Just prior to Thanksgiving, I received a free box of beer from Kona. Before someone I know who owns a fantastic and favorite of mine brewery in New Albany, Indiana chastises me for receiving this gift from an InBev owned brewery, I have to say one thing: this was actually the second time I’ve received a free box of beer from Kona.
In all my years of drinking beer and blogging occasionally about it (I used to write about beer and what I was drinking every Saturday morning while I was still half asleep at 6 a.m and my kids watched cartoons…now I barely blog at all since I’m busy being interim chair and writing yet another letter saying YES I APPROVE THIS WHATEVER THING MY COLLEAGUE WANTS TO DO and am no longer half asleep), I have only received free beer from breweries three times. The first time was from Shmaltz, long before they entered Kentucky, who sent me a nice bottle of Hop Manna. The second two times were from Kona. This, of course, is a terrible percentage of free beer from someone who started this blog something like eight years ago. I’m obviously doing something wrong.
I‘ve written before about the difficulty I’ve experienced receiving free beer. Rob at Daily Beer Reviews, who seems to get free beer everyday or maybe even every minute, reminds me that seven posts in one year is not the way to get free beer.
@drfabulous 7 long (yet awesome) posts this year isn’t the recipe
— Beer Drinker Rob (@DailyBeerReview) November 20, 2014
He’s probably right. And this is not a post about free beer anyway. It is a post about free beer from an InBev owned brewery. With the recent acquisition of 10 Barrel and Goose Island’s line forming Black Friday only days away, I thought I’d reflect for a minute on my willingness to receive free beer from a brewing conglomerate. But first, I’ll say this:
The Kona Castaway IPA I received in this box was pretty good. It had a great nose. Nice hop characteristics. Solid. Much better than some other IPAs have had, for sure.
Since a great deal of the rhetoric surrounding craft and conglomerate brewing revolves around words like “soul” and “soulless,” I would think that a fairly well hopped IPA owned by InBev would be soulless. And yet, it wasn’t. But what if I were having a pizza from Papa Johns (which I don’t like anyway) and ignored its politics? Or Chick Fil A (which I swear I HAVE NEVER EATEN AT)? Would I receive free food from such places? Not likely. I would not because of taste (I don’t eat fast food) and belief (the companies support policies and politics I find troublesome). But from InBev? As you can see from the above picture, I have. And twice. And it’s not like InBev does not support politics I find troublesome (at least regarding the beer market).
What does that mean? What does that say about me? Would I receive any other InBev beer for free such as Goose Island Vanilla Rye? Let me write that again so it might get picked up by a search engine and discovered by Goose Island when one of its social media managers is Googling “Goose Island” just to see if anybody is talking about the brewery and opts to reward someone in Lexington, Kentucky for mentioning GOOSE ISLAND:
Would I receive any other InBev beer for free such as Goose Island Vanilla Rye?
I guess it’s obvious from this little post about receiving free Kona IPAs that my sense of morality is not level headed when it comes to the consumption of mass produced products. It’s not. But no one’s morality is that pure either.
This past week, we were in Chicago for a conference. Since no grandparents were available, we had to take our kids with. About a five minute walk from our hotel on North Dearborn was Eataly, Mario Batali’s Disney like two floors of expensive dry goods, olive oil, wine, beer, produce, various mini-restaurants, coffee shop, a brewery, a tap room, a gelato place, and even a Nutella station where foodies or Food TV junkies (is he still on Food TV?) can come and experience hype at its best. We met some friends and had a pizza. And, even as I felt I was in food Disney World (and I have already sworn to NEVER take my kids to Disney World), the pizza was absolutely good. Really good. My wife returned to the conference, and I convinced my two kids to sit still for a few minutes so that I could enjoy one the collaboration beers Eataly does with Birra del Borgo on site, Aria. And the beer was damn good, too.
I wanted to feel silly for visiting Eataly, for spending too much money there, for succumbing to the most basic corporate food tourism one can when in a city such as Chicago (outside of eating at Harry Carry’s or one of those awful deep dish pizza chains that are on every other corner in River North or The Loop). I did feel silly. But I also liked it.
When I get an update from Twitter that someone has responded to one of my tweets, the subject line of the email notification has an exclamation point in it. This exclamation is meant to make me feel special. HOLY SHIT SOMEONE RESPONDED TO WHAT I TWEETED. That specialness is superficial, of course, just as receiving free beer in the mail from a brewery might be superficial (lots of people get the same package for promotional purposes) or being in a food heaven shopping paradise who owes its success to cooking shows where people cook as fast as they can might feel special to a nerd like me. Pappa Johns can’t make me feel special. InBev, for a few seconds, did.
Is that so bad?
Maybe. Maybe not. I work, after all, in the study of ambiguity, the only real way to understand rhetoric anyway.