Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Louisville Restaurants Forum discussion on good beer and Marxist theory?

I took some hits in a recent thread on the Louisville Restaurants Forum.

The original topic was a perennial on the board: Whither chain restaurants?

Robert S,, who is the incessant, resident trollish advocate of chain-think, opened with a glowing report on the financial condition of Texas Roadhouse during tough economic times. I responded, and in the customary fashion of such discussions, matters proceeded to mutate beyond peanut shells and franchise dining, into a consideration of the merits and demerits of my public interface ... in the context of Marxist theory.

Which, of course, indicates that the same people differing with me because of “personal” attacks on Robert began positioning precisely the same “personal” grenades and lobbing them in my direction … but that’s fine by me. I’m a public figure, and that’s the way it is.

Those participating in the debate are known, named humans, too, and we’re all on a level playing field in a place where anonymity isn’t permitted. Robin Garr runs a classy joint.


Steve H

We only selectively eat at chain restaurants. But we will not feel guilty when we do. Many in this forum praise our local Mexican food mini chains. I find them wanting in many aspects, but there are a couple that know how to make a GOOD frozen margarita, which I dearly love. (I'm hoi poloi, so sue me; or ban me from the forum).

So, what's the difference between Texas Roadhouse, and these Mexican Mini chains? If Ernesto's starts opening locations in other cities and states will we have to hate them too? Do folks here hate Texas Roadhouse because they are more successful? Can someone enlighten me as to the rules here?

Now, from my perspective, if Robert is a troll, Roger is a much bigger troll. I love brewpubs. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them! My wife doesn't like going, so it is a rare treat for me. Roger's place should be my Mecca. But there is an elephant in the room that gives pause: Roger's disgusting elitist attitude. This is usually expressed about certain kinds of beer the obviously stupid people who drink them.

Here's an evil genius that has somehow managed to create a synthesis between Marxist analysis and beer gastronomy. Enjoy a Bud Lite? Then you are a victim of false consciousness, obviously brainwashed by the evil capitalist corporate elite. Give me a boulder-sized break. If there is any one here that deserves mocking, it is indeed Mr. Roger Baylor.

So, if I managed to gather up a friend to go to the pub who likes Bud Lite. And only drinks Bud Lite. Has tried other beer, but still, only likes Bud Lite. And he is even smart and shows no signs of "False Beer Consciousness", why should I bring him to Roger's place knowing that he is fundamentally unwelcome? And worse, to be condescended to?

This is the hospitality industry. Right?


John H

We had lunch at NABC yesterday. The pizza was great as well as the brew. What we found interesting was that our server told us that most the guys that work there tend to drink Miller Highlife?

Yes, this was just one guy that told us that, but why ... when you got all that good beer around you?



Elitist? Absolutely. No apologies for telling it like it is, or for taking my life's work seriously.

Not stupid. Ignorant. There's a difference.

Not unwelcome ... entirely welcome to learn something about the way things are.

Other than those three misconceptions, I accept the criticism. When Robert learns to articulate in this fashion, I'll take him seriously, too.

(As for the High Life employees) Point taken. It's like children rebelling against their parents for the sake of rebelling, and not because there's an actual point to it. But, even if they're hesitant to admit it, they work hard and know enough about the beers to convey the needed information when asked.

Along these lines, it's always struck me as ironic that smoking bans are about workplace safety, and probably 90% of our employees smoke. Verily, conundrums make the rocking world go round. Hope you enjoyed the lunch!


B Smith

I think part of this is a lesson in how people want to be talked to and dealt with as a potential customer.

I moved here as the bar manager for Fox and Hound. At first, I was going to remove the BBC tap because of the BBC Brewery down the street. It was going to be a simple business decision not to remind people that if they liked BBC, they could leave my establishment and drive 2 miles to get a wider variety. My Mo Moorman rep sent in Phil from BBC, who passionately explained what they were all about and introduced me to Hell for Certain. His honest passion towards the cause prompted me to keep it and start selling a ton of Hell for Certain. I can get behind another man's conviction when I'm treated as an equal.

If someone wants to preach at me or talk down to me, I'll just go to liquor barn or whole foods to get my Schneider Aventinus, Bell's Two-Hearted, Unibroue (most varieties), etc... It's probably safer to drink at home and watch a televangelist.

Roger-I hope you choose to refine your approach to endear more people to the cause. It is a worthy one.


Steve H

It is possible to be elite without being an elitist.

As I noted with one example, there are people that have tried many different beers, but still prefer Bud Lite. That removes ignorant from the list. Unfortunately, given your preferred Marxist/Beer Gastronomy taxonomy, the only classification remaining is stupid.

They are only welcome if they can cheerfully tolerate being considered stupid for enjoying mass market beer.You are free to promote and carry on your business anyway you wish, even though it limits my opportunity to ever visit your establishment. This is your choice, and it's obviously working out for you. Congratulations on the new operation. Seriously.

It amuses me that Robert is considered the troll and you're supposedly the considered and balanced poster. Hilarious!



The time I spend teaching beer to those willing to be educated about beer is fairly extensive. However, because this isn't the public schools, I try as hard as I can to weed out those who don't wish to be educated, because it's a waste of my time. When they're ready -- if they're ready -- then so am I.

Does my own establishment benefit from it? Of course, but so does everyone else selling good beer, and the more places that sell good beer, the longer the list of places I can go an enjoy a busman's holiday. It's regrettable that a lover of good beer can't patronize certain establishments because they won't carry one of several thousand brands of beer available on the market.

