The Beer Summit is upon us, and much as I have tried to avoid reading very much into this hastily manufactured CYA photo-op (where's Rodney King? Can't we all just get along?), I can't help but notice the deep and sobering fractures in our society that are revealed in the beer choices of President Obama, Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley.
Let me elucidate:
Is it a surprise to find the President choosing Bud Light, the most popular beer in America? On the contrary, it would have been a shock had he chosen anything else. Undoubtedly the product of fevered consultation and nail-biting among the president's advisers, and bolstered by some last-minute focus group data. To choose a beer with any real, determinate character might have been to risk alienating some other beer demographic... so, as he has done since the earliest days of his candidacy, Mr. Obama has chosen the path that is the safest politically, and that reveals the least about himself. As I have said before, Bud Light tastes as much like nothing as beer can.
Professor Gates, on the other hand, has boldly chosen Red Stripe, the beer of Liberation from White Oppressors. Think I'm exaggerating? The Red Stripe web site trumpets;
Take that, Christopher Columbus! I tried Red Stripe a year ago, or so, and found it remarkably unremarkable (it tastes a lot like any American mass-market brew) and a good deal too expensive, to boot. Cool bottle, though.
Sergeant Crowley, of the Cambridge Police Department, has chosen Blue Moon, a mass-market brew from Coors, coyly and carefully marketed as a "craft" brew. The third best-selling "craft beer" in America, right below Sam Adams Boston Lager (which is getting into some big numbers).
An unfiltered, multi-grain Belgian style beer, lightly flavored with orange and coriander, it is a tolerable brew, more substantial than Red Stripe, but still tame enough to be welcome at any back yard barbecue. Your craft beer friends will still respect you, and your Lite-weight friends - unaccustomed to beers with a distinct flavor and color - will (mostly) not make cringe-y faces and say things like, "Thanks... now, do you have any beer? This tastes like swamp water and Earl Grey filtered through a gym sock.". It walks the line between two worlds, that of the Trousered Ape and the Craft Beer Snob. The choice doesn't exactly peg Sergeant Crowley as a Complex Man, but he has chosen the best beer of the three, for my money.
Meanwhile, we all sit by as the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. What if there are fisticuffs? Will professor Gates pound his shoe on the table? What if it is just an awkward and embarrassing twenty minutes of forced smalltalk? Will Obama have some (carefully planned and professionally written) one-liners on hand to break the ice? If all goes well, will they stand together out by the fence in the back alley behind the White House and say "Yup" in turn, like they do on King of the Hill?
That would be sweet.