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You're 21! Navigating the Five Regions of the Beer Aisle

Dear Reader:

Congratulations on turning 21! It’s been a long road, one fraught with unconvincing fake IDs and risky sips of whatever alcohol you could get your hands on in the past, but no need to worry anymore. You can officially step into the beer aisle of your local supermarket and not feel about as awkward as a preteen checking out the pregnancy tests. To help you get adjusted to this newfound freedom, we’ve put together a helpful guide which aims to outline the various regions of the beer aisle, and the types of people you can encounter there.

First, let’s begin with…

Natty Iceland

Stowed away in the back of the beer aisle, much like the ugly kid in your middle school class photo, is the realm of impossibly cheap beverages. When you can spend less money to get drunk than you normally would on toilet paper, you don’t ask questions about what you are putting into your body, you just accept that ignorance is bliss.

So what if Olde English is actually the fermented urine of migrant workers? If it can get a white boy to feel somewhat comfortable on the dance floor, we’re all for it.

In this particular section of the aisle, you’ll often bump into broke college students who need to throw frat parties while still sustaining themselves on the ramen noodles budget. They are easily identifiable, as they will also be carrying a bulk package of solo cups for their beer pong tournaments.

This is also where homeless people spend a lot of their money. Much like traveling to a South American nation, you may want to get some vaccinations before venturing here.


This is where the traditional, good-old-fashioned “it doesn’t taste too great but then again it doesn’t taste like I just ate a port-a-potty” American beer can be found. Mainly, it’s recognizable from the cans of Coors and Budweiser lining the shelves. There is essentially a civil war going on between the two, as both have their own supporters and adherents.
Apparently, neither of these two factions have realized that the difference between the two is like the difference between blue M&Ms and green M&Ms; it all tastes the same, but one might just look better to you.

A good place to visit if you’re traveling on a moderate budget but don’t want to defile your own taste buds.

Developing Nations

Microbrews are making a comeback these days. They are essentially the indie rock of the beer world; although each one should be judged on its own individual merits, there are many who will support them all blindly out of some vague sense that the less popular something is, the better it is.

As a result, you’ll probably encounter a mixed group in this section. There are some excellent microbrews out there, created by experts who have worked hard perfecting the art of creating a good beer. There are also some microbrews that taste like a stoner with too much disposable income decided to mix alcohol with the fertilizer he used to grow his pot, bottle it, and give it some quaint name like “Pepper Fred’s Mighty Porter.”

Some folks in here know exactly what it is they want, and will be in and out in under a minute (kind of like a horny freshman who…yeah, nah, we’re not gonna make that joke, it’s too easy). Others are dying to take their taste buds on a new, exciting, and potentially regrettable adventure. Since there is very little one can do to determine if a new microbrew is worth giving a shot, they’ll typically pick up something with a fancy label on the bottle.

United Nations

Great beer enthusiasts love their imported specialties, like Corona (the original Bud Lite with Lime), Guinness (melted ice cream), and Peroni (does anyone actually drink this one? How is it? Any good?).

Aside from a suburban high school cafeteria, this is the most clearly segregated place on Earth, as just about everyone here opts for the brew which represents their own heritage. Mexican kids go for Corona, and those of us with any Irish heritage at all (seriously, like one sixteenth will do it) will go straight to the Guiness. We’ll also be heading over to the liquor store to pick up some Jameson.

It might just be a means to getting drunk, but hey, any cultural awareness is better than none, right?

The Tropics

Before you complete your journey, you’ll run into the land of Smirnoff Ice, Twisted Tea, wine coolers, and various other abominations of flavor. Even a blind man knows when he has reached this section of the beer aisle, as the conversations floating through the air are universally dedicated to Sex and the City, mean ex-boyfriends, and how exciting it is to get a learner’s permit (most people in this section of the aisle are fifteen year old girls with fake IDs who have never had alcohol before and don’t realize that 100% of everything stocked in this section will scar you forever with its taste).

Please, just do yourself a favor and skip this one. You might think that Mike’s Hard Lemonade is a man’s drink because it has the word “hard” in the name. You are horribly mistaken.

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