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Does #1 also explain why the most popular beers in other countries are also often light lagers?

One favorite beer of mine in social settings is San Mig's "Zero" brand, which actually is a beer that has 2% alcohol instead of 5%. It's like a mocktail, and won't make you drunk twice as fast (unless you drink twice as fast). It tastes weak though, like if you poured half a beer into half a glass of water. But it's good for moderation, as the article implies.

And yet, oddly, countries with a notably high per capita consumption of beer (Germany and the Czech Republic come very much to mind, along with Ireland and Belgium as countries also notable for something other than light lagers), light lagers are not preferred.

What is instead notable is that countries with a relatively high (summer) temperature tend to be places that prefer light lagers - in other words, pretty much everywhere that isn't Mitteleuropa.

One can debate the UK, however - talk about a country that straddles the category between fairly bland and not exactly warm.

Belgium is a definite outlier, and certainly Ireland isn't lager country, but I think you need to knock Czech Republic off your list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_in_the_Czech_Republic

Remember where Budvar is really from.

There were lots of centralizing influences on US breweries (Canada too; slightly different pressures, very similar outcomes). Light lagers are a beer that isn't trivial to do well, and that lends itself well to scaled up production, and that is pretty inoffensive. Almost all the big brands of light lager make a pretty credible version of a light lager, it's just that for a long time that was the only style of beer being produced in any quantities.

It's interesting that it took so long for beer to re-diversify, both in the US and Canada, but at least where I live, it happened (and quickly) as soon as the law loosened up enough to make small breweries into interesting business propositions.

Anyway, it's silly to describe the mainstream lagers as bland per se: they're good beers of their type. They just represent, as a group, a very small range of the possibilities in beer.

The difference between lagers and ales is like the difference between brewed coffee and espresso. Are there really great implementations of the former? Absolutely. Who doesn't love a Pilsner or Kyoto cold drip on a hot summer day. Mastering these forms is far from trivial. But the ales/espresso are always going to be where the true complexity of the medium is showcased.

Americans have always preferred weak drip coffee over espresso or french press, at least until very recently. Is this connected to Americans' traditional fixation on light lagers?

Maybe Americans just like to sip things at all times, and this habit lends itself to lighter, blander drinks.

Writing an article about bland US beer in 2010 seems crazy to me; you can buy great beer basically everywhere these days.

It's a journal named Business History.

+1 US bars seem to have the most accessible variety in beers these days.

Yeah, why is Canadian beer indistinguishable from American beer (at the mass-market level)?

Canada doesn't have the import dominance issue with beer it has with music and TV, nor does it primarily export to the US, so the explanation isn't obviously one of simple American dominance of the market demand.

So why is it all Molson Canadian and Labatt's and the like?

(Again, at the mass-market level, not the micro or regionals.)

(I suppose Mr. Cousineau's argument about scale and centralization and inoffensiveness is probably it, though.

Though why is that not universal across the First World beer-drinking countries?)

Ditto Australia with VB and Carlton Draught. Although maybe asking this is like asking why sugary sodas outsell Limonata.

Almost everything Canadian is indistinguishible from American. I'm not sure why they don't merge as a large super-nation.

You can get absolutely fantastic beers brewed here in the US today, so we're well on the way to mending a century of horribleness. I'm drinking a Brooklyn Local 1 now, literally, and it's amazing (as is the Local 2). There are many other breweries doing similar great work now, so no worries for anyone if they live near a decent super market, a Total Wine, a Wegmans, etc.

+1 to my current favorite beer. (actually prefer #2 although #1 is certainly more quaffable). At least if you prefer beers that are more than new and interesting ways to consume pine needles.

The interesting trend to me is the rise of the Belgian saison style beers that are in many ways more interesting and complex ale versions of the light smooth lagers people grow up drinking. Saison or farmhouse beers were usually the final beers brewed with whatever was left over and given s the light refreshment for the seasonal (hence season) harvest workers, Light beers were a great way to hydrate workers who didn't have access to clean water.

I wonder if it is like wine where as people drink more their preference seems to shift drier from sweeter wines?

