As Sigmund Freud doubtless said about Vienna's Ottakringer Gold Fassl, "Sometimes a beer is just a beer." But lots of times, your order at a local bar or brew retailer has a hidden (or obvious!) meaning. It can indicate some aspect of your personality, your immediate situation, or even your aspirations—for later that evening, for the rest of your life.
We polled a semi-random selection of Knoxville bartenders and beer sellers to see what they conclude about a person based on his or her brew selection. No one wanted to be definitive—seems there's always that bruiser bodybuilder demanding a Miller Lite and the ballerina who drinks milk stout daily. But certain beers tend to say something about you, according to our experts. Whether you want to try on a new persona with your next order or figure out if you're sending the wrong signal at the bar (the horror!), see if these labels fit:
You're a girly girl. Or a big guy who's very comfortable with himself.
"To me, it tastes like soda, raspberry soda, so a lot of the ‘girly' drinkers who don't like beer like it," says Valerie Schmidt, a bartender for Union Jack's in West Knoxville who has six years tenure. "It takes a strong man to order Lambic's. And we would never say anything about it! Usually it's their friends who give them shit. A lot of guys who come in don't drink beer. This is what I serve when they say, ‘Give me what the girls drink.'"
You're trying to impress, and you'll probably succeed.
Rogue Dead Guy draft
This is a German-style Malbock that looks like wild honey and has a rich, hearty flavor. "At $5.50 a pint, it's one of our most expensive," says Gentry Claiborne, bar manager for Mellow Mushroom on Cumberland Avenue, which boasts 28 drafts and 63 bottles. "It's pretty impressive for a date, because not a lot of places carry it and not everyone has heard of it. It's in between a pale ale and something stronger, and has a pretty high alcohol content."
You're looking for adventure....
Blind Beer Bucket from Sidestreet Tavern
This truly random approach means you drink what you draw. "We'll take a bunch of the beers that we only have a few left or aren't going to carry them any more, and we put three or four types in an iced bucket on the floor," says Sam Bowman, co-owner of Sidestreet Tavern in Homberg Place, which does its briskest business with PBR in 16-ounce cans and Miller Lite draft or bottles. "If you order the ‘blind beer,' for $2 you might get a really nice St. Pauli Girl or something else worth like $4. Or you might get a PBR bottle worth, er, $2."
Offbeat seasonal drafts
If you want to be linked with the experimental types, demand a seasonal draft, says Claiborne. "Seasonal Sam Adams is not that new, but now we've got seasonals from Thomas Creek and New Belgium that a lot of innovators request. The current Thomas Creek is Oktoberfest. It's this vanilla-cream pale ale that's too sweet for me but other people are drinking it up."
You like others to notice the cool new beer you've got.
Green's Discovery All-Natural Amber Ale
"This beer is tasty, and low allergen, a product of Belgium—but hey, it's $6 a bottle, so definitely one to be seen with," says Josh Wright, self-described "beast of burden" at Three Rivers Market food co-op on Broadway and co-manager of its beer cooler, though co-workers call him "The Man."
The world (of beer) is your oyster.
IPA, Belgian, or German Beer
"Any time you order an IPA, or order beer from a certain country, like, ‘Give me something Belgian,' that tells me you know your beers," says Schmidt. "Maybe you are from another country, or at least know what you really liked on your last vacation." The ultimate tip-off that you're immersed in international beer knowledge? "You can say the word ‘Weihenstephan' properly. It's German, the oldest brewery in the world."
Been there. Done that. Now what?
Kelpie Seaweed Ale
"This is from Scotland, and the ones who order it tend to be the ones who have already had everything else in the cooler," says Schmidt.
Support producers in our "food shed," that's your motto.
Yazoo Brewing Company Pale Ale or Dos Perros
Oatmeal Porter from Gaelic Ale
Surprisingly, the top sellers at the Three Rivers Market are PBR and Yuengling. But the oatsy food co-operative also sells multiple beers produced near enough to be considered derived from the Knoxville-area "foodshed"—that is, within the range to encourage regional production and to minimize environmental impact from long-distance hauling. "The Yazoo beers are produced in Nashville; the Gaelic Ale in Highland, N.C.," says Wright. "They're high-quality microbrews." And hey, the bottles look pretty cool, too.
You're a greenie/hippie—or trying to suck up to someone who is.
St. Peter's Organic English Ale
"It's the only organic beer we sell," says Wright.
You're an intellectual working man.
PBR in 16 oz. cans
"That's all I buy here," says Wright of Three Rivers. The 83-cent price tag is surely one draw. "Also, the parent company, from what I heard, is a non-profit, which is why you hear their ads on National Public Radio." [In fact, Pabst is owned by the Kalmanovitz Charitable Trust, which received the assets of S&P Holding Company in July 2000 at the death of Lydia Kalmanovitz. They have been court-ordered to find a buyer, soon, presumably one that will be for-profit, and their non-profit status has only been extended through IRS intervention past the intended five years]. "I consider PBR the smart working man's choice—and it has to be nutritious, or we wouldn't sell it here!"
You may not realize what you've ordered.
Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat
"It's deceptive," says Mellow Mushroom's Claiborne. "It's not a typical wheat, although it's that same honey color. The first time I had some was in Atlanta, and I usually like wheats, but this—it tasted just like the milk after you've been eating Fruity Pebbles."
You're probably in the wrong bar.
Magic Hat bottles at Sidestreet Tavern
"Sometimes we get people from Union Jack's or other brew pubs, asking for some English varietal or some microbrew like Magic Hat. We don't really do that here."
Domestic on tap from Union Jack.
"No one can blame you for wanting a lighter beer after, say, a heavy meal, or if you're one who's not really a beer drinker with a bigger group," says Schmidt. "Even then, though, we have the Amstel Light on tap. The domestics, well, we have some in bottles, but not on display. We keep them cold in a cooler—on the floor."
Yuengling reference corrected. Thanks, Ed.