Sunday, April 18, 2010

When 'Domestic' Doesn't Mean Domestic

I pointed out in "The Elephants of Style" that Samuel Adams often shows up on bars' lists of "imported" beer, and that phenomenon bubbled up at the tavern where the American Copy Editors Society toasted the conclusion of its recent conference in Philadelphia.

We were given wristbands that entitled us to $3 pints of domestic draft beer, and so I took a look at the taps and pointed to a Pennsylvania microbrew. That would cost more than $3, the bartender told me, adding that " 'Domestic' means Bud, Miller, Coors . . ."

It might be time for the more descriptivist dictionaries to add that:

6. ordinary or inexpensive [domestic beer]

I settled for a Yuengling, brewed in the town of my birth, which might qualify as premium elsewhere but is "domestic" in both senses of the word in Pennsylvania. (Is there a term that means "non-premium" but wouldn't turn off the marketing types? "Regular beer," to follow the gasoline analogy, falls a little short.)


Shaun G said...

"Standard" beer, maybe?

Kaitlyn Bolyard said...

My initial sense on this one is that it should be "classic." Of course, this word doesn't describe much, but it sounds like a marketing-friendly term.

sbergus said...

I have often thought the "domestic beer" title to be ridiculous.

One establishment here has labeled these beers as "domestic industrial," which I think is a pretty apt title.

you could also call them domestic macrobrew, but both of these solutions require a bit of thought, and if you're labeling Sam Adams and Boulevard beers as, imports, a bit of thought is probably beyond you.

Anonymous said...

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PeterJ said...

Here in the UK one local brewery, Young's, makes two bitters called Bitter and Special. Every customer, without exception, refers to the Bitter as 'Ordinary' to avoid a follow-up question from bar staff.

The brewery marketing people have been trying to stamp this usage out for many years now, without success.

lsm said...

I wonder how they categorize PBR and Old Style.

b said...

You settled for Yuengling? I never thought I'd hear those words.

The "domestic" beers, as we know them, aren't even produced by American-owned companies; Sam A and Yuengling are the largest American-owned brews.

(On a side note, it is definitely a cool experience to go into any Pennsylvania bar and just order "a lager" for a Yuengling.)

BW said...

Good point -- is Budweiser really domestic anymore?

I like me a Bud now and then, so I'm hardly a snob, but I think the true snobs will back me up on this: Yuengling Traditional Lager contains corn, like Miller and Coors and most other American pilseners, so it fails the German purity test and thus is pooh-poohed by those in the know (Bud fails the test with rice).

As a more practical matter, I just like to try new things. And I've found Yuengling inconsistent on draft -- sometimes very enjoyable, with a flavor close to that of Shiner Bock, and sometimes almost flavorless. Because green bottles are used, the bottled version is susceptible to skunking.

Trivia from Bill's Pottsville past: My first Yuengling was a regular old pale lager, before the marketing department decided to make the amber Traditional Lager the flagship. And my dad, who really liked his beer, looked down on his hometown brew, preferring Pabst Blue Ribbon or Carling Black Label or any number of other regular old pale American lagers.

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Unknown said...

I like the word "domestic", and now I want a beer.


~Belfast Belle Adele
The Northern Ireland Off Topic Discussion forum - for a bit of online craic!

Sharon Parker said...

I have heard both my husband and other male friends call the nonpremium drink "lawn-mowing beer." An allusion, no doubt, to it's thirst-quenching qualities. (But I'm the one who usually mows the lawn and I don't care for beer!)

Anonymous said...

Well done!........................................

Unknown said...

"Premium" has long been used for high-end brews. The problem is how to refer to the other end.

As Shaun G proposed, "Standard" feels right - somewhat akin to "well brands" for bar liquors. Or how about "Economy" or "Value" beers?

Unknown said...

Wouldn't beer substitute be more accurate?

Anonymous said...

I think it was Miller that used the motto "it's time for a good old-fashioned macro brew" or something very similar in their advertising.

Frank said...

This article is mostly about Pabst, but concludes ...

"... the title of Next Great American Lager has to go to … Yuengling. Yuengling has been making beer in Pottsville, Pa., since 1829. It's the oldest brewery in the United States. After all these years, it's still owned by a guy named Yuengling, and he intends to keep it."

Greg Finley said...

Very amusing post. Of course, it wouldn't make a lot of economic sense to brew bottom-of-the-line beer abroad and then ship it to the U.S. I have more thoughts along those lines here.

Nancy Willing said...

In Delaware, if you order a 'lager' they will serve you up a Yuengling.