Americans aren't good at moderation, not in the food they eat, the cars they drive, the houses they build, or the beers they drink. I'm a cradle Episcopalean, so moderation is my guide; to a cradle Episcopalean, pretty much anything (sins included) is acceptable as long as it's done in moderation. I prefer French cuisine for the sauces, but I don't stuff myself; I prefer a mid-sized car; any house over two thousand square feet is showing off; and I prefer heavier beer (German or the new American crafts) but I drink one or two not the entire six-pack. AEI had their annual spring meeting recently (it's almost always in my area), and they definitely don't believe in moderation, not for themselves anyway. It's not the number of private jets parked at the little airport that lets me know AEI is in town, it's the size of the things: many as large as commercial airliners, but with only two or three passengers in them. Americans aren't good at moderation.

Not that I disagree with your overall point, but... did you really just imply that attendees of AEI's spring meeting are somehow representative of Americans in general?

Seems quite wasteful to drink one or two beers out of six pack and throw the rest out. I prefer drinking all six, even if not at the same time.

And I miss the days when mid-size care were also the best selling ones.

And I miss the days when mid-size car[s] were also the best selling ones.

They are - at least among cars.

The #4 entry there, the Camry, is a mid-size car. So's the Altima (#6), and honestly by historical standards the #5 Corolla ought to be.

Mid-size sedans sell really, really, really well.

(Full size trucks make the top three sellers, but that's because there are only three options that matter, and the sedan market is much more fragmented.

If you add the Corolla and Camry together, they outsell the F-series handily.

"Cars" (as in "sedans and coupes and hatchbacks") outsell SUVs handily as a segment, as well.

[Though purists might complain that e.g. the Outback is a "wagon" or "Crossover" these days, but the big numbers are all pure sedans or hatchbacks.])

Good to see that everyone knows that Chrysler is still terrible (Dodge Ram excepted).

TIL: session beer was invented by Americans.

No, I don't need to check Snopes; this guy on Tyler's blog said so, and he seems legit.

1. Wow - that is a site very, very concerned about cookies. Including this warning - 'This site uses cookies to improve performance. If your browser does not accept cookies, you cannot view this site.'

Thankfully, this web site has already demonstrated everything I need to know about improving its performance.

Man, no wonder Prof. Cowen rants about an Internet experience that is beyond his control - because apparently, in his world, it is.

The cookie warning is a UK legal thing.

So you can thank the British Government for that.

The dreadful cookies are violating your German human rights. One of the well known achievements of history, that concept. I hope you pre-cut out the ads to free ride on your German newspaper too.

I myself used to indulge freely in the consumption of cookies however when I discovered that the Koch Brothers had bought out Chip-Ahoy and bulldozed the Keebler Elve's magic tree in order to construct the building now known as Hazel Hall I gave up on cookies and now exclusively eat good German deserts such as Nußschnecke or Krapfen. Its disappointing that these haven't been adopted in the US, they should really adopt more German things.

The cookie warnings are result of an EU regulative and one sees them on all EU sites, including the German ones. p_a, you really make me wonder if you are a self-parody or a troll...

Re #4 SEC Overstock approval: On April 1st?

in re: #1 most american micros are now 'not bland enough'; injudicious hops and aggressive malt make for beer that's more a chore than a delight. pilsner urquell (now that they've switched to brown bottles) forever.

Let a thousand flowers bloom. Expect a lot of shakeout as the over-diversified market is filled with beers that are incompetently made, unpopular, terrible, or pushing too trendy. But within that onslaught of Imperial Cascadian Hoptastrophes, there's still a ton of really good beer being made in all styles.

If you really love Pilsner Urquell, then that's a perfectly fine choice, but I'm rather fond of some of the lovely beers made in all sorts of varieties.

Yes, this is a golden age of beer in the US, and no, it cannot last. In spite of the push for more hops, more alcohol and weird additives, I find that it is easy to find delicious summertime drinking, including a number of Kolsch styled beers. I am drinking a Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale right now - 4.6% ABV. I may have another.

I will be happy when the IPA fad declines. Some of them are like drinking dough.

Its just is not true that if X number of hops is good, 2X or 3X or even 4X are better.

Me too and I used to brew them.

