Published in The Washington Post
Bud Miller, the miserly chief executive of Milweiser Brewing, sits in his office on Christmas Eve counting grains of corn.
“You would prefer I would empty my coffers to put in a fancy ‘malted barley’?” he bellows. “Beer is meant to be brewed on a mass scale with no objectionable flavors!”
But later that night, he’s visited by the Ghosts of Water, Grain, Hops and Yeast and eventually learns the true meaning of craft beer.
Such is the tale of “A Beer Carol,” a live radio play by the Chicago theater company Drinking & Writing. Three performers stand at microphones inside the Haymarket Pub and Brewery before an audience of 40, making sound effects by hitting bowls for church bells or blowing bubbles into water.
Chicago was one of eight stops in my recent journey from Pasadena, Calif. to Washington, D.C., seeing stage adaptations of “A Christmas Carol,” in an attempt to find the true meaning of the show about finding the true meaning of Christmas. I expected to see the ways this American ritual unites us around the universal themes of giving and forgiving, of lost love and second chances. But what stood out were the variations: the beer and hip-hop versions in Chicago, the one-woman production in Phoenix, the Memphis play “If Scrooge Was a Brother.” Though film, TV and the Internet still rule our daily lives, “A Christmas Carol” is the rare piece of popular culture that’s still experienced through a local lens.