As those of you who have read more than a handful of posts on our glorious website are probably aware, most of the Aleheads were in some form of Greek organization during our halcyon undergraduate years. That is, in fact, where a number of us met one another. Semi-relatedly, the single greatest title I’ve ever held was that of house Beer Czar (which, I should note, I only received because I was both over 21 at the time and had a vehicle large enough to conveniently transport kegs [this may or may not still be on my business cards]). Many were the nights we sucked multiple kegs dry in our attempts to chase the dream of a perfect Ship game (I think Slouch and the Cap’n may have actually killed one by themselves one evening). Now and then we even invited other people over!
As fond as my hazy memories of those times are, the unfortunate fact is that though we consumed demigodesque volumes of beer, it was generally of extremely low quality. Most often we were well stocked with Bud Light, occasionally Coors Light, and if we couldn’t fork out for a full keg we even sank to drinking Keystone Light from time to time. For special events we might have grabbed a keg of Rolling Rock, but that was a rare circumstance.
Now that we are all older and (I was going to say wiser here, but that’d be at best disingenuous), I’d like to think we could come up with a better option for fraternity-style drinking. So Aleheads, get your ever-so-experienced heads around this week’s Conundrum: What is the best beer to serve at a fraternity party?
The beer must be drinkable by both fraternity brothers and the ladies they may be bringing over to enjoy the gathering (I assume other houses, unlike ours, have parties which women actually attend), and also be reasonable for pong-style drinking. Price should also be factored into the equation, as most Greek houses do not have unlimited beer budgets.
COMMANDER PINT O. CHUG
I’m considering it… but nah, I’m not gonna answer that.
This reminds me of a great Magnus story: Magnus vs. the Miller Lite girls.
About a year out of college, Magnus was in a bar where the Miller Lite girls were doing Miller Lite vs. Bud Light taste tests and generally cozying up to the young male patrons. For those who didn’t know Magnus… let’s just say he ordinarily would have appreciated the attention. But for whatever reason — and I’m dissembling, since the reason was undoubtedly to prove his own superiority — Magnus decided to give the Miller Lite girls a hard time.
Keep in mind that a blind “Bud vs. Miller” taste test doesn’t work on someone who, thanks to the dynastic succession of Beer Czars, drank several Bud Lights every night for three years.* You know a beer pretty damn well under those circumstances. (You also develop persistent cognitive and memory problems; you may have a tendency to wake up in unexpected situations; and some subjects experience uncontrollable tendencies to urinate in inappropriate places.)
*Impossibly Inside Joke: I’m also reminded of an incident in which Cap’n Draught uttered the phrase “I’ve played over 100 games of Ship on this table” as proof that our ping pong table had been stolen and repainted. He had never been more sure of anything in his entire life. F*#! Sig Ep and their red back door.
So, when asked if he preferred the A sample or the B sample, Magnus repeatedly (because the Miller Lite girls tested and re-tested him) insisted that he liked the one that turned out to be Bud Light. The Miller Lite girls told him he was the only person in the bar that picked the Bud Light, and walked away acting annoyed. Magnus was proud.
Incidentally, as much as I hate it and as un-Alehead a beer as it is, I still think Bud Light is the best answer to this week’s Conundrum. (I changed my mind about not answering.) I was reminded of that when Brother Barley ordered a round of Victory Pilsners as a “chugging beer” when we were in New York for Magnus’s funeral. Craft beers just aren’t chuggable.
BROTHER BARLEY MCHOPS
Fraternity parties are sort of the antithesis of the Aleheads natural environment. We prefer quiet, introspective, wood-panelled pubs replete with fanciful taps and knowledgeable servers. A frat party is essentially a loud, filthy, mass-mating ritual fueled by the cheapest beer and booze imagineable. OK, sure…I thoroughly enjoyed those days. And yes, other than the cheap beer, I miss the ridiculous absurdity of fraternity life. Nothing like living in a house with 50 of your best friends without any real concern for your health, well-being, or future. But such living does tend to take a toll on you, and I suspect my life-span has been roughly cut in half because of those debaucherous years. Plus, my fraternity days have left me with a legacy even more painful and hard to get rid of than an STD: the “friendship” of Slouch Sixpack.
But by FAR the most maddening aspect of Greek life is the seemingly endless supply of terrible, terrible beer. “Maddening” because while endless beer is awesome, endless shitty beer is not. Now Beerford wants me to come up with an alternative to the Bud Light we drank like water in our salad days? That’s damn near impossible. A beer that fills all of the frat party needs (cheap, super-drinkable, mass appeal), but that doesn’t taste like watery urine? Hmm…
I could go the standard Pale Ale route, but most college-aged kids (particularly the womenfolk) would bristle at anything with a noticeable hop profile. Or I could pick a super-sessiony brown ale, but that’s probably too sweet and heavy for our needs. The only legitimate answer is a better version of the standard beer style in every fraternity basement in the country…a pilsner.
My pick? The Trumer Pils.
The Trumer Brauerei is a European outfit that brews a highly-respected pilsner in the Austrian state of Salzburg. In 2004, for reasons beyond my feeble brain to understand, Trumer opened a satellite brewery in the People’s Republic of Berkeley, California. They began churning out their flagship beer and it’s now readily available (and quite cheap) up and down the West Coast. The Trumer Pils won gold in the German Pilsner category at the 2006 and 2008 World Beer Cups and took home the Silver last year behind Sierra Nevada’s Pilsner.
