I had an interesting conversation regarding Billy Beer with Rick, my co-editor, a few days ago. Somewhere in my collection I have a whole six of this stuff; empty of course. What kind of decent beer loving beer geek would I be if I saved unopened cans; unconsumed?
I have heard the cans aren’t worth as much as some think. But it was, literally, the contents… and the content… of the conversation that intrigued me.
Billy Beer; as everyone who tracks beer over the age of 40 knows, was a product created to honor Jimmy Carter’s brother. The sales pitch was that Billy personally picked the recipe. The conversation I had with Rick via the net confirms my suspicion that this was mostly; if not absolute, hype.
Brewing Billy Beer was vended out to several breweries over the short time it was on our shelves. F.X. Matt in Utica, NY, brewed it for a while. (Known at the time as “West End.”) That’s was where I tasted, and bought, my Billy Beer…. in the opposite order, of course. Kind of hard to do it the other way. Plus, the guy at the counter in the store really complains a lot if you open it in the store first and taste it before you buy it.
Trust Uncle Ken on that one. He knows.
There wasn’t a lot of body but, for the time, the hopping was interesting. I would assume Cascade with a twist at the end: Mt. Hood, or perhaps some Noble hop to make it a bit “spicy.”
I’m doing this from memory, obviously.
But Rick considered it swill of less body, and taste, than the usual bland fare’ available in the 70s. This wasn’t the first time I heard this. Even back then future beer geeks like me were comparing notes and asking, “What the hell is this ‘recipe’ he picked they’re referring to, anyway?”
I have no idea where Rick’s product came from, but I’m guessing most likely Cold Spring Brewing which would have been the closest, followed by Falls City Brewing or maybe Pearl River Brewing. I know little about Cold or Pearl… but considering Falls City beer, they probably used the wert that they bathed the local mangy, stray, cat in… that they would have thrown away if they hadn’t thought: “Hmmm, Billy Beer!”
Can you guess I’m no fan of Falls City? Or the aptly named Iron City? Or most of the brew from that era? Most smaller breweries died because they deserved to. That’s what they get for thinking they can compete by making the same bloody boring; overly carbonated, lager yeast-driven, sulfer-ish water all the biggies made.
F.X., on the other hand, was about ready to launch the Saranac series, which took beer where it needed to go. Just use the bottles or cans for the good spaceship Enterprise and ya gotta great ad! There you go Fred Matt: a free idea.
And probably a really bad one? I’d have to see it first, I suppose…
I’m sorry that others didn’t get to taste the Billy Beer I tasted. For the time, in America, one might even have called it somewhat English IPA-ish. This specific version certainly wasn’t any variant of Pabst as some claim; no matter what Billy liked, or didn’t like. But of course “for the time” is the all important caveat. Taste buds are, overall, a bit more educated these days.
On every can…
“Brewed expressly for and with the personal approval of one of America’s all-time great beer drinkers – Billy Carter.”
“I had this beer brewed just for me. I think it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve tasted a lot. I think you’ll like it, too.”