Why Should Domestic = Cheap? A Call for Legislation

What is a “domestic” beer?

According to most restaurants and bars, a domestic beer is an American style light lager produced at a factory miles away by a foreign corporation.

On the flip side, a beer brewed within walking distance at a brewery built by people who live in our community – that’s not domestic.

It’s all about money, of course, with a dash of history tossed in.

First, the history. When I was a teenager and disco was alive, the beer world could be divided into two types – cheap, bland, flavor-stripped lagers brewed here in the United States, and expensive, strange beers brewed in foreign countries, ranging from Moosehead to Guinness. Back then, good beers pretty much all came from other countries, and America pretty much only produced Bud, Miller, Schlitz, Coors, Pabst and a few others of the same ilk. (It’s true that there were a few good beers made in America at the time, like Anchor Steam and a few other rarities, but they were very few, and not common enough to add any exoticism to the word “domestic”.)

So, if you wanted a domestic beer, you wanted something cheap and cold. If you wanted something else, you wanted an expensive import (which weren’t always better, by the way, but that’s another story). This is the era that gave rise to the splendor that was “Import Night” at various bars. Now, times have changed.

Let’s talk about the money now. American craft brewers are making most of the best beers in the world. Because of the scale and ingredients, these beers are more expensive than the factory beers, and the prices are all over the board. A bottle of beer from the Midwest can easily cost more than a bottle of beer from Munich or Newcastle.

So, now, when a bar or restaurant wants to tell you that they’ll sell you a cheap beer really, really cheap, they’ll post a sign that says “Domestic draws, $1″ or “$4 Pitchers, All domestics”. “Domestic” is shorthand for Bud, Miller or Coors, even though they’re brewed by foreign corporations. If you want to get a Boulevard Pale Ale, or a Goose Island Honker’s Ale, or a Magic Hat #9, you’re going to pay a lot more than the “domestic” price.

At first blush, this doesn’t seem to be a big problem. I’m happy to pay the going rate for good beer, and I don’t expect a bar to sell expensive beer to me at a loss. And I certainly don’t begrudge anyone a plastic cup of “domestic” if that’s what they want.

But I don’t want it called “domestic” any more. It’s inaccurate, it’s insulting to real American brewers, and it siphons money to foreign corporations. SABMiller and AB-InBev are NOT domestic corporations. There are thousands of true “domestics” crafting great beer, and the American beer scene deserves to be recognized as a point of national pride. When you claim that Miller Lite and Budweiser are the “domestics”, you are saying that Boulevard and Schlafly are somehow less American. It’s just not right.

Here’s what I suggest: Pass a state law that any retailer advertising special pricing for “domestic” beers be required to sell any and all American-produced beers that it carries at the advertised price. My intent is not to harm bars and restaurants; I only want them to start using truth in advertising. If they want to advertise “$1 Bud draws” or “$4 Miller pitchers”, that’s fine.

But they ought to catch up with the times. “Domestic” beers are no longer limited to corporate factory brewers. America is now a great brewing nation, and our retailers should not advertise that Budweiser is the pinnacle of American brewing.

(Hat tip to John over at the KC Beer Blog for sparking this rant with a comment to this post.)

5 Responses to “Why Should Domestic = Cheap? A Call for Legislation”

  1. Chimpotle says:

    I can't see legislation passing for such a worthless piece of wording. True, it is annoying, but I think more could be done by simply imploring the owners/managers of local places.

    At this point in my life, I pretty much plan on not drinking a beer at most places that use "domestics" because they don't carry a beer I want to drink.

  2. les says:

    Saddle up,Don Q; I, Pancho, am ready to ride. I fear this windmill ain't fallin', tho. And remember, the Supremes say that AB-InBev is a fine corporation-American person.

  3. SouthCountyMike says:

    Let it go, just let it go. You have to much to offer to waste your time on this even if I agree with about 90% of your rant.
    First AB is still domestic. They still brew it here, pay taxes and employ a lot of people.
    Second, passing laws about beer in MO is rarely done without AB's blessing and you won't get that.
    Third, and this is the most important, you can't legislate against ignorance.
    As time changes with better beers becoming so much more available, so will the marketing. Heck, I just love to go into a bar and see the sign for happy hour, AB longnecks $1.50. When I ask for an Amber Bock, I'm told it's not included in the special. Now maybe this should happen elsewhere but I live in St. Louis.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Have you tried Bell's "Hopslam"? I would be curious to know what you thought about that beer.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

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