Thursday, April 24, 2014

Point of Brew: Lancias, Lagonas, Lamborghinis and lagers


May 10, 2011 | Leave Comment

I want an Aston Martin. Convertible.

Though I have the same penchant for exotic motor cars that afflicts most men — and occasionally waste my money on shiny auto magazines where I read avidly about cars that are so far out of my price range as to make me giddy — this new-found desire specifically for an Aston Martin dates exactly from the moment when Prince William and his new bride Kate emerged from the gates of Buckingham Palace driving in one. A convertible.

I have gone so far as to look up these cars on the Internet and I hung, drooling, around an Aston Martin dealership during a recent visit in Newport Beach until shooed off toward the cheap end of the lot to look at Porsches and Jaguars.

The Aston Martin DB9 model that I fancy has 6.0 liter V-12 engine in a two-seater convertible body; even when parked at the side of the road the vehicle looks like it’s exceeding the speed limit, and anything more likely to attract the attention of the CHP I can’t imagine.

The car goes like the clappers and has a racing history that suggests it would be more at home at the 24-hour of Le Mans than on the freeway.

And that’s the rub isn’t it? Not for everyday living.

I suppose, in a similar way, many of us are attracted to the exotica of beverages — you might say to the drinks version of Aston Martins (an Aston Martini, maybe) — for example, wines from the most famous makers and vintages in the most famous regions, distilled spirits from the most magical mysterious glens and dells, and, these days, specialty beers made by dedicated craft brewers brewing up extraordinary concoctions to entice and challenge the palate.

While such beverages may be lots of fun on just the right occasions or with just the right company and for all the right reasons, such drinks, taken out of that special context, become pretentious and overpowering.

And a V-12 powered racing car, with a stick shift, in rush-hour traffic on the Capital City Freeway when it’s bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go and maybe raining and windy to boot, is the wrong context for an Aston Martin; there it becomes an overpowered and pretentious missile.

Most drinking and most driving is done in a comfort zone in which one feels confident, competent and at ease, and so most beers and most automobiles are designed for that purpose.

Such beverages, like cars, are easy to enjoy without making excessive demands on the knowledge or skill or expectations of the user; the beers are drinkable beverages whose quality is satisfying but not satiating and the alcohol content is modest enough to avoid stupor.

This is entirely the reason Budweiser brands are the beers of choice for nearly 50 percent of all beer-drinking occasions in the USA and as much as another 35 percent of beer-drinking occasions are satisfied by similar beers made by Miller-Coors; this leaves just 15 percent or so of the market for imported beers and specialty brands from smaller brewers that can be more of a drinking challenge.

The great strength of Budweiser/Miller-Coors beers, oddly enough, is their lack of strength, whether that is expressed as alcohol or as flavor impact or as the status of the beer in the beer aficionados’ beer pecking order. The beers are under the radar, ordinary, modest in every way and yet fulfill the demands of most beer-drinking occasions for most beer drinkers.

These ordinary beers are the Fords, Toyotas, Hondas and Chevrolets of the automotive world that satisfy the common needs of most people, most of the time, driving most places, on most roads, under most conditions. And that is why there are more Fords about than Aston Martins and more Budweiser made than Belgian Duvel, Orval or Chimay.

And yet — we might ask the question if traveling in traffic in a Ford or sitting in front of a TV set with a Budweiser is about living life. Or is it merely spending time?

It’s merely spending time if that is all there is, because it has no light and shade, no shadows, no contrasts, no colors, no grandeur; it stays ordinary all the time. But an Aston Martin. Convertible. V-12. Now there’s a thing to rev up the imagination to cast the daily commute in a new light, even if we can only dream about it and enjoy that short drive with William and Kate from Buckingham Palace up the Mall to Clarence House.

Of course, a double IPA now and again, or a pint of Guinness to make a change from Budweiser, is much more affordable and, beer-wise at least, achieves the same objective.

— Reach Michael Lewis at Comment on this column at


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