Monday, July 17, 2017

This swill is not swell



The summer after I graduated from college, I shared an apartment near St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota with three other guys, all of whom had at least some connection to the St. Paul seminary. One of them eventually became a Catholic deacon, and one of them actually made it all the way through the ordination process – but it got complicated after that. 

What we all had in common was a fondness for beer. Fortunately, one of my roommates (John Huls, who later became a pilot for the Air Force) went home to northern Minnesota on nearly a weekly basis, and he always brought back at least one case of Fox Deluxe beer, which sold for less than $3 for a case of 24 bottles. 

As you might suspect, Fox Deluxe is not what you would consider to be a “premium beer”, but in 1969, there weren’t a lot of premium beers anyway.  

As I was waiting in line this morning at a local grocery story, I thought of Fox Deluxe again, largely due to the fact that the customer in front of me was buying a 30 pack of Busch beer, which sells for roughly $17.99, not much more than you would pay for TWELVE bottles of the better known craft beers like Samuel Adams, Shock Top, or Blue Moon. . 

Fox Deluxe was brewed in Chicago until the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, when production was shifted to my old home town of Waukesha, Wisconsin.  A short time later, production was shifted to the Cold Spring brewery in Minnesota. 

Due to the proliferation of craft brewers in America, you would assume that Fox Deluxe had simply gone the way of the dinosaurs – but you would be wrong. 

Today, there is a new Fox Deluxe brewery in Oswego, Illinois. Their offerings include an IPA, a wit, a doppelbock, and an abbey blonde, all of which are a far cry from what Fox Deluxe sold in the summer of 1969. 

One of the definitions of “swill” found in the Urban Dictionary is “cheap crappy beer”, which the 1969 version certainly was. 

Just as there is still a market for MD2020 and Ripple wine, there is also still a market for what is now called “sub premium beer”, which holds roughly 10% of the market share for beer in America today.   

The Slate article included below provides more insight into the “sub premium” market. Although I would recommend that you read it in its entirety, here are a few of the highlights: 

Natural Light – it’s the best-selling beer in the sub-premium category, and the 5th best- selling beer in the country. According to, however, it is the second worst beer in the world, trailing only Olde English 800, which is a malt liquor. 

Milwaukee’s Best – according to The Beast, it should more properly be called Milwaukee’s Worst. The best description of the beer, though, is the description of it by a Beer Advocate user named bambam2517: 

Took about 9 of these before I could swig down a swallow without making a clicking sound with my cheeks. Once I got past that though, it was all I thought it could be. Got me cross-eyed, piss in my roomies sock drawer drunk. Left me with a skull splitting hangover the next morning. Everything I remember from it in college is still true. 

Busch – introduced by Budweiser in 1955 to undercut Budweiser’s low end competitors. The most redeeming quality of the beer is its label, which depicts snowy mountain peaks. 
Image result for busch beer

Miller High Life – the “champagne of beers” used to be considered high class, but its image slipped when Miller discounted its price in the 1980’s. 

PBR – this is the only one of the sub-premium beers whose sales have increased this past year, possibly because it is now considered to be a “rebel” beer 

Porkslap Pale Ale – not necessarily the best beer of the group, but worth buying just to get the label.

Image result for porkslap pale ale

None of us will ever try any of the world’s most expensive beers, even though I’d be tempted to buy a Samuel Adams Utopia if I suddenly had more money than I knew what to do with. What’s particularly interesting is that a version of Pabst Blue Ribbon also would up on the list. 

Whether you like beer of not, it’s a fact that Benjamin Franklin had this to say about it: 

“beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” 

How can I argue with that? 

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