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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/PHILIP MARTIN

As hard-seltzer fever sweeps the nation, the drink is becoming synonymous with an unexpected demographic: young millennial men who identify as "bros."

-- Business Insider, Aug. 1, 2019

I got the last 12-pack of White Claw.

Sorry, not sorry. I saw it in the cold case and grabbed it. When the owner of the liquor store checked me out he gave me a little side-eye, and I explained it was an experiment. I don't know anything about White Claw other than it's hugely popular and widely hated. It's the Nickelback of adult beverages.

He told me Ozark Hard Water was better. And that they made it in Rogers.

I said I understood that, but I wasn't buying White Claw to enjoy it, I was buying it because I didn't want to write a Spirits column about stuff I actually drink because in real life I tend to focus on a rather narrow band of the libation spectrum. Besides, hadn't we just lived through the Summer of Hard Seltzer? That's what I've heard, anyway.

So now this liquor store was completely out of White Claw. The owner told me he couldn't keep it in stock.

I am paid to share my opinions. And I have formed an opinion about White Claw. You probably have too -- if you have heard of White Claw and the Summer of Hard Seltzer that we have just lived through. You probably have an idea of the kind of person who drinks White Claw. My idea of the kind of person who drinks White Claw is: not me.

Why not?

Is it because I am a snob who looks down upon White Claw as a highly carbonated low-octane drink designed for people who don't like to taste alcohol when they are getting hammered on the beach? Maybe, though I would never say that out loud around young millennial males who identify as "bros" because I wouldn't want to hurt their feelings. If you are a young millennial man who identifies as a "bro" please understand I respect your lifestyle choices, but I was raised a certain way, with a certain value system. And I understand I have to keep working on myself.

And I can change.

I have, on a couple of occasions recently, worn shorts in social situations. This is very hard for me to do because I am self-conscious about wearing shorts where other people who were raised like me might think they are inappropriate.

It was not so long ago that I would not play golf in shorts. I would not wear shorts to sit in the stands and watch a baseball game. I would wear shorts to walk the dogs or to cut the grass, but I was always glad when the season changed and I could default to jeans as casual bottoms of choice.

I know this is silly, but I cannot help it. I would prefer not to wear shorts.

I only wear them because people who love and support me say things to me like "put on some shorts. It's 98 degrees outside, you idiot."

I have opinions about what kind of car you should drive and what you should wear and whether those scooter things that young millennial men who identify as "bros" like to ride should be ridden on the street or sidewalk or straight to hell. Maybe these are not the most interesting opinions, but I don't know how to not have them.


Anyway, I intend to drink some White Claw. Someday.

Or maybe not. Maybe I can hold onto it, and someday it will be worth a lot of money, like Billy Beer.

If you are a young millennial man who identifies as a "bro" you may not know about Billy Beer. Billy Beer was something that happened before you were born, back in the days when the younger brother of a sitting president of the United States of America who acknowledged a taste for and promoted a brand of beer could be viewed in some quarters as a disgraceful scandal.

Billy Carter was the younger brother of Jimmy Carter, who owned a gas station (that has been turned into a museum) in Plains, Ga., which is famously the hometown of the Carters. When his older brother rose to national prominence during the 1976 presidential campaign, reporters discovered that Billy was a colorfully authentic character who would say and do things that were endearingly quaint, like urinating on an airfield tarmac in full view of the press. Billy piggybacked on his brother's success, becoming a "professional redneck."

One of the opportunities he took advantage of was becoming the official spokesman for a liqueur called Peanut Lolita made, unsurprisingly, from peanuts, and marketed as a dessert beverage. One recipe suggestion its makers -- Continental Distilling in Philadelphia -- touted was: "In a tall parfait or sundae glass, alternate layers of favorite ice creams with spoonfuls of Peanut Lolita."

I have never tasted Peanut Lolita -- it was discontinued about the time Ronald Reagan succeeded Carter as president -- but I have an uninformed opinion about it.

Anyway, in 1976, some genius at the small Louisville, Ky.-based brewery Falls City decided to approach Billy about partnering in the promotion of a beer that would bear his name. They brewed up a few prototypes, had Billy pick the one he liked best and paid the First Brother $50,000 a year to license his name and go on promotional tours where he'd say colorful things like:

"Beer is not a good cocktail party drink, especially in a home where you don't know where the bathroom is."


