Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Miller Lite Home Draft
I recently came to the sad but important conclusion that I will never open a bar, because I wouldn't be able to come up with a satisfactory name. After years of business planning with the working name The (Noun) and (Noun), I briefly toyed with the idea of dropping the parentheses and making it official, but thank gosh I realized that was stupid and just scrapped the endeavor altogether.
This is a shame, because I have tons of other ideas for successful bar stewardship. I can't get into too many of them here because I still have hopes for a lucrative career in the as-yet-nonexistent field of dive bar consultancy, but it would be irresponsible to keep all this genius bottled up, so I'll let you in on a few of the things you have to look forward to on your visits to any of the several planned outposts of Someone Who Was Smart Enough to Ask Will's Opinion's Bar and Grill, Which Will Probably Not Actually Have a Grill Because Why Would Anyone Want to Grill Beer?
Despite the lack of a kitchen, there will be food. We will sell homemade beef jerky and full-fat Cheez-Its, and customers will get one complimentary pickled egg for every two drinks purchased. If you purchase six drinks, you will be given the option of having your third egg deviled stool-side.
I'm still undecided on the question of nuts. People eat too damn many when they're free, but it seems so unwelcoming to charge money for the iconic free bar snack. If I committed to hemorrhaging nut money, it would be harder to fund my Free Soup Happy Hour. I don't like the idea of reduced-price drinks during rush hour, but your otherwise humble correspondent happens to be a gifted and generous soupmaker. It will be black bean most days, and you will have to bring your own bowl, but you will always be able to count on a free late-afternoon serving of good soup at any Bottom Shelf-approved bar.
The most important feature of Someone's will, of course, be the beer. Draft beer, specifically. I've always been a draft man, because it usually represents slightly more ounces per dollar than bottled and because it feels festive. Drinking straight from the bottle seems a bit underdignified, and asking for a glass with your bottle will be regarded as unforgivably high maintenance at Someone's.
I won't be picky about what drafts are served, though I will cap the number of total draft lines at eight. One Guinness, one cider or wine (they have draft wine now!), one fizzy yellow, one fizzy yellow light, and a few good ones of the owner's choosing. If that's not enough variety for you, you're too picky for Someone's. No hard feelings, of course. Not every bar is for everyone, and if you need more than two-thirds of a dozen options, our bar is not for you. Because you are a princess.
If you have too many draft options, it's hard to keep the lines clean and the kegs fresh. The bars I favor are a little on the scuzzy side—not outright dirty or dangerous, but a little low-falutin' around the edges—and I find that many of them just don't keep their draft systems pouring true and tidy. There's not a lot of inherent flavor in a $2.50 PBR draft, so if you notice a little extra oomph in your pint, you are likely mistaking oomph and mold. (There is also a good chance you are at the Cellar outside of Central Square in Cambridge. Stop undermining your excellent burgers and cod fritters with dirty beer, Cellar!)
One way to make sure your draft beer is always clean is to throw the whole rig out and start over every 5.7 liters. This would be impractical on a commercial level, but Miller Lite thinks you should try it at home, and I'm a dope so I took their word for it.
Have you seen these Miller Lite Home Draft systems? They're tough to find around Boston, but they've been in other markets for a couple of years. (There's also a Coors Light model.) At $17.99 per 5.7 liters, you're paying $1.53 per pint, though it should be noted that a lot of bars cheat you a couple ounces. At Someone Else's, we will always remember that "pint" is a unit of measure, not a shape of glassware.
The Home Draft isn't a bad price, as the market goes, but it's no real deal, either. It costs about as much as buying your Miller Lite by the can. But I wasn't in it for the money, I was in it for the festivity and novelty and hell of it.
They claim their CO2 system will keep the beer pouring right for 30 days, but I don't know who would need that kind of longevity. I can't imagine anyone who drinks that slowly would dedicate such significant fridge real estate to a giant plastic jug of beer. But since I am a scientist, I was willing to pour a few pints every Friday for a month, photograph them, drink them, and report back to you all. Alas, the experiment never got that far.
I broke the carbon dioxide widget on the first keg, which I'll chalk up to half user error and half shoddy design. You have to twist a little knob to get the CO2 to start slow-releasing (or whatever it does to stay straight for a month), and after I lined up the arrows to get my party started, the first pint poured so slowly that I kinda yanked things around to get a stronger stream. That was dumb and I lost all my gas and the beer went flat an hour later. But I maintain that if the original pour were less pathetic, I would have left well enough alone. I don't consider 15 seconds for a pint of foam to be well enough.
My second trial was conducted under optimal conditions: I didn't mess with the gas and just let the beer flow as directed. It was too slow and foamy again, but I will concede that the first pint tasted fine. But when I went back for another go three days later, the tap had no juice at all. I had to tip the jug and squeeze the sides to get it to dribble out a few feeble ounces of flat beer. This thing doesn't work.