Posted by: coloradokiwi | November 20, 2007

Of rednecks and “red beer”

For reasons far too complicated and boring to explain, my family (Dad’s side) had Thanksgiving early this year, on the weekend. It was a damned good time. However there are of course times where things are somewhat trialsome, as with any family. Luckily the “trials” for me do not reside in having to deal with alcoholics or crazies or molesters or any of the usual kind of nonsense featured in Hollywood movies and mediocre stand-up routines. My family is chock full of kind souls who work hard, mean well, have no major character flaws, and are a helluva lot of fun. They are also, for the most part, good time rednecks.

Now they’re not the Southern variety, but the Great Plains variety (there are notable differences). Rather than being at once dangerously stupid and hopelessly Bible thumpin’ ala the basis for the characters in Squidbillies, they are of the ranching folk of windblown, cornfed stock who value, more than anything, to be left the fuck alone. All of them have high school diplomas at least, some with college degrees and/or technical/trade certificates, and are to a one Republican — which stems greatly from being misinformed, but more than anything it is based in a Libertarian worldview of what used to be real conservatism, borne of out of a hatred, fear, and contempt of/for “gummint.” I’m guessing that if they had to choose just one Constitutional Amendment to keep, they’d pick #2. The constant barrage of “You’ll never guess what those assholes want to tax us for to fuck up in this way now…” is a long and valued tradition in our family, which is told with all the staid meter of an epic poem, only, you know, more gripey-bitchy. They’re the sort of folk who (incorrectly) disbelieve that Global Warming is largely man-made, because they (correctly) note that politicians and companies are scheming ways to extract money from them over the issue. Yes, that sort. Anyway, their political views are not the subject of this particular post; their redneck ways are.

Now, I do not share their view of the world in many ways, and I have worked hard to become a worldly, dare I say cosmopolitan, person. That said, I confess a certain affection and yen for the hick-ishness on display when it’s hilarious and/or fun. For example, whatever you think of guns, skeet shooting is fun. Whatever you think of the environmental downsides of automotive recreation, recklessly zooming around in ATV’s is fun. Whatever you think of safety and aging, having a bunch of 30-year-old men play “500,” “Flies Up” and whatever it is that’s a more appropriate name for “Smear the Queer” (ah, the charming vestiges of homophobic violence…) is FUN. Whatever you think of propriety, making bawdy jokes about sex and the family propensity for unholy flatulence at the dinner table (or anywhere else) is FUN.

There are also things that I don’t particularly like and would embarrass me greatly in other contexts, but I find charming nonetheless. For example, one year instead of cooking the turkey in the normal way, there was a movement afoot to “barbecue” it by flash-frying the whole bird in an oil fryer (not unlike those used by McDonald’s for their fries). Of course moving the bird out of the kitchen also meant that it was suddenly under the purview of the men to cook the turkey, and so in the two hours it took to fry it in the garage, the beer cans and bullshit managed to get piled quite high. (Results were mixed, at best: even aside from the tastelessness aspects of this, I don’t recommend this method to anyone in terms of the taste of the bird, either.) There are many, many quirky things along these lines that I am constantly confronted with on that side of the family. This time out there it was no different, only this time I was confronted with something that is so quintessentially redneck, but was also so pretty darned tasty, that I am officially recommending it to my redneck and urbane urban friends alike: red beer.

Now, there is an English version of red beer in which you put a goodly amount of tomato juice in lager. Meh. This is America (fuck yeah), and so we’ve improved upon it in the most American of ways: buy the shittiest lite beer you can find (pilsners only, please), and add just under a teaspoon of hot sauce — Tobaso if you have it, but similar brands and varieties will do, so long as it’s tangy and full of chili heat (bonus points for the cheapest, most tacky brand of hot sauce you can find). Anyway, it’s delicious and it makes even Natural Light — the beer that tastes like the backwash of a drunk who’s been quaffing water in order to sober up — not only tolerable but almost delicious.

But of course really the charm here is in the incongruence in “taste.” That is to say, they are not buying Nattie Lite or Bud Lite or what have you to get hammered (well, not any more). These are casual drinks, held in hand (with concomitant NASCAR foam rubber cooler) to pass the time and maybe have while watching TV, playing cards, or possibly even at dinner. Granted, they appear to actually like this shit, to which failed attempts to get them to drink “proper” beer will attest. That said, there is the hint of recognition that this beer is not actually “good” beer, and is somewhat less than exciting for the palette. Enter the hot sauce: the hotter and tangier the better. While several of my urban friends wax romantic about the balance of hops in a particular concoction of craft beer, they might shun anything resembling “flavor” and particularly heat in their food. My relatives, meanwhile, are downing twelve packs of piss water while articulating the subtle distinctions between various hot sauces and how they interact with the finer elements of that cheap-ass pisswater (like the difference between adding tobasco sauce to PBR rather than Bud, say): if you were to replace words like “burny,” “zing” and “zesty” with fancier vocabulary, the conversation would not be altogether different from that of a wine tasting.

Anyway, point is: it’s good stuff. And it’s hilarious. And it’s quintessentially ‘Merican (not A-merican, but ‘Merican). So in honor of Turkey Day, go drink some red beer, turkeys. I promise you will not regret it.

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