The Future of Beer
To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
In the future, according to various speculative Hollywood movies, we will jet around in atomic-powered flying cars, hunt down robots that look like people, and/or live under the oppressive whip of "damned, dirty apes." These are terrifying, well-established extrapolations of society's current excesses. Add to it one of my own: 100 years from this moment, people will drink beer.
For many, many people in this world, this is a very reassuring prediction. Beer is ancient and practically unchanged. There are brands on the market today that have been brewed continuously for the past couple of centuries.
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Of course, this won't mean that the six-pack of beer I'm drinking as I write this won't change in ways that seem scary. Someday soon, glass bottles will disappear in favor of plastic bottles lined with Superex, a thin layer of liquid crystal polymer (mmmm . . . crystal polymer).
More exciting is the fact that microbrews are getting ever more micro. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after tomorrow—we're thinking the middle of next month at the very latest —beer will become so localized that it will be chemically suited to each individual drinker. That's because in the future, all will become their own microbreweries, recycling and brewing beer in their own bodies.
Imagine such a future: you're seated at a bar, drinking away. But instead of getting up at the end of your drink to use the restroom, you merely urinate where you sit into a hose that collects your beer by-products, filters them, adds whatever flavored malts you desire, and then a few minutes later (using high-tech brewing technology that has yet to emerge) serves you another pint of crisp, refreshing beer. Call it urination fermentation.
Think of it: drinking the same beer over and over, but flavoring it differently each time. And all brewed fresh from your own bodily fluids! Sound too good, too convenient, too delicious to possibly be true? Well, it's already here—ever hear of Budweiser?
Just kidding. The first beer I ever drank was a can of Budweiser. Nearly swore off beer forever. God, did that taste awful—like day-old bathwater, which I've also tasted and find infinitely more refreshing. What did I know? I was just a dumb kid, which, as far as I understand, is Bud's target demographic.
My tastes are far more refined now, focused on darker, richer beers like England's Newcastle and the near-impossible-to-find Caledonian 80 from Scotland. It's a tremendous relief that flat, stale, face-puckering beers like Bud aren't the future, although they remain the most popular and available beers in the nation. That Bud, Coors and Miller still dominate the national market is a testament to their corporate-domination strategies and to the piss-poor tastes of most beer-drinking Americans. Indeed, regionally available microbrews like Sierra Nevada and St. Pauli Girl are fat targets for the big American beer companies.
"Everything that's micro now will be owned by one of the big companies," said Gilbert Chacon, head brewer at JT Schmid's in Anaheim. "The beer will be produced under the same name, it'll just be owned by a larger company."
Bill Kimbrell, Irvine-based Bayhawk Ales' head brewer, agrees. "Instead of individuals owning small brew pubs, companies like Miller are buying out the locals," he said. "We almost got bought out by a company from India."
The key is that drinkers are increasingly developing localized tastes for fresher, more exotic beers that are only available down the street. No longer is a beer popular solely because it's available in every grocery store and liquor mart in the U.S.
"In the future, the only microbreweries that will remain will be pubs like ours," said Chacon. "They brew the beer on the premises for their own consumption. Brew pubs are local entities—kind of like how Shakey's was in the 1970s, sponsoring Little League games and things like that."
Mmmm . . . Shakey's. Remember Shakey's? It was a magical place—a place where $5 bought you unlimited pizza, chicken, potatoes, salad and garlic bread, and it all tasted the same. Bet you didn't think Shakey's was the wave of the future.
"Small pizza places are putting in small seven-barrel systems," said Kimbrell. "They're doing the best. They generally go into malls, places with movies and entertainment. They make enough beer for their own consumption."
Today, the Newport Beach Brewing Co. offers the Duke Dark, Balboa Brown Ale and the John Wayne Imperial Stout. The Tustin Brewing Co. has the Blimp Hanger Porter. The Huntington Beach Beer Co. sells the Bolsa Chica Reserve Ale, Main Street Wheat and the Pier Pale Ale.
They're all local beers named after local attractions and neighborhoods and available only at the brewpub that makes them. As the trend continues, beers will localize to places like the 17000 block of Beach Blvd., the corner of Brookhurst and Trask in Garden Grove and, eventually, the guy sitting next to you at your favorite tavern. You know, the big guy with the crew cut and the camouflage pants and the tattoo on his arm that says, "Kill 'em all, let God sort it out."
Of course, brewers like Chacon and Kimbrell will probably find urination fermentation vile, disgusting—a personal insult to their craft. After all, brewing beer is an established craft, meticulously practiced for centuries in brick breweries built in Europe before this country was a country.
Then again, pissing in a glass and calling it beer is the American way.
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