As a craft beer geek, I’ve always espoused the versatility of beer; how there is a beer for all occasions and a beer that can pair with any cuisine. As an enthusiast, I enjoy the wide range of flavors and styles beer has to offer and I greatly appreciate the efforts that go into creating a flavorful brew. But sometimes, you just want things simpler and to be devoid of the challenges of mixing and matching and pairing and all the subtle nuances. Sometimes, you just want a beer. And, at the risk of being a heretic, in cases like this, a macro-lager is just fine.
Such a situation presented itself to me last weekend, when my wife and I went for sushi.
Like most sushi joints, our favorite place only stocked macro-lagers (Budweiser, Heineken, Coors, etc.) and of course, the “Asian-style” macro-lagers of Sapporo and Asahi. Though there are craft beers that are reputedly excellent with sushi (Southampton’s Double White comes to mind), there is something refreshing about knowing your selection is limited and that whatever you choose will at least not detract from your dining experience.
Macro-lagers get a bad rap for being tasteless and unremarkable. I, myself, have often lambasted them for being shallow reflections of what beer can be. But their very lack of character is what, in my opinion, makes them great choices for a night of sushi.
No different than having the ubiquitous green tea with your meal, these lagers offer you a little flavor but never outshine your meal. And, being fairly consistent in production (one of the few strengths of the brewing behemoths), you always know what you’re going to get.
That evening, I settled on several tuna-centric rolls and a Sapporo. The large-format can is always a plus in these situations. The Sapporo was light and crisp and did not carry the funkiness I often associate with a Bud or Bud Light. Perhaps it’s a vestigial, sensory memory of my college days where Bud, Bud Light and Busch were processed with such voluminous alacrity as to necessitate a two-pronged exodus (yeah, I mean that you can’t piss it out fast enough so you have to puke) but the Sapporo just felt clean and light. It served to not only quench my thirst but to scrub my palate for the next bite.
The focus drawn away from the beer, we feasted on piles of sushi and sashimi and were able to enjoy the moment with no care given to a hop profile or malt bill or how fresh the beer might be. It was just beer and, that evening, was simply part of the supporting cast for a great night out.
Similarly so, one might reach for a macro-lager during a ball game; a dirty water dog isn’t exactly fine dining and sitting in the sun demands hydration rather than a flavorful mélange. Anything cold and in large volumes would be most welcome.
Though devoid of most of the qualities that make beer shine, even these mass-produced products have their place. Whether hanging out with your father-in-law, at a company picnic or family reunion or when gorging yourself on sushi or something spicy, these macros won’t detract from your experience allowing you to focus on the meal itself and each other’s companionship. Often, even in the beer geek’s world, this is what is truly more important.