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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Beer

Is drinking beer for a living all it’s cracked up to be? Is there really a wrong way to drink it? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Beer! Is smashing empties against your head incredibly easy? Will wine always be fancier? Crack open a cold one and learn what you’ve been mistold…

Lie #1: There’s A Right and Wrong Way To Drink a Beer

Everyone enjoys a beer, but as soon as you start drinking two at once from a plastic helmet, or gamifying it with ping-pong balls, you’re somehow seen as “uncouth,” “undignified” or “lowering the tone of the funeral.” Surely, though, the point of any beer — of any thing — is to bring happiness. Savoring the delicate flavor of an exquisitely brewed IPA might do that, but so might being a big silly dickhead with a can of Natty Ice. 

WWE legend Stone Cold Steve Austin used to make a hell of an entrance, where he’d smash two cans together and spray as much of what came out into his mouth as he could. Was it an efficient use of beer? No, he caught about half of it. Was it good beer? It really wasn’t. Was it, to the millions of 12-year-olds watching, the coolest fucking thing in the world? Of course it was.

(Austin used real beer, incidentally, apart from one occasion in Montreal when the building’s insurance meant he had to use non-alcoholic beer. He once went through — albeit with help from Stacy Keibler and the Dudley Boyz — 115 beers in one match. One hundred and fifteen.)

Similarly, fans of savoring subtle flavors might not be impressed by the “tornado” drinking technique of Pangzai, a minor internet sensation who describes himself as “an ordinary peasant from China.” It involves swirling a bottle around really fast and swallowing a huge amount of foam, usually while smoking. Again, though, badass. 

And this unidentified woman from Maryland manages to defy physics and achieve the near-impossible by using her head to pop open a can:

Showmanship is fun, right? If the point of a beer is in fact to bring happiness, these beers are incredibly successful. London-based Signature Brew know a lot about beer and showmanship, making beers in collaboration with rock bands from Mastodon to Idles. “Who is anyone to tell anyone else how to enjoy a beer?” says John Longbottom, their marketing manager, offering up another example, this piece of is-it-beer-or-urine? badassedness:

“If pouring two cans of Budweiser over your head is what gets you through a tough week of Stone Cold stunnering your adversaries, then please crack on,” Longbottom continues. “Alcohol promotion laws mean I have to advise drinking responsibly, but there’s nothing in there about climbing up a turnbuckle, smashing open a couple of cold ones and pouring them into your eyeballs.”

Lie #2: Drinking Beer For A Living Must Be The Best Job In The World

It’s pretty great, according to beer writer Pete Brown, who has drunk his way around the world — but it’s not perfect. “First, nobody gets paid to drink beer,” he says. “I get paid to write about it afterwards and deliver my copy, working hard while everyone else is hungover eating a greasy breakfast. Even the people who work in breweries tasting the beer aren’t getting paid to drink it, they’re getting paid for their analysis.” 

There are also health issues that come with drinking vastly more beer than is generally medically advisable — as well as the curse of so much knowledge, i.e., knowing beer inside-out makes it hard to happily accept subpar drinks. “When you educate your palate, you can’t turn that off,” Brown explains. “It can be quite lonely being a long-standing expert. On a night out, I’ll go for crap gin-and-tonics over crap beer, because I won’t notice the faults as much.”

Lie #3: Finished One? Effortlessly Crush The Can Against Your Head!

We’ve all seen Animal House. John Belushi makes it look easy, crumpling a drained beer can against his skull. But have you fucking tried it? It really hurts! Belushi did 18 takes using a stunt can — if he did 18 takes with real ones he’d be… well, he’s dead, but yeah. There are tutorials and stuff online — because, of course there are — and they all involve some element of cheating, subterfuge or magic, generally pressing your fingers into the side of the can to help it compress rather than knocking your brain out of the back of your skull. 

John Be-LIAR-shi, more like. 

Lie #4: It Just Isn’t As Classy As Wine

Picture a super-fancy restaurant and you don’t generally imagine them having a fridgeful of tallboys. Beer has always been seen as that bit less worthy than its grape-y cousin — wine ages and improves and appreciates in value, while an old beer fuckin’ sucks. “Beer is made by man,” Martin Luther once said, “while wine is made by God.”

A quick experiment Googling “fanciest restaurant in New York,” repeated for London and Los Angeles, leads mostly to completely beer-free menus, with one of the London ones offering bottles of extremely standard lager for twice what they’d cost in a pub around the corner. (Whether truly fancy people find restaurants by Googling “fanciest restaurant” is another matter for another day.)

Does this mean beer is intrinsically unfancy? No, says Brown, and it’s time restaurants caught up. “The variety of beer we have now is amazing compared to how it used to be,” he says. “There’s no reason for beer to still be seen as a second-class drink, but it is, which is frustrating. We have beer sommeliers, and you can pair beers to food just as you can wine. Wine is acidic or tannic, and beer can be both of those things, as well as sweet, light or carbonated to break down fatty foods on your palate.”

It might not be happening as fast as some would like, but things are changing. One of the fancy restaurants, New York’s Eleven Madison Park, offers an incredible 98 beers, with its sommelier saying guests’ eyes often “light up” when offered an expertly paired beer with their meal instead of a wine. 

All in all, it’s excellent news for extremely wealthy people who don’t like wine but do like getting really, really drunk! God bless you, every one!

Lie #5: It’s Reel Big Fish’s Biggest Hit

Ask anyone about beer and they’ll say, “Oh, you mean the song by Californian ska band Reel Big Fish?” “Beer” is an excellent song, a big silly drunk singalong tune written as an attempt to imitate Sublime and often used to close their shows. They play it during their appearance in cinematic masterpiece [no citation needed] BASEketball, so it must be good.

But it’s not a hit — it wasn’t released as a proper single, just a radio promo. “Sell Out” is actually their biggest hit: It’s the only song of theirs to ever chart in the U.S., was inexplicably used at volleyball events in the Beijing Olympics and crops up in a bunch of video games. After that, it’s their cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” which at least had a proper single release. “Beer” comes third on both Spotify (“Sell Out”: 28 million, “Take On Me”: 21 million; “Beer”: 17 million) and YouTube (“Take On Me”: 18 million; “Sell Out”: 8.6 million; “Beer”: 7.5 million, and it’s a shit video). So there.

Reel Big Fish didn’t respond to any emails.