Keeping up with the Joneses. This American phrase or idiom has been a part of American culture since the early 19th century. To sum it up, it basically means that you are constantly comparing yourself to your neighbors or peers and trying to one-up each other with who can acquire the best car, the best phone, the best wife, or what have you. Me personally though? I think trying to play that game will prove to be a lesson in futility. And that’s partly why I choose to drink bottom shelf liquors, beers, and wine. Sure, I can certainly afford the better stuff but there’s really only so many of the “good stuff” that you can buy and once you acquire them, you feel like you don’t really want to consume it precisely because it costed you so much to buy it in the first place. Plus, very few breweries and distilleries are competing with each other at that level so there tends to be very little variety up there as well.
To illustrate that point, I was visiting the Bevmo in Pasadena this time around rather than the Bevmo in Glendale. I purposefully visited this spot because I know it’s a bigger store and I know that it carries a larger variety of booze relative to the Glendale location. As I strolled over to the beer section, I looked at the under $3 range of beers. There were at least seven different breweries from seven different countries that brewed beer. Among them was a brand that I’m familiar with: Baltika. Now, Baltika actually made this beer that I’m drinking tonight and whose name that I cannot pronounce. The taste of this beer, at least on the first sip, was a strong malt flavor with a light to medium body reminiscent of the Japanese beer Kirin. But unlike Kirin, the 2nd and 3rd sips were less intense. There’s not much of a carbonation and there’s also not much of a bite either. Upon further inspection, the ABV is only rated at a minuscule 4.0%. That’s lower than a Budweiser. Goodness gracious.
Comparatively, when I looked at the $4 to $5 ranging imported beers, I noticed that there’s really not that many players on the field. I think I counted about five different breweries from perhaps three different countries: Russia, Germany, and interestingly enough, Africa. Who would have thought that Africa made a $4 pint of beer? Anyway, as the dollar range went higher and higher, there were definitely fewer and fewer breweries and along with it, fewer and fewer varieties. But then when I got to the craft brews and microbrews, the prices skyrocketed to $7 and up and these are predominantly made in the USA, unsurprisingly. And much of which are West Coast based to boot.
Getting back to this Russian beer though, on many accounts, it’s really quite unremarkable and the low ABV is hard to justify buying again. But like any of the imported beers I’ve tried thus far, I’d say give it a shot, for novelty sake. At least it’s easy drink, it doesn’t give you terrible smelling farts, and the sticky residue left on one’s lips is pretty minimal on the whole.
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