Dom “Doochie” Cook Wants to Expand Your World
This Ain’t The Beer That You’re Used To
Dom “Doochie” Cook
Broken World Publication,
85 pages, $10
Disclosure: I have never met Doochie, but the publisher did send me a reading copy of the book.
Beer is culture.
A constructed beverage, there are no limits to its ingredients or ways of brewing, and so what is delivered to you in a glass necessarily reflects the people who made it. That’s as true of the lagered ales of Cologne as it is the lactose-infused hazy IPAs of Boston. It’s not just the liquid, either. Because beer is fundamentally a social beverage, everything connected to it also reflects the people who make it.
None of this is controversial stuff, but it obscures, to people familiar and comfortable with the cultural cues they find in beer, another truth—beer’s cultural specificity has had the effect of excluding broad swaths of the American public. In recent years there has been an effort led by consumers to recontextualize beer so that it includes people outside that narrower culture to include Americans whose families didn’t come from Britain or Germany or France. One of the most outspoken is Dom “Doochie” Cook, who has recently taken his game off Twitter and into the pages of his first book. He has become a tireless advocate for bridging the gap between good beer and Black drinkers, acting as an interpreter who can code switch and speak to both sides. This Ain’t the Beer That You’re Used To is a long-form version of this interpretation, and it’s an indispensable read for anyone who wants to see the beer world grow to include Americans from all corners of the country.
The book is aimed at beer-curious Black readers who are trying to find a door into this world but confront the same kind of barriers Doochie did when he got started.
“It’s not that NYC didn’t have any of these things, because they did. It’s just that as I stated before, the focus of these establishments was not on the urban demographic, and I was unaware they existed. You either stumbled upon it by chance or someone who has, like me, exposes you to it. I was hyped to see stores and bars and breweries dedicated to beer, but one thing constantly bothered me—every beer store that I visited, every beer bar or brewery that I had a drink in, I was always the only black guy there. Due to social media, I came across a few blacks scattered across the country who loved good beer but in real life, none. This was always unacceptable in my eyes and always something that needed to be changed.”
The book has another audience, though—white drinkers who have been so steeped in beer culture they don’t even realize it’s there. It is reinforced by life experiences that closely mirror one another and create that culture in the first place. (“I don’t see color” is easy when everyone looks like you.) It is therefore revelatory to hear about Doochie’s background, told alongsid the history of big beer’s woeful outreach to Blacks during his lifetime. This isn’t the I-had-my-first-Sierra-Nevada-at-a-Phish-concert-and-it-changed-my-life story, and the contrast is illuminating. (I’ve heard two people tell me about Phish concert epiphanies.)
“Picture this, a cold winter night in the Soundview section of the Bronx. A group of adolescence clothes in North Face and Sean John snorkels over top pair of Champion hoodies. Baggy jeans and Timbs piled up in a local project building lobby with no purpose in mind, just leaving. This was every day for us, winter, summer, spring, fall. It was a way of life, and one thing that was a constant in that daily congregation was, you guessed it, beer. It was usually ten or so 40-ounce bottles of 211, a nasty-ass cheap malt liquor that had a fierce reputation to leave you faded fast. Here and there you’d find an Olde English, Colt 45, St. Ides, but usually it was the trusted and proven good, old 211.”
Doochie writes about an experience entirely alien to me, but wholly compelling. If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the personal sections are too brief. Years are summarized in a paragraph. That happens again at the end of the book, when Doochie’s experience with the beer industry is given just a few pages but includes sentences like these: “My road to making beer a career was rough. Once in Florida, I faced rejection after rejection, 40 breweries took a look at me and said, ‘no’ for entry level positions.” What?? Doochie had a Cicerone certificate at the time and had relocated to Tampa to pursue beer as a career—that’s impressive dedication—and still got forty rejections. Who gets forty rejections (or twenty, or ten?) and sends out the 41st application? If he ever decides to sit down and do a full-scale memoir, I’ll be the first in line to buy a copy.
This Ain’t the Beer, like Doochie’s Twitter feed, may be jarring to white readers. He uses different imagery than white beer geeks do (the cover is a great example); he uses language and syntax differently. On his Twitter feed Doochie’s verbal stance is confrontational Bronx, not the Minnesota nice of so much of craft beer. This is intentional, of course. It functions as a way of exposing the thick layer of culture beer currently exists in, while injecting an entirely different expression into the mix. If beer does indeed contain multitudes, this is a challenge to include Black drinkers on their own terms, and an invitation to them to bring their own culture into beer. It is a welcome challenge and, especially, invitation.
This is a raw, personal book, and one I enjoyed enormously. The middle section, an introduction to beer, will be familiar terrain for beer-book readers. But much of this is entirely original, wonderful material. I’ve certainly never encountered anything like it. You can afford to skip most beer books, honestly (unless my name is on the cover, obviously), but not this one. You’ll actually learn something new and important. I hope you give it a look.