Over the past two years I have been on a quest to convert my father-in-law to a craft beer drinker. He has held out on me every time saying “My Heineken is still better,” as a craft beer drinker that has enraged me since the first day he said it and ever since, I’ve been on a quest to convert him. Here’s the background, he’s a upper 50’s Ecuadorian man who has been drinking pilsners since before I was born. In Ecuador the most popular brand of beer is called Pilsener (no serious that’s the name of the beer) and from what I hear and the reviews I see(Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate), its horrible, even he kids that the beer tastes like water. So it got me to thinking about Latinos in general and why we drink such crappy beer. Why are we content with drinking yellowish glasses of water with a hint of alcohol? Why can’t we embrace good quality beer? Why are we stuck in this rut of low quality beer and more importantly, can we climb out? So begins the Quandary of Latinos and Beer
In Puerto Rico, where my family is from, the major players are Heineken, Coors Light and Medalla a local brew only sold on the island. These are all pale lagers and aren’t great representatives of beer but they all have one thing in common, they all are refreshing. They are served extremely cold and are a great way to cool off, which you need in the Caribbean or in Central and South America. So this makes me think about everything working against me here and all of the factors that led Latinos to drink shitty beer: Climate, Culture and History.
Climate: It’s hot close to the equator and when one wants to cool off, nothing beats an ice cold beer. When beer is that cold you lose most of the flavor, so it doesn’t matter what you are drinking if its near freezing its all going to taste similar. Many craft beers that I enjoy are done so around 58 degrees, which for me is perfect but if its 98 degrees and humid, that cellar temp beer is not going to cut it and that Imperial Coffee Stout doesn’t seem that appealing anymore. So in the end I understand that move towards cold beer and its dominance in Latin American countries.
Culture: Many of the Latin American countries have their own national brewery, one that carries a lot of pride along with it. In Puerto Rico they have Medalla beer its a light lager just like the rest. Here are a few examples:
|Argentina: Quilmes||Ecuador: Pilsner||Colombia: Aguila|
|Costa Rica: Imperial||Dominican Repulic: Presidente||Honduras: Salva Vida|
|Mexico: Tecate||Peru: Cusquena||the list goes on…|
All of these beers are deeply ingrained into the culture and tradition of their countrymen, a national pride if you will. Much like Bud Light is to us, their beers represent a part of their culture and traditions. So moving on to something different is like asking them to let go a little piece of what makes them Latino.
History: Many Latinos in the U.S. have found solace, here in America, in beers that are similar to what they grew up with. It’s hard to break with history and change is not always freely accepted. In my case, I have to compete with 50 years worth of history and convert my father in law to the craft side. Slowly but surely though, I mean he’s drinking Heineken right? Something probably not available to him in Ecuador 50 years ago.
A few nights ago I realized that it is possible to shake that cancer of shitty beer because I met Edgard. Here I have an older gentleman, around the age of my step father and here he is at a craft beer bar with me drinking really quality beer. When I saw him drink the same beers I was and REALLY enjoying them, I knew it’s possible and I knew that I had a shot at converting my father in law. Speaking to Os Cruz of NJ Craft Beer he told me that his father was always the type to try the imports which got both him and his brother started on craft beer, so you can say that Edgard introduced his sons to alternative beers. Which blows my mind! :)
So I find myself in a quandary of sorts over how to go about breaking decades of Culture and History and take one step closer to solving this riddle. I’m looking for that perfect introduction beer one that breaks with his decades of tradition and embraces something new, something domestic, something better. When I find that beer I’ll let all of your know but now at least I do know the the possibility exists.