Rommel Harley Davidson made a bold move when they decided to have a Local Beer Only beer garden at this year’s Delmarva Bike Week festivities in Seaford. It was consistent with the company’s overall attitude of emphasizing buying American and, for the most part, was received that way. The bikers who came to the beer tent mostly were excited about it, although a few showed vague disappointment and some reacted with blind animal rage.

We encouraged people to sample the 26-or-so local beers until they found one they liked and had volunteers and brewery reps making suggestions and recommendations based on how the taster reacted to a particular beer. This dulled a lot of the vague disappointment. Most people were game and found a beer they liked. The takeaway insight, I think, to many of the people who were disappointed that we didn’t have Coors was that they didn’t want to find a new beer. Think of it this way: Who would go to a Budweiser tasting? Bud-like beers are for people who do not want to make a decision about what they want The ubiquitousness of “macro” beer has afforded them that luxury, just as have national restaurant chains and retailers. Really, there’s nothing more American than being able to get through an entire decade without being confronted by the difficult choice of trying something new or doing without.

Of the people who resolutely sampled beers until they found one they liked, there were some subsets. Again, many of the vaguely disappointed got caught up in the whole beer tasting scene and had a great time liking, loving and hating the different beers they tried. There was a fraction, though, who weren’t interested in the tasting process. As soon as they found something they liked or thought was palatable, they were sold. These people also became evangelists, taking their beers back into the rest of the Rommel Harley complex and recommending them to the grousers. It was a craft beer revolution microcosm.

Road rage

What interested me the most, though, was thinking about the people who, walked away from the tent mad. They didn’t want to try beer, even for free; they wanted what they wanted. I understand the intense disappointment on an instinctual level. It sucks when you have your heart set on something and are denied it. I once threw a public tantrum over being given a stale bagel. I screamed at the business owner until my face turned red. This was more than disappointment on my part. This was a clear blue hatred. Without backpedaling (people who sell stale bagels will go to a special place in hell), I want to take responsibility for my rage and see if it applies to the few incensed bikers.

There is no noticeable difference between a toasted stale bagel and a toasted fresh bagel. Since most people here eat their bagels toasted, some businesses have no incentive to provide people with fresh bagels. My neighbors and my culture have decided that toasted is the best way to eat bagels and I (on some level of consciousness) hate them for it. Hell, I’m mad again just writing the sentence. My rage doesn’t come from disappointment, but rather from being smacked in the face with the reality that neither my preferences nor opinion matter on this point. My taste (and therefore me) are not only insignificant, but also irrelevant.

Like me, the bikers who were spitting mad over the lack of their beer choice were middle-aged white guys who are watching their culture die. On one level (and I’m sure the good folks at Rommel Harley got even more of an earful than I) they were mad at the obvious slight. We knew that people would come and ask for Budweiser, but we didn’t care. Their money was as worthless as their opinion on the global economics of local beer. When your money and your opinion and your general approach to life no longer matters, and there is nothing you can do to reverse it, you have to get used to being furious and insignificant. Alternatively, you can lighten up. When it comes to bagels, I choose the former, not that it matters.

Drink what you like and be happy.

Tony Russo
Author: Tony Russo

Tony Russo has worked as a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century, writing for and editing regional weeklies and dailies before joining the team that produces and among other destination websites. In addition to having documented everything from zoning changes to art movements on the Delmarva Peninsula, Tony has written two books on beer for the History Press. Eastern Shore Beer was published in 2014 and Delaware Beer in 2016. He lives in Delmar, Md. with his wife Kelly and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they keep their two dogs comfortable.

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