Beer is better than every other food or beverage, up to and including chicken pot pie and bourbon. I didn’t come here to speak ill of Earth’s finest ingestible. Beer’s the best, and everyone should drink all of it.
However. It’s irresponsible to deny that some beers are the-bester than others. Quite often, when I write judgmentally about one beer or another, handsome and well-intentioned commenters will tell me, “Yo, the best beer is the cold one in your hand!” I usually answer with some faux-enthusiastic version of, “Hell yeah, bro ... BEEEEER MEEE,” because I am a liar and a coward.
But the truth is that some beers, while being excellent compared to lesser foodstuffs (i.e., the rest of them), aren’t very good when appraised next to their peers. You should still drink these less shiny stars, because a long day of intimacy with a dozen or so cold Keystones is far superior to the same day without them. A better beer would make it an even better day, though, which you knew even as you were browsing through the scratch-and-dent aisle at the beer thrift shop. But every day ain’t payday, and you’re not always in charge of the beer supply, anyway. I get it. Sometimes life hands you a batch of the not-quite-as-great stuff. Here are 12 ways to make the most of suboptimal beer.
1. Shandy That Shit
Shandies and radlers are some of the rage these warmer days, but I have to admit that I’m not always supportive of commercial versions. Too often a pre-packaged shandy is just a brewery’s lamest beer cut with off-brand citrus soda. And even when the juice is pure, I’d almost always rather have a good, clean beer.
But we’re not talking about the ideal scenario here. We’re talking about the four cans of Bud Light the previous tenants left under the bathroom sink next to the overworked plunger and the vintage porn. How you gonna gussy that up?
Pour two ounces of lemonade, fruit juice, or non-brown soda into an empty pint glass. Add a full 12-ounce can of beer. Top with another shot of the mixer. Do you suddenly have the world’s finest drink? No. But a couple minutes ago, you had secondhand Bud Light, and now you have a custom-built shandy, so you’re doing all right.
2. Find A Boat
Jimmy Buffett, the official ambassador/troubadour/cheeseburger salesman to America’s most embarrassing uncles, has built an entire empire around the truth that everything tastes good on a boat. Would it have been easier to just get a six-pack of Sierra Nevada to enjoy on the comfort of your own futon? Sure, but it’s too late for that now. As soon as you went with Busch, you painted yourself into a corner. Might as well drive/float out of that corner in a boat, you know?
3. Shotgun It
Hold your can of Natural Ice at waist-level, parallel to the ground. Stab a grape-sized hole about an inch from the base of your aluminum boner. Tilt the can up, affix your lips to the homemade hole, and activate the tab. Suck down your nasty-ass beer in three to five seconds. Feel a little bit stupid, but also a little bit buzzed, and know you did the best you could under the circumstances.
4. Make Beer Ice Cubes
Freeze that swill in an ice-cube tray. Then you’ll have beer ice cubes! Or at least beer firm-slush cubes (alcohol doesn’t freeze, but there isn’t much in most of your sleazier beers, so you’ll be able to create a mostly solid mass of really cold beer). Whatever will you do with your frozen brewski blocks? Dunno, really. This post isn’t called, “A Dozen Things To Do With The Ice Cubes You Made From Your Bad Beer.” I can’t think of an immediate utility, other than broadcasting to the world that you are not the sort of motherfucker who takes bad beer lying down, and also that you have a freezer. And I guess now you’ll have some super-cold Pabst to float in any warm Pabst you happen to stumble upon.
5. ‘Scape Your Land
Beer’s got sugar, and that’s good for the microbugs and such that live in your lawn-dirt. And slugs are attracted to yeast, so you can put a cup of beer on your lawn and wait for the poor bastards to slug their way on in and drown, if you’re that kind of monster.
6. Dump It In A Big-Ass Mug
This may sound dangerously similar to the Buffett ‘n’ boat scenario, but hear me out. If you’re a serious beer-o, you’ve likely acquired a giant one-liter mug somewhere along the way. They’re cool as hell, but not always the most convenient vessels from which to drink high-end or high-proof beer. That’s why mine spend most of the year holding spare change and grocery-store flowers, but every now and then I like to get festive by pouring three or so beers into one and just settling down to business. Sure, High Life is never going to taste objectively good, but if you serve yourself a few pounds’ worth at once, you at least get a goofy, subversive kick out of the enterprise.
7. Shower Beer
Here’s an embarrassing admission: Until a couple of years ago I thought I invented drinking beer in the shower. Turns out there are tons of Tumblrs and reddits and the like dedicated to the art, and for all I know some clever cavewoman thought to drink a beer under a waterfall back before the Internet and I were even born. So there’s a fair chance you’ve thought of this one yourself, but even if you’re a veteran shower-drinker, I have a couple tips that may improve your results. First, don’t take glass bottles into the shower, duh. And also don’t take good beer in there, no matter how tempting it seems, because you’re going to get tap water and shampoo all up in it. Cheap beers are also well suited for the shower because they’re best when served as cold as possible, and one of the signature joys of the shower beer is the temperature contrast between the washing-water and the drinking-water.
8. Bitter It Up
You’ve probably got a bottle of Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters lying around, and if your friends regard you as a drunk who’s otherwise hard to shop for, you may have several other brands and flavors in stock, as well. Good news: A couple dashes of bitters is just the thing to smarten up a lackluster can of beer. Why, a judicious application of cocktail bitters can basically turn Milwaukee’s Best Ice into a top-notch IPA!
That is not true. What bitters can do, however, is add a bit of depth, color, and pucker to your shitbrew. My favorite beer-saving bitters are from Minnesota’s small-scale Whiting Bitters Company, particularly Batch 1, which features grapefruit, lemon, hops, sage, and coriander. Batch 2, with rhubarb, hops, lavendar, and fennel is nice, too. If you can’t get your mitts on Whiting’s, then maybe try a citrus flavor from Fee Brothers or Regan’s.
9. Make Some Chili
I’ve always added beer to my chili, but until recently I thought it was just a fun affectation for party-dads who tend to have more beer than broth on hand. But then I looked into whether there was any actual science (or at least logic) behind the practice, and I was pleased to learn that Alton Brown puts beer in his chili. Good enough for you and me, then. Darker beer is popular in your brown and beefy varieties, but fizzy yellow macro-brew works fine there, too, and the pale, bland stuff is outright preferred in white and green chilis.
10. Float Some Berries In It
If you share freezer space with a certain kind of yogurt-eater or smoothie-maker, you may occasionally be able to sneak a small fistful of frozen raspberries or similar into your previously sad glass of Rolling Rock. As the berries melt, they’ll release some of their goo, turning the beer a prettier color while adding a naturally sweet flavor mask.
11. Margaritize It
Frothy margaritas are great, and a shot of light-flavored beer is the perfect mid-brow way to obtain one without slumming it with a tequila slushie or outgrowing your britches by fucking around with egg whites. Just add a bit of beer to the mix along with everything else before you activate your shaker.
12. Turn It Into A Thoughtful Gesture
Eh, just give that shit away. Remember, you might be a discerning beerologist, but not everyone is a student of the game. In fact, the vast majority of people aren’t: Bud Light still outsells all craft beer combined, and by a wide margin. If you’re too much of a connoisseur for the cheap stuff—and too much of something else to follow one of the 11 simple steps detailed above—just give it to your doctor or brother-in-law or mail carrier.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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