Fellas, is it gay to drink Smirnoff Ice... in 2011?
Plus: "plant-based beer," barroom audio, plus a few good tweets about drinking
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Programming note: Thanks to everyone who joined me, Jessica Infante (Brewbound) and Kate Bernot (Good Beer Hunting/Craft Beer & Brewing) on Clubhouse the other week. We’re doing another edition of BEER BYLINERS later today (4/28) at 7pm EST to talk about the beer industry’s latest headlines, trends, and whatever else comes up. See you there! Also, if anyone at Twitter is reading this and wants to give @dinfontay access to Twitter Spaces, we will move this shit there with the quickness.
Fellas is it gay to drink Smirnoff Ice… in 2011?
As you may have heard, Yahoo! Answers will soon be shut down, so ending one of strangest, richest, and longest-running mainstream Q&A messageboards the internet has ever known. Yahoo!, a company with a distinguished history of buying and destroying beloved web properties like GeoCities, Tumblr, and Flickr, will shutter its own creation for good on May 4th.
I don’t have anything grand to say about how Yahoo! Answers shaped the modern internet we know and love/hate, which is good because outlets includingsuchas NPR, The Atlantic, The Verge, ScreenRant, and The New York Times have already taken passes at that very subject. (The Gray Lady eulogized the page as “a haven for the confused” earlier this month, a phrase I like a lot.) Honestly, I never really used Yahoo! Answers, but out of curiosity, like the once-and-forever #content miner that I am, I recently dug through the archives to see what questions anonymous posters posed to the internet about popular booze brands over the course of the platform’s 16-year run.
This was a pretty lazy move, and it was mostly a bust. People just weren’t asking a lot of remarkable or revealing questions about brands like Captain Morgan, Red Bull vodkas, or even Four Loko on Yahoo! Answers, I guess. But I did run across an unusual number of semi- and fully-anonymous young men (presumably? who knows!) asking whether their enjoyment of Smirnoff Ice—which 10 years ago was coming on strong thanks to the mainstreaming of the winking emasculation ritual of “icing”—made them gay.
You get the idea. It’s hard to say whether these are posts made in good faith or just early iterations of the “fellas, is it gay” meme, which according to still-active internet history archive Know Your Meme, technically predated icing by a few years. (Icing went mainstream summer 2010, and KYM puts the first known use of “fellas, is it gay” in 2007, though the entry also notes that the meme really didn’t hit its stride until 2017.)
Personally, I choose to believe the askers were anxious teens overcome by sugary hangovers and internalized homophobia who looked to the internet for answers to unintentionally derogatory questions. I hope I’m right, and I hope they’ve all found happiness since. It does seem like some small measure of progress that when hard seltzer hit its stride in 2018-2019 or so, this sort of gay/gendered panic only briefly coalesced around it before it was adopted (and/or coopted) by mainstream bros. Right? Maybe? Drink what you like? Hmm.
The Fingers Podcast: Craft beer’s “99% asshole-free” myth
I didn’t do much to announce it but I recently recorded an audio version of my essay about craft beer’s good-guys-only founding self-mythology. I don’t know how to embed it directly into this email—maybe that’s not even possible?—but you can listen to it right here. Let me know what you think of this inaugural effort. Do you want me to do more of these? Never do one of these again? I’m simply dying to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment or just reply to this email.
The “plant-based beer” gaffe that wasn’t
The other day, former Trump economic advisor/right-wing media-grift multimillionaire Larry Kudlow told his Fox Business audience that President Joe Biden’s new environmental plan would force normal Americans to give up their beloved burgers and switch to drinking “plant-based beer.” Folks on Twitter had a good laugh at that because beer, you see, is already plant-based. What an embarrassing mistake!
Ha! Take that, Kudlow, you fool! Even Senator/Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer got in on the fun:
Look, I don’t begrudge anyone for taking a few moments out of their day to dunk on a Reaganite sicko like Kudlow (except for Schumer, who I begrudge everything.) But it’s also depressing to see this play out so predictably. “Plant-based beer” is an op, the same way the broader 4lbs-of-meat-per-year “controversy” it’s a part of is an op. This is standard misinformation—red meat, if you’ll pardon the pun—to fire up the right-wing media ecosystem.
At best, engaging with bad-faith misinfo like this is indulging in “political schadenfreude”; at worst, your quote-tweet dunkaroos are amplifying a deliberate, politically expedient lie to an audience that may be more susceptible to believing it. Your fearless Fingers editor isn’t nearly smart enough to have an answer for combating this sort of thing; hell, I’ve given into this impulse plenty in the past myself. Again: depressing!
But I will say I’m slightly heartened by the fact that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) doesn’t appear to have approved any “Biden’s Plant-Based Brew”-ish labels yet. I entered a bunch of cursed queries like that into the agency’s label look-up tool, and can report that it’s all quiet on the Kudlow-dunk front for now. Doesn’t mean they’re not pending, though. Brewers, distillers, “beverage innovation” types, by god, avoid the temptation. It’s a trap!
"We must revive the inspired 1970s concept of drinking in your basement"
I’ve only seen two basement bars in my lifetime:
At my grandparents’ old house, featuring a beautiful billiards table and a remarkably detailed ceramic whiskey decanter shaped like a bald eagle in flight;
And at my first apartment in New York City, a 3br/1ba situated half a block down from Union Pool, where the landlord’s son had turned the space under our floorboards into a nautically themed redoubt that he called (I think?) “The Bitter End.”
Anyway I earnestly enjoyed this tweet:
I know everyone’s excited to get back to actual bars, but why do they have to be mutually exclusive? We deserve both! But until we’re all fully vaccinated, here’s a wonderful project to hold you over…
I first came across this via Charlie Warzel’s Galaxy Brain newsletter, and it’s really delightful. It’s called IMissMyBar.com. You can choose from a menu of ambient bar noises (I recommend “full room” for maximal nostalgia) on the right rail, then use the sliders to adjust how loud they play over the embedded Spotify playlist. What a neat idea. The folks behind this “modern digital artifact” run a bar in Monterrey, Mexico called Maverick MTY. One of the cofounders, Oscar Romo, explained the project to NPR in late March like so (emphasis mine):
What we want also is for people to realize how important are bars in our lives, really, not just from the drinking perspective, but from the social life […] It's like please — don't forget about us. Don't forget about how a bar improves life in society.
Goddamn. I don’t think Friends of Fingers need to be reminded not to forget about their favorite bars, but still. What a sad, lovely, and hopeful sentiment, that.
One more good tweet about returning to bars
Here’s a beer brand subtweeting some thwarted billionaires, I guess?
I don’t know shit about the ill-fated European Super League idea that made everybody Mad Online a couple weeks ago. I don’t watch soccer (or any professional sports, really) so it doesn’t affect my life in any meaningful way. Give me more mini-outrage cycles like this! Anyway, Heineken took the ESL snafu as an opportunity to subtweet all the wealthy oligarchs and investors who came together to ruin footy or whatever. People thought this was pretty funny.
Did a brand… tweet something good? Can that still happen in 2021? What a time to be alive, et cetera. Congratulations to the overworked copywriter who came up with this zinger, I hope they gave you one—no, several—pallets of AriZona Sun Rise in exchange for your nimble brain labor.