"Marijuana is like Coors beer. If you could buy the damn stuff at a Georgia filling station, you'd decide you wouldn't want it."


"Jimmy used to drink liquor. Now he's running for president and drinks Scotch, and I've never trusted a Scotch drinker."

Billy got caught up in a couple of scandals. He accepted a $220,000 loan (it's been alleged it was much more, maybe $2 million) from Col. Muammar Gaddafi, which led the Senate to hold hearings on what was popularly called Billygate.

Billy's brother took pains to assure everybody that he was deeply concerned about the affair and Billy, in the words of The New York Times, "directed an obscenity at critics in the American Jewish community." He said the Libyans were friends of his and would remain his friends and that "the Jewish media tears up the Arab countries full time, as you well know ... There's a hell of lot more Arabs than there is Jews."

Jimmy Carter was naturally perturbed at this; he took pains to assure everyone that Billy had no influence on American foreign policy. Privately, he worried that Billy was anti-Semitic, an alcoholic and "crazy as a bessie bug." (Which, even if it isn't something Jimmy Carter said, is something they say in Georgia.)

The bigger scandal was that while Billy was publicly saying Billy Beer was the best beer he'd ever tasted when he was off the clock he drank Pabst Blue Ribbon.


To come back around to the joke I am explaining -- because that's what we have to do in America these days, explain our jokes to the YMMWIAB -- a lot of people saved cans of Billy Beer (it only came in cans; bottles were for fancy people) because they thought they might be worth something someday.

And they might have been, had the tiny Falls City brewery not licensed breweries all over the country to produce mass quantities of it. So there was a lot of Billy Beer in the marketplace circa 1978.

But there weren't a lot of Billy Beer drinkers, or at least there weren't enough who came back for a second bite at that apple. Because apparently Billy Beer was just awful. So awful that Falls City, which had survived Prohibition by switching over and producing soda, went out of business about a year after they started producing Billy Beer.

A few years later there was a Billy Beer bubble, when speculators who'd held onto the beer as investments asked outrageous prices for it. Anecdotally, there were rumors that people were paying thousands of dollars for unopened cases of Billy Beer. (There was a scam where an unscrupulous party would place ads in newspapers offering a huge sum for an unopened sixer of Billy Beer. Then a few days later, that same unscrupulous party would take out another ad offering to sell an unopened sixer for less than half that outrageous amount. Absent greed, no con game could work.)

Even today, if you check eBay, you can find people trying to sell cans and six-packs of Billy Beer.

White Claw is like Billy Beer in that its story is more interesting than what's in the can. It has already been around about twice as long as Billy Beer was (it came to market in 2016), but only lately has it exploded into public consciousness, in part because of a savvy social media-based marketing campaign that The Washington Post last month identified as "post-gender" (which means its not only YMMWIAB who have adopted the drink but young Skinny Girl-drinking moms and fitness enthusiasts who appreciate that it's a gluten-free, low-calorie, low-carb refresher).

And Phish fans too.

As part of my exhaustive research for this story, I tried to infiltrate the Phish Fans Who Love White Claw Facebook group, which as of this writing boasts more than 4,700 members. They haven't approved my application yet, but I think they will because when they asked what kind of claw I'd be I answered "Redintoofin."

(Alfred Lord Tennyson, dear YMMWIAB.)

So White Claw is something you can drink if you aspire to do dude things like Fakie Big Spinning your skateboard or life hacking your existential drama on the 'Gram or gender-neutral things like playing the oddly fascinating/unnerving Untitled Goose Game ( or mommy things like slamming 5% alcoholic content fizzy water/flavored malt beverage on your way to pick up your kids from soccer practice. (Be sure and tell the nice officer that there's "no laws with the Claws" and that you pay his salary. They appreciate that.)

We don't judge here at the drinkies desk, we really don't.

Some people like Zima. Some people like Tab. Some people like to wear cargo shorts on snow days.

They are all children of the universe; they have a right to be here.


Style on 10/06/2019

Print Headline: Sad seltzer summer with White Claw


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