Life is complicated, which makes simplicity a rare gift. That's why I (usually) drink Hamm's and won’t feel an inch of bad about it.
The beer from the land of sky blue water hits like just the right amount of Nothing Plus™ when served icy cold, started just over yonder, costs less than a pizza per case, and somehow gets away with having a mascot that would better rep a cereal brand. I also rarely want more than two and a half of the little guys, which is ideal in other respects, too.
So when Able Seedhouse + Brewery’s people hollered my way with info about Ol’ Trusty, their new 4% ABV, light beer, I felt like I might be having a stroke. “Inspired by the traditional Folköl beers of Sweden, the legendary light beer selection from Minnesota, and our dads' fireworks parties from the 90's,” they wrote, this “beer-flavored beer” seemed to be the antithesis of every other craft beer scheme, release info, and tasting notes I’d encountered. I could’ve sworn the faint smell of mixed gas and sawdust, like a workspace lost long ago, wafted into my stupid work-from-home office and, reader…
“You have my full attention — this is an awesome idea,” I responded.
Three days later, a box with a suitcase-like handle (my ideal briefcase, tbh) was deposited on my literal doorstep. Based on branding alone, it would appear it arrived through a portal in space-time from 1981.
I shared with two individuals, outside, very far apart, because drinking alone undoes all the positive connotations of thinking back to “simpler times.” After their first sip, one former brewery employee exclaimed, “Good job, Able!”
Ol’ Trusty delivered exactly what I, personally, had hoped for: Hamm’s Plus. That’s because Able realized one way to persevere through these really dark times for Minnesota’s craft beer industry involved pleasing their customers on a basic level – because most of us can’t (or won’t) drink “big beers” on the regular.
But while sipping on Able’s crisply crushable brew, did my thoughts wander to what it means for the brewery to harness, trade in, and capitalize on finessed nostalgia, rebranded for consumption right now? That though this beer was designed to be consumed by all, its touchstones – the retro labeling, and a reach down from a brewery in a neighborhood that once housed so many blue-collar workers –might palate bitterly to some? And to, sip by sip, recognize that I frothed at the idea of guzzling every last drop of that not-universally applicable nectar from a cool can, sitting in the shade, for “work”?
Unfortunately, again, I’ve put us right back where we started, though: The simpler something is, the harder it can be to get right. There’s no going back, and trading in nostalgia in the here-and-now is a complicated thing, no two ways about it. Maybe this accounts for the shortage of simplicity in life –and, also, the dearth of contenders for Hamm’s throne after 150 years? (I don’t know, brah!)
Ol’ Trusty itself, though? It is, in fact, a perfect rendition of what Able’s tagline promises: a light beer for drinking. After two, maybe three cans of the stuff, your brain should turn off.
Cases of Ol’ Trusty retail for as low as $11.99 and contain 12-16 ounce pounders, and can be found at local liquor stores; snag crowlers of the brew from Able’s northeast Minneapolis taproom.