From the HBD Archive
From: cjh@diaspar.HQ.Ileaf.COM (Chip Hitchcock)
Subject: re lagers v ales
Date: 1992-03-05 19:10:57 GMT

> >arf:
> > Breweries spend zillions to lager so I presume there must be a reason but
> > as most of what they make, isn't worthy of the name beer, I can't help but
> > wonder why they bother.
> As noted by Miller, modern fermentation techniques can reduce the need to
> lager as long, and filtering also reduces the need to lager, so modern
> breweries don't need to expend gobs of money to make lager.

The techniques reduce, but don't eliminate the need for more capital
equipment for lagering (to say nothing of the capital that's tied up in
beer that isn't ready yet). At Olympia and at Budweiser(Nashua,NH) it
seemed as if half the space was devoted to lagering tanks; Carlsberg has
the tanks outdoors (I guess 500 tonnes of beer has enough thermal inertia
that they don't worry about the effect of Danish winters).

The direct answer to arf's question comes from the same place as "Why
does Wonder Bread sell?". The American public has been conditioned to
accept the lowest (least-flavorful) common denominator with regard to many
food products ("food products"---that's a hint itself) because that makes
it easier for giant corporations to mass-manufacture a uniform product that
they can sell without regard to regional or personal variations in taste
and with less concern over spoilage. Note that bread and tomatoes are
longer-term examples; beer got a shock treatment called Prohibition, which
flushed most of the brewers, leaving only the strong and the giants (who
ate most of the merely strong).
Actually, this isn't just a lager/ale question; there are lots of
microbrewed lagers in this country that are drinkable. But lagering makes
it much easier to produce a beer with no noticeable flavor, which is what
the marketroid suits are after as a way of keeping "share" in the uniformly
blah "market" they've managed to create.
I suppose it's paranoid to write this as if there were an active
conspiracy to level ALL our tastes, although it's visible that many firms
develop cheap lowest-common-denominator crud then try to convince people
that it's really more desirable ("Wonder helps build strong bodies twelve
ways!"). Just think of commercial food as analogous to TV, and remember
what happened to the Smothers Brothers....

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