The beer drinks incredibly light with a crisp, clean, bracing finish and lively, but not overwhelming carbonation. It has an eminently reasonable 4.8% ABV (compared to the 4.2% of Bud Light and other American Pale Lagers), so it’s highly sessionable. There’s very little hop bitterness, but the Saaz hops used in making the brew does give the Trumer a trademark lemony zest that makes it very refreshing. And because it’s now made in America, the Trumer Pils doesn’t suffer from the same freshness issues as other well-regarded German Pilsners.
Maybe it’s not the finest beer in the world, but that’s not what we’re looking for at our frat party. We want something that tastes good and can be consumed in mass quantities while listening to Bob Marley, playing pong, hitting on anything that moves, and wasting our parent’s hard-earned money. If I’m on my third game of Trumer Ship, I can assure you that I won’t be worried…about a thing…because every little thing’s…gonna be all right…all right…
DR. RIPPED VAN DRINKALE, III
Let me start out by saying that I didn’t go to a small New England college isolated from the rest of civilization. I went to a state school with over 35,000 students located within a major metropolitan area. In other words, Greek life means something WAAAYYYYY different for me than it does for most of my fellow contributors. The roughly 10% of students at my school that joined a fraternity did so for a variety of reasons. #1 – Their mommy or daddy is an active alumni/douche (Pretty typical in large schools). #2 – They had no friends and figured they could just pay annual dues to buy some friends. #3 – They wanted to get laid (Big school, tough to meet new people, I can’t argue with this reason). #4 – They were from Long Island and wanted to be amongst their people (I think 95% of all Greeks had some sort of roots in Long Island, which was no where near my school). #5 – They liked the idea of emotional distress and humiliation and wanted to give pledging a try. A typical frat party would involve a couple of kegs of The Beast, a bucket of Jungle Juice, and a Greek to “Other” ratio of 10 to 1. I see no reason to offer up my beer advice to those that don’t deserve it. However, this is a Conundrum so let me put differences aside and come up with something.
First, throw out the idea of money as a constraint. Greeks are nothing if not an enterprising bunch so there’s no reason that they couldn’t use their “Freshman Cover Charge” to buy more beer instead of wasting it on blow. Besides, if you need more money you can just ask your parents to up your allowance. Second, throw out the idea of a beer that appeals to all kinds. If you’re female and you find yourself partying in the basement of a frat house, chances are you’re trying to get wasted as quickly as possible so you can get on with your business. That’s what the Jungle Juice is for – 1 container of Kool-Aid, a bottle of Ever Clear, and enough water until it spills over the top of the bucket. Don’t bother filling yourself up on beer.
Now, I’ll just assume that there’s a few people in any frat house that actually like beer. Maybe “like” is too strong a term, but at least there’s a couple of guys that are tired of drinking shit and want to have something semi-enjoyable until their buzz kicks in. Maybe they even have a friend that doesn’t live in the house and they want that friend to bring some of his hot friends so there’s more company than the usual tramps that live across the fraternity row. I don’t know, maybe that friend won’t come over unless there’s something tasty to drink. Where I went to school, there were three beers to choose from if you wanted something cheap and something that wasn’t absolute piss. It all depended on what bar was having the special that night or what liquor store was running a promotion. The first two beers we’ll throw out since they’re Bud Light Bottles and Corona (both a buck if you picked the right night). For college, that’s good beer. The third choice, which was always on tap around campus and could usually be had for little more than a keg of Bud, is Yuengling. Seriously, the fact that you could get a keg of Yuengling for just a few dollars more than Bud/Miller/Coors is just insane. I’m not saying Yuengling is the best beer in the world, but when you put it side-by-side with a Bud Light there’s simply no comparison. It’s also much better on tap than it is in a bottle. It’s chuggable, it’s sessionable, it’s not a light beer but tastes pretty light – I can’t think of any reason that a fraternity wouldn’t have this on a permanent basis (unless of course you go to a small New England college, where you’re shit out of luck on distribution).
I like what Ripped said so much that I think I’m going to completely thieve his idea and expand on it a bit. Most areas of the country have a regional brew that sort of exists on the same spectrum as budmillercoors, but is a step up the quality ladder. Clearly in Pennsylvania it’s Yuengling. Where you are, maybe it’s Rainier, or Schlitz, or Olympia, or Narragansett (sorry Genesee, you failed the frat party test LONG ago). None of these are awesome beers. None of them are even good beers. But all of them suck less than Bud Light, and none of them are much more expensive. I actually shopped this question around a bit, and had friends advocate things like PBR (unsurprisingly) and Hamm’s (surprisingly, and maybe not a bad answer). Those aren’t terribly regional, but they do fall into roughly the same category. You may even have a local brewpub or nano-brewery that makes a pilsner or lager that’s still cheap and not sucky. My suggestion: look around. You may be surprised by the lack of suck available to you. Of course, it’s harder to get your local brewpub to deliver kegs to your front door than it is to call your local distributor and have the truck swing by with five kegs of Bud Light.
Whatever. It’s not like any of us go to frat parties anymore. And if we did, it’s not like we’d expect to…