Serious Eats: Drinks
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Beer 30 Light
If you're reading this at three o'clock Friday morning, you're nuts and I'm on a bus. I hope one of us is drinking a paper-bagged 40 of Budweiser, and I further hope it's the one of us who is you. If you're reading about Beer 30 Light in the middle of the night, you need a beer. I just need to sleep through this bus ride back to Boston; I will have packed a celebratory 40 to break out in case I'm still awake at the glorious moment when Hartford gives way to dawn, but in a less imperfect world I will have timed my drinking in such a way as to be resting peacefully on the overnight trip home from a long 12 hours in New York.
I took an early bus down Thursday morning, because I hadn't been in several months and I needed to check in on a couple of friends. My buddy Gus the polar bear is still coping with his partner's passing, and my buddy Maggie the Drinks boss is moving all the way to some other stupid side of the country in a couple of days, so I figured they could both use some moral support and midday drinking companionship. I'm writing this from the past so I can't say for certain how it all went down, but there's a good chance poor Gus just watched me drink a rummed-up Jamba Juice; there's a better than fair chance that Maggie joined me in two glasses of wine at lunch and then stared at her watch while I desserted on a third and a fourth.
Then I had a quasi-professional cocktail appointment that went poorly (let's assume), then I just messed around in bars (let's guarantee) until catching my midnight bus back home (let's hope). It was a good day, probably. The only thing that could have wrecked it would have been a miscalculated alcohol consumption schedule. You never want to get outright drunk on trips like this, because there are too many moving parts to keep track of with a fully fuzzed brain, but you certainly don't want to find yourself totally sober on a middle-of-the-night discount bus, either. It's a delicate balancing act that prevented me from drinking my customary "Hey, I'm going to New York to screw around on a sunny day when normal people are at work!" bourbon on the bus ride down.
There is a proper time and place for nearly everything in life. Mussels and naps are always good, and cold soups and blisters are always bad; just about everything else can enhance the right parties and wreck the rest of them. I regret to inform you that even alcohol fits into this latter and shiftier category. You might think "But of course you should pour Old Crow into the 32-ounce green Gatorade you buy at the bus station on the way to lunch with Maggie," and that is a smart thought on the surface, but no matter how many times I played the day out in my head beforehand, I couldn't come up with a scenario that was improved by being drunk on the highway at noon. No bourbon.
But a pleasant little beer sheen could have smoothed out the ride without greatly increasing the risk that I'd wind up eaten by a polar bear or a Drinks editor, and I'd have given it a shot if I weren't so turned off by dry ice and bus bathrooms. If traveling with a five-pack were more convenient, I would have brought along the remains of the Beer 30 Light sixer sent to me last week by the inaugural inductee into the Bottom Shelf Hall of Fame, the lovely and talented emgroff.
Beer 30 Light is a regionally available super-cheapo pumped out by Cincinnati's Melanie Brewery; mine was mailed from Pennsylvania. The logo features, in addition to the obligatory mountains, a clock on which all four chronological compass points are set to "Beer 30," indicating that it's always time for one of these good boys. Compelling argument, but how's it taste?
Not bad at all! It's got a distinctive metallic fruitiness that isn't as off-putting as it sounds; it enables Beer 30 Light to fake a fresh cleanliness not often found in beers that come from Cincinnati wearing purple aluminum, much less those that throw themselves around for $13 per 30 pack. In fact, I would pay $19 for 30 of these, which makes Beer 30 Light a very good deal (which is not to be confused with a very good beer, but still).