Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuborg Gold and the Modern History of Beer

Were stayin' in a Holiday Inn full of surgeons
I guess they meet there once a year
They exchange physician stories
And get drunk on Tuborg beer
I was talking with Mark the other day about imported beers and mentioned Tuborg Gold, a beer that was briefly popular in the late 1970's, before Mark was "of age" (which would be about 15 in Maine).   He had no freaking idea what I was talking about.

You may not remember this, but until the mid-1970's there were only about five or six brands of beer available at your local supermarket.  We had Budweiser and its upscale sister brand Michelob.   No lite beer or low carb nonsense.   We had Miller - again no "lite".  We had Pabst, Schaeffer, Schlitz, and maybe a few others.  Plus some "exotic" imported beers like Guinness.   If you lived near a border State, you might get some of that Canadian beer like Molson.   Molson, period.  Not these varieties of Molson they have today.  Or, if near the Mexican border, maybe a Corona.  Or if you were near Colordao, some of that "exotic" Coors beer that everyone raved about (why, I am not sure - it tasted just like all the other beers of the day).

Beer was viewed as a poor man's drink - something blue-collar workers consumed.  My parents drank wine and cocktails and would never dream of serving beer to their guests or at a cocktail party.  My Father on rare occasion might buy a six-pack of Schaeffer (the cheapest brand) to take out in his sunfish sailboat or drink it after mowing the lawn.

Our generation, of course, had to change all that.  Before we ruined coffee, we ruined beer.   Well, we didn't exactly ruin it, we made it better.  But we made it all high-falutin' and whatnot, and couldn't just leave well enough alone.   We do have better beers today, that's for sure.

Back then, other than Guinness, the beer you bought at the grocery store pretty much all tasted and looked alike, sort of a yellow pilsner/lager beer that tasted like nothing.   But our generation started drinking beer and taking it seriously, and pretty soon, imported beer became a "thing" with Heineken becoming wildly popular by the late 1970's.   You could go to a disco bar and order a Heineken and appear to be sophisticated.   My parents started serving it at parties.  It became an acceptable upscale brand of beer.  Believe it or not!

Problem was, the economy was in the tank and no one had the money to buy it.   Tuborg, which is a Danish Beer owned by Carlsberg today, came up with an idea of making an "imported" beer in America, by sending tankers full of the "wort" (the liquid stuff beer is made of, in an intermediary stage) for final finishing and brewing in America.   Later on, they started making it entirely here, from what I am told.

The beer of Danish Kings, now brewed in America and affordable to all!

Tuborg became the sort of new Heineken, for people who wanted to appear sophisticated but didn't want to cough up the bucks for a real imported beer.   Today, they still make Tuborg in Europe, although from what I read on the Wikipedia page, the original brewery is now condos.   Notably missing from the Wikipedia page is any mention of Tuborg Gold ever being sold in America - Carlsberg is grooming the page methinks.   This does make me wonder whether I am having Mandela syndrome, and maybe this never happened except in an alternative universe with the Bernstein Bears.

The video above would seem to prove I am not hallucinating.

I haven't seen or heard of it on the shelves of even gourmet beer stores.  And the reason why is our tastes in beer have expanded a lot since them.   In the mid-1970's my Mother ran a bookstore and one book she had was how to brew your own beer.  I bought it and read it and it was fascinating.  Back then, and even today, one interesting little thing about the repeal of prohibition is that in most States you can brew your own beer for your own consumption.

And a lot of people started doing that in the 1970's, with varied results.   I am sorry I never tried it, because it became a fad, then a trend, and then it took over the freaking planet.  Micro-breweries became all the rage, ramping up in the 1980's and really taking off in the 1990's and then exploding today.  Every State now boasts of its own micro-breweries and promotes them as part of their tourist initiative.   Like wineries, these breweries are often more about the experience of visiting the brewery (which may have a restaurant and bar) than in making mass-produced beer for the store shelves.  Although some have managed to sell product, first statewide and later nationwide.   And the big breweries (which are rapidly coalescing into one) have been snapping up micro-breweries left and right, trying to tap into this trend as their crappy "light" beers become less and less popular.

We live in a golden age of beer, it seems.  There are more breweries today, I am guessing, than even in the glory days of pre-prohibition, when German immigrants set up breweries in nearly every town and hamlet.  And the variety of beers is staggering - porters and pilsners, stouts and wheat beers - and even more esoteric stuff than most of us never have heard of (but are willing to learn about!).

It is perhaps the one thing the paraphernalia generation maybe got right - and the hipster millennials are taking it to a whole new level.

Oh brave new world, to have such beers in it!

P.S. - it goes without saying you can drive yourself bankrupt drinking $5 beers all day long, when lesser beers sell for under a buck a can/bottle, sometimes even half that.  Fancy beers are nice and all, for special occasions.   Not sure they need to be drank all the time, though!   More on this in a next post.