Food & Drink » Food & Wine




As a former advertising guy, I'm something like the fabled eunuch in the whorehouse when it comes to the charms of most marketing gimmicks. I'm fairly immune. Don't get me wrong, I do love a creative presentation, but I know that it can be a diversionary tactic for pretty unremarkable stuff. Still, this one got me.

Strolling along in the beer aisle of the Monteagle Piggly Wiggly, I spied something unexpected in an age of wild, swirling craft beer marketing. Perhaps it was that the design had the same stripped-down minimalist motif, color, and font of my first book. I hadn't thought about it in years — other than when someone in Brazil bought a copy about six months ago — but there I was looking, and that unsung masterpiece had been rendered as a beer can. It read Emergency Drinking Beer in big, sensible letters and not much else, except for "All Purpose Blend" across the top. Well, okay, that's clever. I'll bite.


The design is actually a send-up of the emergency drinking water Anheuser-Busch donates for disaster relief, and the beer is put out by Georgia's Wild Heaven Brewing. As it turns out, one of the founders, Nick Purdy, spent 15 years at the helm of Paste magazine, and the other, Eric Johnson, is from Athens, Georgia, and claims he could have had a career in music — which is probably not remotely true. We can, however, make the assumption that these two named a brewery after an R.E.M. song. That also got me, so there was no way I wouldn't give it a whirl.

And why not? I was headed to a tailgate at Sewanee, so if it was truly awful, some undergrad would take it off my hands. Such is the "intensity" of the University of the South football program that I never actually knew who the Tigers were playing or who won the game, for that matter. Then again, neither did my daughter, and she lives there.

Wild Heaven calls Emergency Drinking Beer a "Pils-Style session ale," but I'm not sure how they're using the word ale because they also call it a crisp pilsner (a lager) married to a traditional gose. As you can imagine, it is sort of all over the place. It's light but pretty hazy for a pilsner. It has the medium carbonation and light, lemony finish that comes from citrus zest, like an ale. There is a hint of a gose underneath, but it's a bit lost in the all-purpose blend.

Here, we need to be careful not to dissect beer too much because it ruins the alchemy. Yes, there is a science and a craft, in both beer and wine, but very often the parts just inexplicably fall together, and no one seems to know the reason why.

Nothing I've written here looks like I'm headed to a positive review, and I wouldn't suggest thinking about the beer too hard because when you analyze it, EDB comes off badly. Yet this is a pretty good beer. Not terribly exciting, but a fine can of ... something ... for a tailgate or mowing the lawn. At 4.4 percent ABV, it is a session drinker for a hot day. And if you are going to contribute to the delinquency of a minor by handing one or two off to some Sewanee sophomores, well then, you haven't contributed too much delinquency — just a manageable smidge.

I understand that Emergency Drinking Beer has several seasonal variations of its all-purpose blend that include varieties like watermelon, berry citrus, and tropical. None of these were available when I strolled through the Piggly Wiggly, which is probably for the best. The beer isn't so unique as to likely survive being monkeyed around with like that. And it makes me think of that abomination and sin against both beer and the Belgians: Bud Light Orange.

I'm sure the good people at Wild Heaven stopped short of that. At least I hope so.

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