Excerpted from Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious, the new book by Dan Pashman of WNYC's The Sporkful podcast and the Cooking Channel's You're Eating It Wrong web series.
In recent years we've seen companies spend millions of dollars to subject us to ridiculous non-innovations, when a much simpler approach would have been far preferable.
How many different ways can pizza chains reconstitute bread, sauce, and cheese? Now the cheese is inside the bread! Now the bread is folded over the cheese! Now the sauce is on the side! Soon they'll just give you the ingredients individually and tell you to make it yourself.
Pizza purveyors, however, have nothing on the nation's largest beer brewers.
Coors Light, for example, has released several iterations of beer cans that change colors depending on how cold the beer inside is. In other words, they spent millions of dollars creating and marketing a device designed to do something that's already been done effectively for millennia by HANDS.
Miller Lite introduced the "vortex bottle," which has swirling grooves around the inside of the bottle's neck, meant to make the bottle and the pouring process look somehow more pleasing. (They didn't even pretend this would improve the beer itself.) But who cares how cool beer looks as it's being poured?
It appears Miller confused alcoholics with stoners.
Bud Light mostly has avoided pointless alterations to their vessels, but that doesn't mean they haven't wasted plenty of money. They ran an entire ad campaign touting the beer's "drinkability." The slogan might as well have been, "Our product satisfies the most basic criteria of the definition of a beverage."
Rather than spend money developing asinine gimmicks, I'd rather these brewers donate a portion of their beer to the homeless or simply tape a dollar bill to each six-pack. But if they insist upon trying to position themselves as thought leaders, they ought to at least pay their millions to a real innovator—me. If they do, here's what I'll invent:
- A can that stays cold even after you take it out of the fridge
- A bottle neck with interior grooves designed to modulate fizz, offering the pourer greater margin for error in head formation
- A pint glass that alters a beer's bitterness based on the weather
Beer industry giants, I await your call.
And while I wait, I'd like to drink a nice craft beer. But many of those beers are getting harder to stomach.
It's true that in recent years, many new craft brewers and small-batch distillers have brought increased quality and variety to the worlds of beer and spirits. But some proponents of this trend are growing bloated with self-regard, becoming as insufferable as the wine enthusiasts they once derided.
"Have you tried Beaver Snatch Brewery's Unabomber Porter?" they ask. "It's fermented in the same abandoned bus in Alaska where that kid from Into the Wild died."
Indeed, there are few more objectionable varieties of hipster than the craft beer enthusiast who claims the mantle of the commoner while displaying the affectation of the snob. These people drive up the cost of good brews, encourage a glut at the tap and render the term "craft beer" so overused as to border on meaningless. The market will eventually burst this beer bubble, but I fear it may forever tar my beloved beverage with a pretentiousness it had long avoided.
Not everyone who likes craft beer or small-batch liquor is evil—only a small but dangerous subset is. There are many great artisanal alcohols on the market, and some drinks are demonstrably better than others. But hype and higher prices don't always correlate with greater enjoyment.
My advice: Find a reasonably priced beverage that tastes good to you and enjoy it, secure in the knowledge that those paying more are, in economic parlance, "suckers."
Dan Pashman hosts The Sporkful food podcast at WNYC and the Cooking Channel web series You're Eating It Wrong. His book Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.
Art by Sam Woolley.