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What beer is called a pork chop in a can?


The beer that is colloquially referred to as a “pork chop in a can” is Hamm’s beer. Hamm’s is an American lager produced by the Miller Brewing Company. It originated in Minnesota in 1865 and was once one of the most popular beers in America, known for its inexpensive price and cartoonish marketing featuring a bear mascot. The “pork chop in a can” nickname arose in the 1970s and 1980s as Hamm’s declined in popularity and became associated with being a cheap, watery beer. The nickname is a tongue-in-cheek reference to how some felt opening and drinking a can of Hamm’s was akin to eating canned meat.

History of Hamm’s Beer

Here is a brief history of Hamm’s beer and how it gained its “pork chop in a can” moniker:

1865 – Theodore Hamm emigrates from Germany and establishes the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. He brews a continental lager in the style of beers from his native country.

1933 – Theodore Hamm’s sons William and Louis take over the brewery following their father’s death. They switch focus to a lighter American-style lager which becomes popular in the Midwest.

1965 – Hamm’s is sold to Heublein Inc. and undergoes expansion. It becomes one of the top five breweries in America selling over a million barrels annually.

1975 – Hamm’s begins a steep decline as lighter beers like Budweiser gain popularity. The cartoon bear mascot is unable to stop falling sales.

1988 – After stagnating sales, Heublein sells Hamm’s to Stroh Brewery Company. Hamm’s market share has shrunk to only the Midwest.

1999 – The Miller Brewing Company acquires Hamm’s and makes it one their bargain sub-brands. Hamm’s low price cements its reputation as a cheap beer.

The Origin of “Pork Chop in a Can”

In its heyday from the 1930s to 1960s, Hamm’s was considered a high quality beer and advertized as “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters.” However, as the brand declined and became owned by larger conglomerates, it developed a reputation as a watery, flavorless beer.

By the 1970s and 1980s, Hamm’s nickname as “a pork chop in a can” began appearing as a tongue-in-cheek way to describe its perceived low quality and inexpensive taste. Like canned meat, it was seen as a budget beer option with questionable flavor. The image of opening a metal can of Hamm’s seemed analogous to eating canned pork chops to some critics of the beer.

The nickname was cemented by the 1977 film Slap Shot which featured the fictional Old Style Pilsner team drinking Hamm’s. One character declares it “tastes like pork chop in a can.” While a derogatory nickname, it demonstrated Hamm’s status as a working class, Midwestern beer.

Details on Hamm’s Brewing Process and Ingredients

Here are some key facts about how Hamm’s beer is brewed and what ingredients are used in the process:

Malts

– Uses a blend of American 2-row malt and white rice to create a light-bodied beer. The rice adds a crisp, clean flavor.

Hops

– Only uses aromatic hops like Cascade rather than bittering hops. This reduces hoppy flavor for mild drinkability.

Yeast

– Relies on a cold fermentation process using lager yeast which ferments at colder temperatures. This produces a crisp, easy-drinking beer.

Water

– Hamm’s originated in Minnesota using water filtered through limestone. The Miller Brewery uses a blend of filtered water sources.

Brewing Process

– Hamm’s is brewed using a cost-efficient modern high-gravity brewing process. This quick fermentation yields higher volumes of beer.

– After fermentation, Hamm’s is aged cold for weeks to smooth out flavors before filtering and packaging.

Statistics

– 5.0% ABV
– 10 IBUs (low bitterness)
– 102 Calories per 12 oz. serving

So in summary, Hamm’s uses ingredients and techniques focused on easy drinkability rather than complex flavor. This matches its positioning as an inexpensive American lager.

Reviews of Hamm’s Flavor Profile and Drinkability

Hamm’s beer is known for having a light, somewhat watery body and flavor. Here are some professional reviews regarding its profile:

Appearance

Pale yellow, fizzy, thin head that disappears quickly. Not much to say about its plain appearance.

