How Drinking Cheap Beer Can Remind You of What is Important in Life

Copyright by Thomas Hawk

Copyright by Thomas Hawk

“Life is too short to drink cheap beer.”

That was my mantra for a lot of years.  I’d proudly say that while ordering one of the latest craft beers that my favorite joints would have on tap.  Each time I’d visit, I’d peruse the beer menu and take my time selecting.

No Hefeweizens for me, thank you.  I’d had more than my share while in the Army and haven’t really enjoyed them since.

And while I love Guinness, I’m not a fan of the craft versions of stout beer which are often overly heavy and just downright nasty.

Nope, my enjoyment rested with the Pales, the Reds and the IPAs.  I’d pick one, drink it and enjoy the hell out of it.  I wasn’t one of the ding-dongs who would drone on about the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) of the beer or if I knew where the hops were grown.  No, I really didn’t care that much.

I just wanted to drink a fancy beer and get a nice, hefty buzz out of it.

This behavior continued into my financial awakening.  Even when I would sit with a table of wine snobs for some event, cringing at their extreme douchiness, I would have a fancy beer in my hand.  I was half a step away from imitating their self-importance.  Had I uttered one IBU rating you could have handed me a membership into that overly-indulgent beer snob mob, the group that is as obnoxious as the wine crowd, but twice as loud.

When Things Changed

Then I went to a college football came as a guest of friend.  We hopped into his truck one Saturday morning and drove toward Pullman, Washington, the home of the WSU Cougars.  We stopped in Garfield, a small town thirty minutes outside of Pullman, at Grumpy’s Tavern, for a quick beer. 

Grumpy’s is a dive bar and is accustomed to the traffic that passes through for the college games.  We grabbed a seat and the bartender walked over to us.  She asked us what we wanted to drink.  I asked which fancy beers she had available and, if I remember correctly, the closest thing to craft they had was Blue Moon (brewed by MillerCoors, by the way).  While I was thinking of what to order, she said, “Would you like an order of our biscuits and gravy?”

I looked at my friend and then back to her.  “What?”

“We make the biscuits and gravy every Saturday morning.  It’s good,” she said with a smile.  She was a kindly, older woman and I took that for a decent sales pitch.

I shrugged.  “I’m game.”  My friend nodded and said he was in, too.

“What do you recommend with breakfast?”

She didn’t hesitate.  “Rainer.  It’s the best.”

I crinkled my nose.  Rainer?  I hadn’t tasted Rainer since I was in high school.  I only remember it as nasty.  Of course, all beer was nasty back then but we drank it to get drunk.  It was a different mission than today.

“Trust me,” she said with a smile.

Her sales pitch relied heavily on a motherly touch and I shrugged again.

“Okay.  Rainer, it is.”

She brought over a paper plate with opened face biscuits slathered in gravy.  As you can guess, that combo along with a Rainer was so heavenly that I chowed it like a man who hadn’t eaten in days.  When she returned to the table, I asked for another plate of food.  My friend looked at me like I had lost my mind.

There is a concept of diminishing returns whereby the joy of something is lessened with each successive application.  This did not occur with the second plate of biscuits and gravy.  It was so fantastic that I gobbled that second plate and finished my beer in what felt like record time.

My friend watched me with fascination.


What I didn’t realize in that simple moment was something changed.

I had such profound joy inside a dive bar eating biscuits and gravy along with a Rainer beer that it’s still resonating with me today.  Even writing about this memory has brought a big smile to my face.

My favorite beer of choice a few years later is still Rainer.  I will occasionally drink a fancy beer, but I usually buy them from the grocery store and put them in my refrigerator.  If I have one, it’s usually a single and I call it good.  Fancy beers are so heavy in calories and alcohol content that I no longer want more than one.  I’ve had a six pack in my refrigerator for over a month now that I haven’t touched.  Each time I go for one, I think about it and shake my head.  I’d rather not have it.

How Does This Relate to Personal Finance?

How Significant Will This Be?

What we think is important today might not be significant tomorrow.  What that important thing is to me today, I don’t know.  Life has a funny habit of showing us what we value now isn’t really that important later on.

I used to think craft beer was super cool and very important.  Remember that statement, “Life is too short for cheap beer.”  I’d say that and hang out with all sorts of beer types.  Now, beer snobbery just seems kind of meh to me.  I really don’t care.

Five years ago, karate was one of the central points of my life.  Today?  Not so much, but I couldn’t imagine it not being in my life back then.  It overwhelmed my thinking then.  Today the only time I really consider it is when I’m using it for an example in the blog.

Realize that things come and go in our lives and that’s okay.  Seasons change for a reason.

Just because you like something today doesn’t mean you will still like it tomorrow.

Are you into something because it’s cool or because you like it?

I dig craft beer, don’t get me wrong.  It’s some tasty stuff.  However, the trendiest restaurants in town for the past half-decade have been gastropubs.  They feature large beer menus and food combos that play off that theme.  It’s the in-thing to go there and drink fancy beers with your friends. 

I realize now that I would have a couple beers at those joints because that’s what everyone else was doing.  Basically, it’s where the popular folks hung out and I wanted to be in the hip crowd.  It was fun to go out and be in a mix of people.  Geez, it was like high school again.

Do I really need to be popular?

Should my financial position be affected by my perceived level of cool?

When I stepped back and took a look at why I was drinking craft beer, it was more because everyone else was.  I like it, but I also like Rainer, Bud Light and the occasional PBR.  I no longer need to impress anyone.  

Beer is a Luxury

This shouldn’t be an issue for those who are practicing budgeting and paying attention to their finances.  We tend to stand out already.  Whether it’s bringing a lunch box to work every day or the fact that some of us have envelopes with cash stuck in them, we do things slightly different.

Now, drinking Rainer isn’t a budget choice.  If it were a budget choice, I would say no to beer all together.  Beer is a luxury.

What I’m saying is this, when we go out to dinner if I order a fancy beer that’s usually equal to the price of 1.5 to 2 inexpensive beers.  My budget for dinner goes completely out of whack.  Having the cheap beer or no beer with dinner is the smarter move.

Oh, One Final Thought

The biscuits and gravy along with a Rainer really is a fantastic meal.  It’s so tasty my girlfriend made it as a surprise for my birthday earlier this year. 

It was just as good as I remembered it.  Even better since it was at home.