I Really Want to Hate Naturdays but I Can’t Stop Drinking It
This new fruit beer from Natural Light has been an unexpected hit with our columnist and many other beer geeks.
Beer nerds are experiencing a severe existential crisis.
Generally, the rules of beer snobbery are simple: the more obscure the better and you win extra points for swearing you love a pint whose flavor is an acquired taste.
But recently the beer world has been turned upside down by, of all things, that frat boy staple, Natural Light (or in bro speak Natty Light), which is made by Anheuser-Busch InBev. The brand recently introduced Naturdays, a line of fruit beer—packaged in a jolly box covered in flamingos—that has become the guilty pleasure of the beer elite. As it says on the can: “For those who like strawberry lemonade and drinking beer.” It’s a fun little drink that has turned out to be way too likable for some geeks.
Naturdays first dropped back in the early spring, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice. I didn’t hear about it until mid-April, when the beer started to show up in some unexpected social media feeds that I follow. And none of these posts were ironic; these folks were drinking Naturdays, steadily.
I belong to several craft beer fan groups on Facebook. Some of them are über-geeky, nothing but the latest brewery can releases and arguments over which beer is overhyped or underrated. And you know what? Naturdays started showing up there, too. But it soon got ugly and divided the beer nerds: some just didn’t get it and others couldn’t get enough of the fruity beer.
Which side am I on? I have to admit, I’m two cans into a six-pack while writing this article. Pink and yellow, flamingo-decorated cans. I bought it out of a sense of duty and fairness, because if you’re going to pick something apart, you should have tried it. But once I opened a can, and tasted that first cold, sweet-tart slug, duty and fairness went out the window, and I was just another guy on a hot summer night, ripping my way through a pounder of Naturdays.
Honestly, if I’d poured one of them into a fancy thistle glass and presented it to a bunch of beer geeks as, oh, a new citrus-berry low-sodium gose, I’m guessing at least half of them would immediately ask for seconds. After all, I am, and I know what I’m drinking. It’s really hot, and this stuff is thirst quenching.
The fact is, Natural Light did a decent job here. I was sure this was going to be sickly sweet, fake, and leave a sticky feeling in my mouth. It’s none of that, and it doesn’t taste watery, either.
The fact is, Naturdays represents a huge mistake I’ve made. 15 years ago, I thought the big brewery marketers were idiots, because they appeared to think that throwing fruit or weird flavors in any beer made it “craft.” Five years ago, they hadn’t gotten any smarter; still idiots. Today? I look around at the craft cucumber goses, and key lime milkshake IPAs, and cinnamon bun imperial stouts (all real beers I had at a recent festival), and it looks like they were right after all. I’ve been the idiot.
It also taps into a bigger issue. Behind closed doors, beer geeks often have a guilty pleasure stashed in their garage fridge that they would never admit to drinking. I knew one craft brewer in Virginia who made a fantastic, wickedly hoppy golden ale (he refused to call it an IPA), and an iconic brown ale, but all he ever drank was Miller High Life. Stiegl Radler, an Austrian beer that’s mixed with fruit soda, is crazily popular with some folks whose “regular” beer is much more geek-chic. And I drink lots of cold, fresh Genesee Cream Ale when I get together with the in-laws in upstate New York and don’t know any of the local beer nerds.
Why all the secrecy? Most drinkers I’ve met are concerned about what they think they should be drinking and are worried about what other people think of their beverage choices. There is often a click-bait story circulating on the internet about how brewers or bartenders judge you according to what you order. These stories wouldn’t be so popular if people weren’t so insecure. I’m not immune to these feelings. I admit that for a while I thought I ought to be drinking more New England IPA, wild ale, gose and lactose IPA. But the more I tried these beers, the more I realized that I just didn’t like most of them. I started paraphrasing Aleister Crowley: drink what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I feel much better about my beverage choices now.
However, some of the members of those Facebook beer groups were downright angry that other members were drinking and enjoying Naturdays. I’ve seen geeks get angry about the popularity of light beer, beer made with corn, beer made with donuts…Essentially anything popular with regular drinkers. People even got angry with me about ten years ago when I suggested that craft brewers might make some lower-alcohol brews, in classic British and Czech style.
I’ve been drinking beer that makes people angry for 40 years now. Different beers, different people, but always the same question: Why do they care? Why does my choice of beer anger you? I get angry sometimes, because I see people following trends instead of drinking for themselves. I acknowledge that my job sometimes makes me think I can influence trends, but it’s a rare thing, so what’s the point?
That’s why I’m trying harder to stay cool about it, not judging people, and not judging my own choices. I can’t say that it makes my beer taste better, but I don’t feel guilty about opening this third can of Naturdays. Relax. Enjoy. Have a drink. Share the love.