Recently, I was chatting with a friend on Twitter about my favorite topic; yes, of course, I’m referring to that famous drink of beer. I’ve never met this friend in person, but, judging by his (many) tweets, I get the sense that he is a man of at least average intelligence, and is morally competent in a fit-to-stand-trial kind of way. Hell, he’s a former Deadspin Commenter of the Year! They don’t hand those out to just anyone. In fact, now they don’t hand them out to anyone at all. It’s a very exclusive club.

So anyway, what my buddy Arkansas Fred said to me, mildly paraphrased, is:

All Beer Is Good.

What an interesting idea! It sounds like something someone in King’s Landing would utter before his head and body became two separate things. All Beer Is Good. But is it? Is it really?

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The answer to that question means a lot to me—probably more to me than to any other fatso writer on the planet. To the extent that one can be inspired to write about booze on a national sports website, the inspiration behind the Beer Idiot was that critics, particularly food critics, often write with heavy hands. As food culture continues to (justifiably) develop its hyperlocal, seasonal, and experimental elements, we will inevitably leave behind the ideas that have fallen out of favor. Some of those old gods, I thought, were worth preserving, or at least remembering. And so that is what the Beer Idiot is meant to do.

But let’s not be fooled by rosé-colored glasses. Some things just suck and are also bullcrap. There was a time period of like two years where you couldn’t get a fast-food sandwich that wasn’t on fuckin’ focaccia bread. I think focaccia is halfway up the Mohs Hardness Scale, for God’s sake. Eating a burger on focaccia is about as easy as slicing a golf ball in half. Remember cupcake shops? Do you also remember never even considering walking into one because they don’t make enough goddamn icing to justify a $7 purchase at La Petit Cakeríe? Remember shrimp roll pizza? Oh, right, that was Asia. But still. Some things are just plum not good, no matter how long they stick around.

And Busch Non-Alcoholic Beer is one of them. Trust me, I would know.

So, for your benefit (it damn sure wasn’t for mine), I decided to chug six of these little gut-busters consecutively. In relatively short order, I had dispatched the whole crew, and, well, if you watched the video above, you saw the rather unfortunate result. In my defense, though, I went into this gauntlet on an empty stomach, having only had two large cherry-cream slushes from Sonic (I only ordered one but they gave me two—sorry for not being wasteful) and not a crumb of food. I didn’t want there to be any doubt as to the effectiveness of Busch NA, and an adulterated stomach would have given too much ammunition to the doubters. So I didn’t eat, I drank fast, and I sat in the heat; I did everything in my power to wring a buzz out of a “non-alcoholic” beer, and in the end, I came up short.

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That’s really no surprise, though, because even at that breakneck pace, my BAC was a measly .01 (for comparison’s sake, subbing your average beer in would have me totally sideways at a BAC of .138). Yes, Busch Non-Alcoholic does, in fact, contain small amounts of alcohol. Their official website pegs the exact number as a wimpy 0.4 percent—about a tenth of the amount found in Robitussin—so you’d probably be looking at 500 ounces of the stuff to get anywhere worthwhile. At that scale, you’d be better off eating random crap in the woods to see if you could maybe get sick.

But word to the wise, just because Busch NA and its teetotaling counterparts are probably less harmful than your average soda doesn’t mean you can start handing ’em out at Halloween. No, in fact, the laws in your state may very well make no distinction between any beers under 5 percent ABV—check the codes. Or, hell, don’t. Who gives a shit?

The cops sure don’t. My weak effort to coax something out of my local precinct’s media relations department ended with a suggestion that I contact a lawyer. Hey, I thought you guys didn’t like each other! The Nashville Beer Board—which, by this point, I am starting to get kinda pissed about not being a member of—brushed me off as well. But you’re asleep if you think you can keep my ass outta Lexis Nexis ... here’s what I found.

“Open container” means any container containing alcoholic beverages or beer,

I read this to indicate that any open beer in a driver’s possession would constitute a violation of the law; state authorities were not obliged to dissuade me of this notion, so the Beer Idiot’s Official Legal Stance is that beer is not meant to be drunk in the car. Imagine the difficulty of explaining to a DUI cop while his knee is in your back that, actually, it would take approximately 10 non-alcoholic beers to equal one standard beer. Just stay home instead.

I also found out what you need to blow to get collared while driving a commercial vehicle (.04 BAC) or driving anything while underage (.02). Both of those are, as a practical matter, completely out of reach for even a devoted Busch NA drinker. But it’s conceivable that, after quaffing a few non-alcoholic brews, your beer breath could give the police probable cause to search your vehicle. That could be problematic if you happen to have 100 pounds of marijuana in there! And if you serve a few cold ones to the neighborhood kids, you may not be lucky enough to escape prosecution.

What I didn’t find, however, was any justification for drinking the stuff. It’s inoffensive enough, sure, but that’s a qualification you’re supposed to reserve for things that make you feel good. Coffee isn’t so bad once you realize you need caffeine to get your heart rate above 60 BPM. Busch NA actively made me feel worse: about myself, my life, the Eurozone, everything. My gut was bloated and distended, even after the ... evacuation. There were no chemicals in my bloodstream to counteract the intense feeling of shame I felt after voluntarily consuming that much liquid, and I was acutely aware that the 360 extra calories had cost me about 3.5 Reese’s Cups that evening. What the hell did I do this for? Why the hell does anyone do it?

The Economist reported in 2013 that sales of non-alcoholic beer are skyrocketing, in part due to a healthy Middle Eastern market, which, back then, accounted for a third of the world’s consumption of these products. Vice chalked the corresponding decrease in alcohol consumption up to the rise of pot. Some recovering addicts can apparently use it successfully as a stand-in for the real thing. Our sister-site Gizmodo’s Brent Rose once wrote that, hey, maybe preggos are drinking it! Esquire chimed in as well:

Good luck to Jack!

While I’m probably the last person in the world to say, “Drink this, not that,” I have to admit that I don’t get the appeal here. It’s baffling. Somebody told me the other day that they thought Avengers: Age of Ultron was great, and my head practically popped off like a champagne cork, but even that seems more reasonable than drinking boozeless booze. Maybe I’m alone here. “Christianity, alcohol,” Nietzsche wrote, “the two great means of corruption ....” But that guy barely made it to 55, so what the hell does he know? A little corruption is good for you every now and then. And if it’s not? Drink up. You won’t remember it anyway.


The Beer Idiot is a biweekly-or-so Drunkspin complement; previous installments are available here and here, not to mention here and here. You can watch Jesse Farrar tell jokes on his Youtube Channel and tell him what sort of drinks really put hair on your chest on Twitter @Bronzehammer.

Image by Sam Woolley.

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