For this year’s big game, I thought it would be fitting to feature a classic craft brew from San Francisco. Now, at the Super Bowl party, all you 49ers fans can show your spirit in a novel way by bringing a beer that is native to the Golden Gate City . I’m speaking, of course, of Anchor Steam Beer.
While the location of the Anchor brewery is important, what really makes this beer great for 49er fans is the history of the style. “Steam” beer (which is now a trademark of Anchor), was originally enjoyed by California prospectors in the early-to-mid 1800s. Early steam beers were brewed with lager yeasts, but fermented at warmer temperatures due to the lack of means to cool the tanks in the warm climate. The brew was then cooled by the use of wide, shallow fermenting vessels. Apparently, this process caused a high amount of carbon dioxide to build up, causing the casks to “steam” when tapped. Just a little factoid to discuss during the never-tedious Super Bowl half-time show.
Anyway, this medium-amber beer is a lager at heart, but with a hoppiness slightly less than an American pale ale, which gives this beer a dry, almost bitter finish. I’d usually say that this beer goes with a grilled fish, but that’s not really a party food. So, let’s just say that this beer pairs well with whatever your host or hostess may be serving.
I should note that this post isn’t an indication that I’m a 49ers fan. I originally wanted to write about one beer from San Francisco and one from Baltimore. Unfortunately, they simply don’t sell any beer in Mississippi that is made in Baltimore, or Maryland, or even any of the surrounding states. But, if you happen to live by the border, and really want to show your support for the Ravens through your choice of beer, Flying Dog brewery (sold in TN and AL) offers a wide range of excellent brews.
One of the great effects of the newly enacted beer laws is that now, breweries are starting to pop up all over Mississippi. I live in Oxford now, but I’m a coasty at heart, having grown up in Ocean Springs. I’ve always said that O.S. would be a great place for a brewery, and now, thankfully, it’s happened. Being so far away, I’ve only just found out. Crooked Letter Brewery(great name) will begin selling their first batches of beer in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Unfortunately for me, it looks like they’ll only be selling on the coast, so I’ll have to wait until the Tupelo Craft Beer Festival to give it a try. Check them out. http://crookedletterbrewing.com/
As I’ve said, I’m not a beer snob. I can easily find satisfaction in a cheap, domestic beer. While some people may write off any beer that costs less than $8 for a six pack, I’m of the opinion that one can truly appreciate a mass-produced, American lager. More importantly, if you’re having a party, buying the right domestic beer can help you keep your guests happy while not breaking the bank. This list includes five beers that are often overlooked, but provide the most bang for your buck. As with all of my posts, the reasoning is only based on my own experience and opinion. Enjoy.
1. Pabst Blue Ribbon
I know that lately, the hipster culture has attempted to appropriate PBR, but this classic working-man’s beer still had to top the list. With a recipe that has supposedly not changed since 1891, Pabst Brewery has obviously stuck with what works. At last check, I could buy a 30-pack of this refreshing lager for around $16, meaning around 50 cents for each beer. And while the cans are good, PBR on draft is the best way to drink it. Many bars offer it for as low as two bucks. If you haven’t had PBR on draft, do your self a favor: scrounge up some change, go to your local bar, and grab a pint. This beer goes great with buffalo wings-yet another classic.
2. Rolling Rock
Another great, yet overlooked, domestic beer. Elsewhere in the country, I know that it can be found in cans, but here in Mississippi, the only packaging option is their trademark green long-neck bottles. If at all possible, buy this beer in a 12 pack (around $10). The green bottles allow more light to reach the beer, so there is a chance with the exposed 6-pack that the flavors may have changed. Finally, if you are ever lucky enough to come across this beer on draft, get it. Ice-cold Rolling Rock is great when enjoyed during a crawfish or shrimp boil. It’s also fantastic with pizza (like all lagers).
3. Miller High Life
Crisp. Clean. Highly Carbonated. Delicious. Miller HIgh Life is really Miller’s flagship beer. Just the mention of this famous beer brings a grimace to many-a-face of beer drinkers. These people – like myself, until recently- turn up their nose, sure that the price of this beer automatically makes it inferior. But High Life doesn’t deserve such a reputation. Next time you are in the market for a cheap, domestic beer, pick some up and put it on ice. You won’t regret it. I particularly like to enjoy this beer with a simple cold-cut sandwich.
“The Banquet Beer”. I’ve included this beer on this list primarily because I feel it is very underrated in Mississippi. This golden, slightly sweet lager is usually overshadowed by its much more popular sibling, Coors Light. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the “Silver Bullet”, but you just get a fuller flavor and, I think, more drinkability from the original. Also, it is surprisingly inexpensive if you look for the right deals. In north Mississippi, you can get a 6-pack of pint-cans for around $4. This is a great deal, particularly since a six pack of 12-ounce Coors original or Coors light costs around $6. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but there you have it. This beer goes great with pasta, particularly pasta with white sauce.
