, but it was a hot night at McGlinchey’s. “Gimme Shelter” was on the jukebox and the Phillies had just beaten the Dodgers. The good times ended, though, when the bartender told us the bad news: the last keg of Prior Double Dark (45 cents a mug) was kicked.

It seems lame now, but back then you didn’t have many beer choices. Schaefer, Schmidt’s, PBR…

How ’bout a Bud?

That was the last time I drank the Saint Looie stuff. Twenty-five years.

What drives a man who refuses to drink Budweiser – is it taste or principle? For a beer-lover who desires the full flavor of malt and the bitterness of hops, Budweiser comes off like pallid, rice-infused fizz. For the ethical citizen who cringes at the money-grubbing domination of corporate conglomerates, Anheuser-Busch is an evil Borg.

Thankfully, you don’t need a reason when you’re knee-deep in all-malt brews, sipping tall glasses of exotic imports and hand-crafted micros. Belgian lambics, German weissbier, the latest high-octane batch from Dogfish Head – there’s so much more than Budweiser.

But then, it strikes. Maybe you’re at a company picnic or a tailgater outside the Vet. Somebody’ll casually hand you a plastic cup. It’s hot, you’re thirsty, you’re not thinking . . .

And before you know it, you’ve crossed over to the dark side.

As you’d expect, the world’s largest brewer does not do things in a small way. So, when they came knocking, the men from Bud arrived aboard a 45-foot-long tour bus called the “B” Lounge.

Now I know the dread poor Winston in “1984” must have felt just before he was dragged inside the infamous Room 101. I could only imagine the deceptions and torment that awaited me on the other side of the “B” Lounge’s black-tinted windows.

They were dressed in creased khaki pants and polo shirts with discreet Budweiser logos. And they were smiling.

It was sinister, I tell you.

“Have a seat,” one of them said, ominously motioning toward a black leather couch, implying, “Resistance Is Futile. ”

It was quite comfortable, thank you. I glanced around quickly for the restraining straps; instead, they offered me a pillow.

For the sake of common decency, I’ll spare you further details of the indignities thrust upon me. Let’s just say the glare from the wide-screen plasma TV screens was more than any human being could be expected to handle.

They started grilling me about their beer, using words like “elegant” and “delicately flavored. ” I could see where this was headed. I tried to drown them out, loudly repeating, “Reinheitsgebot! Reinheitsgebot! ”

But before you knew it, the Budweiser message was firmly implanted in my brain: Beer is best when it’s fresh . . . Beer goes bad when exposed to high temperatures, sunlight and oxygen . . . Budweiser is the freshest beer on earth, just look at its “born-on” date . . . Bud good, Coors bad . . .

I weakened.

One of the men from Bud drifted toward the “B” Lounge bar.

How’d you like to taste a Budweiser with a “born-on” date of . . . TODAY?

It was 11 a.m. The closest Budweiser plant is in Newark, N.J., 90 miles away. How’d they do that?

He poured. I lifted it toward my mouth. Like I said, I’ll spare you the details.

I could excuse my behavior by pointing out that, despite my preference for craft brews, most Americans apparently enjoy the flavor of Budweiser – so who am I to defy their taste? I could explain that, yeah, A-B is big, but here in Philadelphia it employs hundreds of handlers, truck drivers, salesmen and distributors – my Bud boycott hurts local business. I could tell you the conditions inside that “B” Lounge, with its plush cushions, soft lighting and that polished mahogany bar, were unforgiving.

The truth is, forgive me, friends, I was thirsty.

It tasted clean and crisp and fresh. Maybe I’ll try another in 25 years.

Beer radar

Here’s a case where freshness doesn’t count: holiday ales. If you spot discounted winter beer at your neighborhood distributor, go ahead and splurge. The beer’s old, but – thanks to high alcohol and extra malt and hops – it’s still good. I’ve seen cases that were originally marked at more than $30 going for $19 . . .

Beer has plenty of benefits, from washing down pizza to enhancing beauty. In Singapore, they think it prevents SARS. Sorry. Alcohol kills germs, but as the government was recently prompted to inform its citizens, drinking beer will not stop a deadly disease . . .

Anchor Summer, a big-time wheat beer from the San Francisco brewery, is making a re-appearance this season after years of absence here. Berliner Weisse, the tart, low-alcohol refresher served with raspberry syrup, is back at Nodding Head (1516 Sansom St., Center City). Also new on area shelves: Reissdorf Koelsch from Germany and Appalachian Peregrine Pilsner from Harrisburg . . .

The mates at Victory Brewing in Downingtown are chipper: their world-class HopDevil IPA is now being exported to London, the birthplace of India Pale Ales . . . More than 1,000 spectators watched Nelly, a 7-year-old pygmy angora, win the annual Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery goat race Sunday. In her honor, Brewer Brian O’Reilly will pour Nelly’s Maibock till the kegs run dry.


May 17 – First annual Pottstown Incredible Brews, Blues & Barbecue Festival, Ortlieb’s Brewery and Grille (Sunnybrook Ballroom, 99 Sunnybrook Road, Pottstown). Music, pulled pork and craft beers at Henry Ortlieb’s latest joint. Tix: $30 ($27.50 advance). Times: Noon to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Info: 610-326-6400.

May 17 – Third annual Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers Festival, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (30 E. State St., Media). Craft beers from 25 local breweries, proceeds benefit the Media Youth Center. Tix: $25 ($20 advance). Time: 1-5 p.m. Info: 610-627-9000. *

Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a glass of Flying Fish Hop Phish IPA.


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