Aroma

Faint aromas of grain and grassy hops. Otherwise nondescript. No bold smells.

Flavor

Thin mouthfeel and medium carbonation. Fizzy on the tongue with some malt sweetness upfront quickly giving way to a crisp, slightly watery finish. Hints of corn and rice throughout.

Overall Impression

Extremely easy to drink but flavor is lacking. Crisp and refreshing but also weak in body and taste. Lots of comparisons to water. Perfectly drinkable beer if expectations are low.

So reviews match its reputation as an extremely mild, watery beer prioritizing drinkability over bold flavor. Interesting for a couple beers but quality is lacking.

How Does Hamm’s Pork Chop Nickname Compare to Other Beers?

Hamm’s is not the only beer to be given an unflattering canned meat nickname. Here’s how it compares:

Miller High Life – “The Champagne of Beers” is sometimes called a “Pork Chop in a Bottle” referring to its skunky flavor in clear bottles. Not as widely used as Hamm’s nickname.

Keystone Light – The “redneck beer” is known as “Possum Piss” for its ultra light, watery body. Very similar to Hamm’s pork chop moniker.

Natural Light – The “Natty Light” college beer also gets dubbed “Poverty Platter” or “Trailer Trash Can” for its cheap price and taste. A step below Hamm’s in quality.

Milwaukee’s Best – Close to Hamm’s level, “The Beast” is nicknamed “Dog Piss” or “Chimp Piss” for its awful taste and harsh hangovers.

Pabst Blue Ribbon – While popular, it’s “White Trash Water” nickname is similar to Hamm’s pork chop. Both are regional American lagers with big brand recognition.

So Hamm’s pork chop nickname indicates it’s on the low end of American lagers but not the very bottom. It has company with other joke monikers for cheap beers. But “pork chop in a can” has stuck the most over time.

Pop Culture References to Hamm’s Pork Chop Nickname

Beyond originating in the 1977 film Slap Shot, Hamm’s pork chop nickname has shown up across pop culture:

  • Referenced in multiple episodes of The Simpsons during scenes set in Moe’s Tavern
  • Used in the Bob & Tom radio show by comedian Pat Godwin
  • Mentioned in the book How to Lose a Customer: The 7 Fatal Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Craig Wellman
  • Used in stand-up comedy routines by Paul Hooper to refer to any cheap beer
  • Seen in numerous internet memes and jokes about drinking bad beer

The nickname clearly resonated and became shorthand for any beer perceived as cheap, watery or bad tasting. It’s an enduring reference point in American pop culture when joking about disappointing beer.

Where Hamm’s Beer is Still Popular Today

While it will probably never recover its top 5 sales status again, Hamm’s beer does continue to have a regional following decades after its peak popularity:

Minnesota and the Upper Midwest

As the original home of Hamm’s, Minnesota remains its strongest market today through regional pride and nostalgia. Hamm’s taps into hometown state history there.

Ohio and Pennsylvania

The Rust Belt and industrial Midwest have an audience seeking inexpensive working man’s beer, a niche Hamm’s now fills.

Wisconsin and Upstate New York

There’s still demand for Hamm’s easy drinking lager in blue collar towns and cities in these regions.

It will likely never outgrow its pork chop reputation nationwide. But Hamm’s brewery lineage and regional roots continue to cultivate a customer base in the Midwest and Rust Belt. It remains a very localized American lager compared to giants like Budweiser.

Conclusion

Hamm’s fair or not reputation as “a pork chop in a can” captures its history as a once popular beer that declined into a bargain brand with a watery, weak flavor profile. While still knocking back cans of Hamm’s in the Midwest, most beer drinkers prefer microbrews or international imports that offer more complexity and full body these days. But the pork chop nickname remains an iconic reference in American brewing history and pop culture. For better or worse, it crystallizes Hamm’s image as the prototypical plain, inexpensive Midwestern lager.