5. Miller Genuine Draft
I just had to include this beer. People are constantly putting it down, and I’d like to offer a defense. In my view, this golden lager can hold its own with the likes of Budweiser or Coors. Many beer snobs dislike MGD, but then they also seem to dislike all mass-produced American lager, so I feel their opinion is slightly unreliable when it comes to determining the standouts of the group. Unfortunately, MGD is usually packaged in clear bottles, which brings the danger of light contamination, which may also explain some bad reviews. So, if at all possible, get cans or a boxed, unexposed, 12 pack. I’ve found that MGD goes very well with a barbecue.
This list isn’t exhaustive. I hope that it makes people just a little less picky, realizing that it is possible to appreciate cheap beer for what it is: drinkable, affordable refreshment.
Although the rest of the country seems to think that Mardi Gras is an exclusively New Orleans/Louisiana affair, Mississippians know otherwise. From Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula, the Mississippi Gulf Coast spends several weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday attending parades, balls, and, not to mention, drinking. And there’s no better place to start than Abita Brewery’s seasonal beer, Mardi Gras Bock.
This beer is similar to a German bock. Bock basically means that there is a strong flavor and full body, not to mention a stout amount of alcohol. At 6.5% alcohol, this beer is certain to get your Mardi Gras started right. There’s a good hoppiness to this beer that doesn’t overpower, letting the malty sweetness shine through. Whether you’re on the coast, or you’re in central or north Mississippi, where Mardi Gras is as foreign as anywhere else, this seasonal beer will lift your spirits as we draw nearer to winter’s end. Try pairing this beer with red beans and rice or jambalaya, but make sure to include plenty of spicy Cajun sausage.
Today, as I often do, I picked up a six pack sampler from my nearest great beer store, Joe’s Craft Beer in Oxford, MS. On a whim, I picked up a smattering of Asian beers. This geographic area is sometimes overlooked when it comes to brewing, and it is certainly rare to see anyone in Mississippi drinking Asian beers (except for maybe in the coastal cities). This is a shame, because they’re quite delicious. These can all be found in stores in Mississippi, and at some Asian restaurants.
Asahi Super Dry (Japan)
This Japanese lager is sure to please anyone from the frat boy beer novice to the most sophisticated connoisseurs. As drinkable or more than any American lager, such as Coors or Budweiser, with a similar, yet slightly drier taste, slightly hoppier. Goes great with sushi, particularly any cooked roll, such as “Crunchy” rolls.
This is China’s most well-known and best-selling beer. The distinctive green bottle and label makes it highly recognizable. Apart from grocery stores, and other Asian restaurants, I happen to know that a particular chain of Vietnamese restaurants on the coast (Kim Long) that also serves this delightful brew. It is a pilsner-style lager, much like Heineken, but it is a little lighter in both flavor and color, almost like it is slightly watered down. However, do not let that deter you. It just means that this beer is smooth, drinkable, and goes very well with food, particularly (what else) Chinese takeout.
This beer, like the vast majority of Asian beers, is also a lager. It comes from the oldest and largest brewery in Thailand. Singha is an all-malt lager, which makes it slightly sweeter than than usual, but not sickeningly so. The hops used give this beer a slightly herbal character. Finally, at 6% alcohol by volume, it’s the strongest of any Asian beers currently available in Mississippi. As you might expect, it pairs well with Thai food, particularly seafood-based.
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
“He is a wise man who invented beer.”
“To alcohol: the cause of -and solution to- all of life’s problems.”
On July 1st, 2012, after years of grassroots effort, Mississippi finally passed a law removing the previous alcohol content limit of 6%. Finally, Mississippi could join the rest of the country in rediscovering the vast amount of quality brews out there, both domestic craft brews and imports.
However, just as the Mississippi legislature took a long time to bring about this change, so too are the majority of Mississippi residents slow to realize what a gift we’ve been given. While more and more decent pubs and beer stores are opening, and even established restaurants are beginning to offer a much wider variety, your average Mississippian is still unaware of their new options. I have started this blog with the goal of introducing a new culture of beer love to our great state.
Before anyone gets offended, I recognize that there are quite a few true beer lovers in Mississippi, especially the good members of the Raise Your Pints Organization, which is in large part responsible to the passage of the 2012 law. For these fellow hop heads, this blog is not so much an introduction to the world of beer, but simply entertainment. And perhaps you’ll learn of a pub, store, or even beer, that you had not before.
Finally, while I will be discussing various local pubs and bars, beer stores, and beers themselves, please do not assume I am an expert. Nor am I a beer snob. I’m just a guy who loves beer and would like to share that love with the people Mississippi. All 2.5 million of them.