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In the San Diego area, Heineken and Dos Equis are the top-selling import beers

A word of advice to the local lush

‘White goods," that is vodka and tequila, rose 13% in 1974, while blended whiskey dropped the same percentage.
  • ‘White goods," that is vodka and tequila, rose 13% in 1974, while blended whiskey dropped the same percentage.
  • Image by John Maher

Almost everyone indulges in some form of drinking and talks about it without distinguishing fact from folklore. One of the difficulties is sifting through the data, much of it contradictory, and based on such small samples that the results are hardly definitive.

Is it a sexist prejudice to say that women become intoxicated faster than men? No, says a recent article in Psychology Today. Laboratory tests verify the truth of this assumption. Does it take longer to get high if you drink slowly? Yes, says the same source. In fact, continues this essay, most folklore about drinking can be proved in the laboratory.

And when it comes to beer, there are more minor studies than there are UFO sightings.

Example 1: A Boston University study showed that 3 out of 4 beer drinkers buy the same brand twice in a row, but only 1 out of 4 buys just one brand. This implies that beer drinkers are brand-loyal, except in blind tasting, where the taste buds often disproved advertising.

Example 2: In Washington, D.C., a taster's panel chose Heineken, Old Milwaukee, and Pabst Blue Ribbon as the top 3; Coors trailed in 14th place. Yet Coors maintains its status symbol because of its lack of availability in the East (It is distributed primarily to 11 western states.)

Example 3: California Magazine found that in blind testing its panelists selected Watney’s; Dos Equis and Anchor Stream and Brew 101 tied for 3rd place.

Now really, what are we to make of these tests, some based on half dozen panelists? The one in California Magazine appears to be a put-on, while the others are harmless fun. But what most agree upon is that the consumption of foreign beers derives from acquired taste.

Imported beers, whether from Holland, Mexico, the Philippines, go through a natural brewing process, of which the final step takes place in the bottle. Americans cannot base an industry on lengthy periods of fermentation, and our beer tastes different than foreign ones, not because of a lack of some special ingredient, but because it is produced from grain to completed product with our usual efficiency and haste.

In the San Diego area, the two best selling imported beers are Heineken and Dos Equis. Interestingly enough. Dos Equis became a best seller only in the last year or two. While Dos Equis has always been extremely popular in the Bay Area, our proximity to Tijuana made drinkers associate it with a quick trip across the border, rather than a drink available at the supermarket.

As for American beer, 40-50% of the total San Diego sales goes to Coors; 25% to Budweiser, and the bottom 10% to Olympia, Schlitz, Hamms. Bear in mind that these figures are a synthesis of my talks with several distributors as well as local shops, rather than a controlled study. Since beer drinking rises in the summer and falls in the winter, the demand for Coors during August of 1974 was so great that the distributing house closed for several days due to the lack of product.

One of the more interesting questions, as yet unanswered, is whether American breweries provide the light beer that Americans want, or whether the consumers are conditioned to love what the market offers. When I spoke to distributors, they insisted that breweries offered a product that Americans desired. The same question posed to dozens of consumers elicited the reverse response, namely that they got used to what was around. Possibly an analogy can be drawn from frozen orange juice, where children raised on the product reject hand-squeezed orange juice. And obviously cold hard cash does determine choice.

A six-pack of 12 ounces shows the following price range: Heineken $4.50 plus tax, Michelob $1.89 plus tax, Coors $1.60 plus tax. Brew 102 $1.29 plus tax, Dos Equis $2.55 plus tax.

In other words, if you don't have the money, you can’t learn to like imported beer.

For those who marvel at rising beer prices, barley has gone from $1.58 a bushel in 1973 to a high of $5 in 1974, while corn grits rose from $1.24 a hundred-weight to $4.01.

Tips for Beer Drinkers

If you want to be thrifty, search the paper for specials and then buy in quantity. Many stores will advertise loss leaders on which they actually lose money, or make small profit. Take advantage of these sales.

Buy containers that are returnable, in which savings can be realized. But be sure to return the containers, else you're left with a closet full of empties. These may be saved for a desperate day when even a dollar-fifty seems like big money.

If the beer is old or stale or you don’t like it, take it back. Most people don’t bother, but dealers will exchange bad lots without a grumble.

As for liquor, nationally the sales gain in the last year has been only 2.5%, and the kinds of liquor people drink reflect a change in taste.

‘‘White goods," that is vodka and tequila, rose 13% in 1974. while blended whiskey dropped the same percentage. In the past eight years. Vodka has doubled its consumption to more than 70 million gallons, and the San Diego area seems to be following the trend. Does this suggest that people do not like the taste of liquor? A possible reason for the popularity of vodka is its versatility — it can be imbibed with any commercial mix, orange or tomato juice — and it leaves no discernible breath odor. Some have attributed the heavy sales to the addiction of a generation raised on soda pop and sweet drinks. Vodka may even be combined with pop and survive.

How to Save $$$$$ on Hard Stuff

  1. Large discount liquor stores and supermarkets sell house brands that come from the same distilleries as name brands. If you find a house brand that you like, buy it.
  2. Take advantage of loss leaders.
  3. Try to buy by the case —- at least 10% savings in most places.
  4. Drink liquor without mixes. A more expensive liquor will prove more economical if taken with a splash of water or on the rocks than cheap whiskey that has to be disguised with mixes.
  5. Buy in half-gallon sizes as you pay a premium for the convenience of a fifth or less.
  6. Resist the temptation to buy canned cocktails. They are outrageously expensive for what you get.

For those of you who enjoy quizzes, try yourself on these questions:

True or False

  1. Imported beer goes through three periods of fermentation.
  2. Rum is produced commercially in New England.
  3. Ouzo, the Greek apertif, is a brandy.
  4. All gins are flavored with juniper berries.
  5. Serving beer too cold causes it to go flat.
  6. The only difference between white and green Creme de Menthe is food coloring.
  7. Canadian whiskies can be bottled in bond when two years old.
  8. A star rating on Cognac denotes age rather than quality.
  9. Southern Comfort is bourbon with peaches and peach brandy added.
  10. Drambuie is a blend of Scotch whiskey and honey.
  11. The kick from genuine absinthe comes from wormwood.
  12. The strongest rum available in the U.S. is 151 proof.
  13. ’All American beer is lager beer.
  14. When a brandy is marked VSOP it should be over 5 years old.
  15. Grenadine obtains its flavor from the pomegranate.

ALL TRUE! Happy Moderation!

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