An Open Letter to Will Gordon Regarding Bell’s Oberon

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Dear Will Gordon,

I’m not here to skewer you for calling one of the best wheat beers I’ve ever enjoyed “overrated.” You taste more beer in a month than I do in a year and may have something of a point on quality.

I am here to tell you your understanding of the love Michiganders, Midwesterners and people in the know have for Bell’s Brewery’s Oberon seasonal wheat is deeply flawed. You make brief mention in your Drunkspin column of understanding ritual and nostalgia, but you don’t get either.

Oberon, like literally every other beer in creation, needs to be enjoyed in context. Bud heavy isn’t so shitty when you’re drinking it (ice cold) with your favorite uncle on Christmas. The world’s best oatmeal stout will taste like donkey vomit on a 90-degree day.

Oberon is best enjoyed after a long, dark, depressing, grinding, freezing winter with a stretch of 27 straight days sans sunlight. Just a slate grey sky every. Single. Day.

The kind of winter where the dry, frigid air sneaks in under your jacket and between the seams of your jeans as you walk the 40 feet from your car to the gym. The kind of winter where your fingers can’t type for the first 10 minutes of work or class because they move in chunky unison rather than with independent dexterity.

These winters only really happen in the upper Midwest and are pulled off with a special panache in the hometown Bell’s and I share—Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The seeds of its winter ugliness are sown in its spring and summer beauty—the same maples and oaks that give it a spectacularly green, leafy look in the summer sun during the warm days are denuded come winter, making the whole landscape look barren under an endless, dark sky on short days.

That’s why the release of Oberon in late March each year is marked with such a celebration. It’s a sign that life is returning to the frozen tundra.

The lakes thaw, the grass starts growing, kids are playing baseball and the Tigers aren’t far behind. It heralds—if not immediately—the advent of barbecue season and music festivals and backyard volleyball and street fairs and all the million things that make living with the 9,000 lb gorilla that is an Upper Midwest winter worth it.

So, Will, imagine all of that streaming toward your lips along with Oberon’s light citrus notes and almost imperceptible hops. Calling Oberon America’s Most Overrated Beer is tantamount to calling summer America’s most overrated season.

To a certain part of the country, one signals the other.

Oh, and finally, Will, Oberon is a damn good beer. There are plenty of overpriced, mass-produced monstrosities more deserving of your “most overrated” title.

Best,

Kyle

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  1. I concur on many levels, one thing to add is the maker of another “giant” of the wheat beer world is getting sued for calling it “craft beer” and the only thing I can think of Bell’s being sued for is that Oberon isn’t available across the nation like it should be.

  2. I look forward to the release of Oberon every year. I know its time to start thinking about putting away my skiis and enjoying the sun. Tip it over at 45 degrees, give it a few spins, pour it in a glass or out of the bottle and enjoy spring and buy up a couple of cases before the release of Winter White and you can enjoy the Sun and Summer until the release of Smitten in January.

  3. conlletely agree with this. Oberon is a good beer but I always have some with me during spring and summer. To me it is the warm weather beer. And I can get it at Kroger’s for $7.99 so it’s not expensive either.

    I love golfing and having an Oberon after, it just feels right because golfing in the sun followed by an Oberon is just a summer thing. The reason Oberon is so fantastic is because, to Michiganders, it’s a nice spring/summer day in a bottle.

    I don’t know anybody that says Overon is the best beer or one dog the top beers. But when spring finally comes out in the need of March or in April we all drink it because it’s the warm weather beer for us, Oberon is finally breaking that gloomy 4-6 months of cold, gloomy, grey winter we have.

  4. I still call it Solsun….it’s original name before a cleaning company in California sued them for the name rights. I just can’t call it Oberon but I do love it!