I don't understand this, because I have never been to a bar where they *only* offer IPAs.
So for those who don't like seeing all these hoppy IPAs...stop buying and drinking them. There are plenty of other options available. And every town has a beer bar with 15+ taps nowadays. Even if 5 are IPAs, you still have plenty of options.

But in a grocery store beer section, it is IPAs, traditional American lagers (e.g. bud, miller), and few other choices.

Still better than what it used to be (as you admit there are at least a few other choices), and if you crave specialty beer, get thee to a specialty store. Complaining that your grocery store - that used to carry only macro beers- doesn't have a wide enough selection of micros is an issue with your grocery store, not the beer market in general.
My grocery stores all have a wide selection of micros as well - non-IPAs are well represented. Even in the mainstream places (i.e., not Trader Joe's or Whole Foods).
If you truly live in a beer desert...my sympathies.

The Beatles 101 greatest songs?

The internet says they recorded 304 songs (75 covers, 229 written by at least one Beatle).

It's not a very selective list when it's 1/3 of their catalog.

Honestly, I just makes me want to listen to Laibach's far superior version of Let It Be.

I bought a book in a Borders remainder bin, the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs, by two guys I never heard of. Each song has 2-4 pages, with information on personnel and other interesting background info. The MOJO article seems a little thin by comparison. It will probably be a long time before a constellation of historical forces creates something like the Beatles.

"1. How did American **** get so bland?" It's a generic question, isn't it?

Haha, I know, right? Americans suck so much.

Thee are two countries, those with non-bland tastes and those who have walked on the moon.

types of countries

[darn, hate to step on jokes]

Interesting observation.

England has every single one of America's faults, none of its strengths, and zero self awareness. But who can argue with results- England isn't in a demographic death swirl, nor is it basically a casino-like investment banking system with some closed coal mines attached. Forget it I'm probably just jealous Pakistan hasn't established a colony in my capital.

#1 Two explanations for bland beer.

Cost minimization: Malting barley produces enzymes that convert the starch in barley into simple sugars that yeast can process and turn into alcohol. The malting process produces more enzyme than is necessary to convert the barley starches, and the malting process is more expensive than mildly flavored grains like rice and corn. So U.S. brewers learned to maximize the amount of alcohol they produced with their relatively expensive malt by adding inexpensive rice and/or corn flakes, thus fully utilizing the enzymes they produced during malting.

Marketing: Anheuser-Busch was one of the pioneers of large scale brewing at a time when beer quality varied a lot. The primary requirements for Bud were that it be of a consistent quality, have no offensive flavors, and cost as little as possible to produce. And didn't kill anyone.

You can buy mass market beer anywhere in the U.S. and be confident that you are getting a mildly alcoholic drink with an inoffensive flavor that will be inexpensive because the brewer made it as cheaply as possible consistent with producing something that resembles beer and is safe to drink.

7) I've heard and read that the Finnish are the shyest, weirdest, most anti-social group of people in the world. Yet they seem to pair off and marry well enough. What can Japanese virgins learn from them?

Finns may be shy, but like the rest of the Nordic-zone, they don't have serious hangups about sex. Virginity isn't really considered a big deal, slut-shaming is virtually non-existent, and women aren't culturally trained to be romantically passive. In Japan there's an ideal of the virginal woman, who never initiates any sexual desires of her own, who must be woo'd by her pursuer. This conception is connected at the hip with the submissive housewife. Alpha males do relatively better in these cultures. Shy, introverted males, particularly when it comes to their first relationships or sexual experiences, often need a sexually aggressive female who will make the moves when he's too timid. Since female sexual attractiveness is less based on personal self-confidence and suaveness, even weird, anti-social women can more easily fill the role of sexual initiator than weird, anti-social men. Japan would most likely benefit from a cultural campaign promoting sex-positivity.

#5 lol esoteric writing of tyler cowen

#5. I like how the navigation of the site contains its own visual 'nudge' to visit Thaler's blog.

Re: bland American beer. Lack of competition and production for a mass market which precludes specialized offerings.

The US gets mocked for this around the beer drinking world, but the apparent rise of craft brew in the USA appears to be countering this perception.

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