Millennials and Nonalcoholic Beer - Issue #32

Fitz wrote an article about nonalcoholic beer. Then, millennials got mad.

You never really know what might strike a nerve. For the past few months, I’ve been working on a story about the boom in craft nonalcoholic beer, which I’ve fully loved reporting and writing, for The Boston Globe Magazine. This has, for most of the writing process, felt pretty non-controversial, but I should never underestimate the tendency of people on the internet to get mad.

The source of most of the ire seems to be something over which I had no control—the headline, which you can see in the screenshot below…

This, of course, could indicate that some of the readers never made it past the headline, but that’s neither here nor there. In particular, the most controversial part of the headline, as far as I can tell, is the word “millennials,” and as per usual, the way people respond to this word says a lot, I think, about the people responding.

So, for example, on Twitter, a place rife with millennials, several “readers” got upset by the assertion that they might be represented in the article. In a series of retweets (and I’m so grateful that if they were going to argue with the article—or its headline—they at least had the courtesy to retweet it), presumed millennials say things like: “No we absolutely the f*** are not” and, simply, “Absolutely not.” Others distance themselves even within the category of millennials by pointing out, “Not geriatric millennials,” which is a new phrase assigned to older millennials, like me, born between 1980-84.

Others are less direct in their response to the “millennials” part of it, instead equating the article with fake news: “This is why you should never trust the news,” or otherwise simply resorting to insults: “More like yuppies who can’t hold their booze still want to pretend to be beer connoisseurs.”

That’s just how it is on Twitter, perhaps. But then, the article itself quickly racked up over 60 comments as well, many of which are positive, but others are less so. And here you can see the age difference between, say, people who use Twitter and people who comment on the Globe’s website. As you might expect, the Globe commenters seem…older. In light of this, the article gets push back for suggesting that recovering alcoholics should drink nonalcoholic beer, citing the fact that the brews still contain up to .5% alcohol by volume. Others suggest drinkers of nonalcoholic beer should “just drink water,” an abridged form of the common rejoinder, “what’s the point?” when it comes to nonalcoholic beer.

My favorite comment by far, though, takes issue with another aspect of the headline—not the “millennial” part, but rather the “health-conscious” mention. A commenter writes, “What kind of health conscious wings did the author order to go with his health conscious beer?” That particular commenter’s screen name is “AccountabilitySeeker,” so I guess they’re just trying to hold me accountable? More likely though, as my friend John put it, “Someone was shaming you for eating wings.”

Anyway, they say never read the comments, but honestly, that’s often the most fun part for me. You work on something for months and, when it is released into the world, you can’t help but be curious as to how it is received. And, it’s never not surprising. The things you think will strike a nerve often fail to do so. The seemingly innocent articles you write to bring awareness to something good—like delicious nonalcoholic beer—gets people all fired up.

I’m still proud of the piece and very happy to have had the opportunity to interview (and thank) each of the brewers whose work has made my sober journey that much more livable. Do give the article a read (if you can get through the Globe’s strict paywall) and, if you’re in New England, you can pick up a copy of the Sunday paper and find the story in print (!!!) in the Magazine. The only downside there, of course, is no comments.

PS- This past week I also contributed to a collection of reflections on pandemic parenting and schooling on WBUR’s Cognoscenti page in which I suggest that there is no replacement for in-person schooling and praise the nurse at my kids’ school. Check it out (no paywall!) here.

What I’m Reading

This feature has kind of have fallen off in recent weeks, but I have a recommendation! I have two reactions to finding out that someone else has written a book (or essay or article) that I want to write. On the one hand, I get mad to learn that I’ve been beaten to the punch. That’s usually how I react. But then, other times, I celebrate it…this is particularly the case when I feel that 1) the work in question shows that there is great interest in a topic I’m interested in and 2) the writing is just so good that I don’t care if I never get to write it.

I’ve been wanting to write about grief (there’s a dormant newsletter that I started, but never launched, called “Grief Well” in the works), but earlier this month, one of my favorite writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, The Thing Around Your Neck), released a short book titled Notes on Grief. Adichie’s father died in June 2020, and his death turned her world upside down. I get that. I feel it. And I want to write about it—have been writing about it—but, in the meantime, Adichie’s book is just beautiful.

Thank you, as always, for reading.