But don't humans survive on the planet because of adaptability? Why reward non-adaptability? The broader my range of tastes, the more habitats I can visit and enjoy. Besides, as I've noted before in this space, it's very simple. We sell four kegs of Spaten Premium Lager each and every week, year round. If a Bud Light drinker cannot drink Spaten, he or she really has no business drinking beer. Spaten is a worthier substitute than most, and I'm fairly confident that roughly 95 out of 100 Bud Light drinkers in a BLIND taste test wouldn't know the difference.

Considering all that, why should I be unduly bothered by the 5% who can't adjust, when I can please the 95% who can and do?

And, while I'm at it, if anyone can explain what Marxist-anything has to do with my espousal of niche market capitalism, please enlighten me. Takers? Anyone?

The Red Room exists to annoy stuffed shirts, not because I'm a Communist. I travelled quite a lot in Eastern Europe when it was Communist, and the goal was to make everything alike. My goal is to have differences. Seems to me that chain-think is far more socialistic than what I practice, seeing as the gift cards for chains will be sold in other chains, and soon we'll all dine & shop in the same six places owned by the same corporate entity. Just like in Bulgaria, circa 1987.

Finally, note that I, like (Chef Dave) Clancy, have defended Robert's continued presence here, and on more than one occasion. I don't think he should be banned. At the same time, when he insists on posting trollish blather, I'm more than happy to answer. Turn the other cheek isn't something that I do very often.


Steve H (on the “synthesis between Marxist analysis and beer gastronomy”)

I'll be happy to explain. It is beyond your comprehension that anyone would like Bud Lite. (It is also beyond mine, but hey, different stokes).

Since you can't comprehend anyone liking Bud Lite, you have to rationalize the reason why they like it. The way you do is to claim that they are victim of mass market homogenization and marketing. In other words, they don't really like it, but they think they do because they have been capitalistically repressed with False Consciousness.

This is a type of Marxist thought, because the mass-market beer drinking proles, only support capitalism (Bud Lite), because of their False Consciousness, oppressively imposed by the capitalistic overclasses. If it wasn't for this, they would abandon capitalism and see the beauty and light that is communism (craft beer).

The problem with the whole concept, is that people are perfectly able to think and make judgments on their own. In fact, it is perfectly reasonable for someone to consider the facts, and decide that they really like capitalism (Bud Lite) better than communism (craft beer).

There is no reason to say they are unenlightened, ignorant, stupid, or suffer some kind of mass-media induced false consciousness to explain why that is. One could just give due respect to their decision that they see capitalism (Bud Lite) as their better, informed choice over communism (craft beer).Folks of good conscience can disagree about beer. There should be room in your worldview for that fact, without assuming that they are ignorant or brainwashed by mass-marketed culture.


John M

Roger's original topic did have at least something to do with the local restaurant scene. Several of the others that followed did not. Robert is insulted fairly regularly, with the term troll most commonly used. I'm not sure if he is trying to cause arguments or not, but personal insults should never be acceptable. Yet they are, and these insults matter. Like Steve H, I'm the type of person that should be a prime customer for Roger's business. I choose not to go there for the same reasons that he articulated (far better than I could.

It's worth noting that Roger's alternative to Bud Light, Spaten, is owned by the company that is trying to buy Anheuser-Busch. If they succeed and Spaten & BL are sister brands, then what do you serve the simpletons?

Another comment that express my thoughts comes from Anna C:

"I haven't posted much at all since I joined the proper forum, and it's this kind of back and forth that really turns me off from posting on this forum. This thread is a perfect example. Any chef/owner who posts on something like this makes me think about where to use my dining dollars."

Here's an example of how this worked with me. On Sunday, my buddy & I left Churchill Downs and wanted to go get something to eat. We drove up Third street and turned onto Oak. We had a brief conversation about going to Carly Rae's and I didn't want to. Why? I don't like the philosophy & attitude of their new chef (Clancy).

I never patronized his place in New Albany for the same reason. Business owners & their employees have every right to post their opinions on this site. They can also treat people however they want to within the rules of the forum. They should know that their personal viewpoints can have a direct bearing on their business and it may not always be good.


Roger (summary not posted on line)

With respect to “false consciousness” and its application to Marxist theory, the article cited by Steve H notes clearly that Karl Marx himself did not use the term, although subsequent Marxists did. Those using the term in a Marxist sense would necessarily apply it to economic circumstances and the “prevailing mode of production,” i.e., capitalism.

There are reasons why it’s a considerable stretch to apply “false consciousness” and Marxist theory in general to a discussion of beer choices.

I’m accepting free choice in the economic sense as a given. No one, least of all the Publican, is debating the veracity of an open society filled to the brim with choices.

No one, least of all the Publican, is suggesting that a “‘correct’ perception on the falsely conscious” be imposed by force, only that wider educational opportunities invariably improve the economic, social and cultural context for all citizens. If I were to suggest force, it would be in the form of something that denies Bud Light to all, not just to those walking through the doors of my own establishment where, as we’ve seen, alternative choices are available.

Rather, I prefer to see Bud Light whither away.

That’s the Marxist part, Steve.

1 comment:

VirgilK said...

I guess all of you know that the ACS/RWJF will be starting a push to get Booze baned just like they are doing Smokes. They won't be satisfied until there is no Hospitality industry. I worked with John Dant, owner of the Back Door, in trying to stop the smoking ban in Louisville. It was a 2 year fight but a 6 million dollar grant by RWJF to U of L sealed the dear with Mayor Jerry. If bans are not stopper and reversed bars and many other businesses will be a thing of the past.

Everyone with an interest in stopping a Smoking ban should make it their business to be at the Council meeting Monday night at 6PM. In New Albany.

If you need good information on the lies being spread about SHS/ETS send me an e-mail. I have over 360 attachments I can provide to help.