A Wish For Irregular Beer

It will come as no great shock that the beer at my wedding was homebrew. Three varieties, all selected to be palatable to a broad group (a wit, a porter, and a pale, I think). Still, they were not pale lagers. A friend later relayed a conversation he overheard between members of Sally's family. After offering tepid praise for the idea of the homebrew, the person in question said, "Don't they have any regular beer?"

Regular beer is, of course, a pale, fizzy lager. There is no place on the planet where this style doesn't outsell all others. Not in Belgium, not in Britain--certainly not in the US. (Although, now that I think about it, maybe Ireland is an exception--perhaps the Beer Nut will weigh in.) I can't find any statistics, but the international dominance of pale lager is staggering--surely well more than 90% of all beer sold.

This is a remarkable historical anomaly. Humans have been brewing beer for at least 6,500 years--and almost certainly far longer. So in the entire history of human civilization, a single, broad category of beer has captured the world market for less than 1% of the time. The triumph of pale lager says a great deal about the movement of populations, the industrial revolution, and globalization. Looked at through the lens of history, you could find a lot worse metaphors than pale lager in describing the modern age.

Since humans don't have the capacity to experience eons in their ordinary lives, this anomaly looks more like a permanent state of affairs, and so the dominance of pale lagers is a self-perpetuating cycle.

But does it have to be? Will pale lagers always be "regular," or will our consciousnesses expand such that some future generation has a broader definition? We are at the moment when it's not entirely preposterous to suggest the answer may be yes. If so, we're doing God's work today, brewing and praising this beer that is still irregular to the vast majority of the world.

This post is my contribution to "the Session," an ongoing monthly project wherein beer bloggers all comment on a common theme. For more, see Stan, who is curating this month's installment.