Printed in The Cascade Beer News

New! Flavor Free!

We in the Northwest are the fortunate inheritors of a rich legacy of brewing, embodied in the many well-made local beers available throughout our beer-loving region, such as Red Hook, Black Hook, and the short-lived Mauve Hook.

But skill and creativity is not limited to our local craft breweries. Nay, the conglomerate industrial beer manufacturers are every bit as skilled in the assembly of their product as they are in buying each other's companies. Their latest advance is beer with no flavor or color. I think it's called Zima. Zima is simply another product--like wine coolers--for people who dislike alcoholic beverages but like being drunk. Through a special flavor-extraction process, Zima retains all the alcohol, fizz, and overblown image-oriented advertising of regular beer, but without any pesky taste or character.

What will we see next? The following transcription of a strategy meeting at a major American brewery gives us a glimpse. It is presented here word-for-word, uncut, the same as when it was originally made up by me.

BREWERY BOSS: "Sales are down. Who has an idea?"

MAN IN SUIT #1: "Brewery boss, if we reduced our advertising budget 40% and stopped buying those chemical additives that attempt to make our product taste like beer instead of like watery urine from a diseased weasel, we could afford to brew a high-quality beer."

BREWERY BOSS: "You're fired. Next?"

MAN IN SUIT #2: "Brewery boss, our trend-mongers tell us we're approaching the end of the line with our ad campaign that persuades the weak-minded that drinking our product with a chunk of lime in it will make them sexy and hip. We need to double our ad budget for my new campaign to persuade the weak-minded that drinking our product with a chunk of raw liver in it will make them sexy and hip. The raw liver angle is also a natural tie-in to our light beer campaign featuring our lovable alcoholic ugly dog who gets all the babes. The alcoholic ugly dog will love his bottle of product with a chunk of raw liver floating in it."

BREWERY BOSS: "Super. And clear glass bottles let everyone see what the trendy people are putting in there. But don't consumers know that light exposure destroys beer, and that keeping beer in clear bottles makes as much sense as selling mayonnaise in warm uncovered pails?"

MAN IN SUIT #3: "That was back in the old days, brewery boss. The quality of today's product is such that not even exposure to nuclear weapons testing will detract from it."


MAN IN SUIT #3: "And in response to consumer demand for more variety, we plan to offer our product in tall skinny bottles and teeny weeny cans."


MAN IN SUIT #2: "In a recent taste test, brewery boss, beer experts preferred--2 to 1--having their tongues removed with rusty bottle caps to ever drinking our product again. If I may quote one of them: Your continued promotion of beverages whose sole virtues are low manufacturing cost and multi-year shelf life are an effrontery to the thousands-year-old brewing tradition, which will soon be obliterated when people know nothing but your vapid, gassy, concoctions."

BREWERY BOSS: "Our plan seems to be working. But how goes our strategy for making consumers so ignorant that they will be unable to even talk about beer intelligently? And stop calling me `brewery boss'."

MAN IN SUIT #3: "Our push to convince people that ale is not beer has been so successful that our wine division wants to persuade consumers that white wine is not wine, and so few people know what pilsener is anymore that we're free to apply the word to anything. On the vocabulary front, `flavor', `body', and `aroma' are gone; `bold', `clean', and `spirit' are in."

BREWERY BOSS: "Good work, Orwell. Gentlemen, it's Miller time."

MEN IN SUITS, in unison: "[gasp] But brewery boss, that's a competitor's brand."

BREWERY BOSS: "Ha! As if any of us could tell the difference. Hey, it's on sale this week. Drink up."