Under the Influencer: The Cost of ‘Free Beer’

I’m not an “influencer.” 

I’m not even a diminution of an influencer like a micro-influencer or nano-influencer, which apparently exists in the world of online celebrity.  

To that end, my minuscule celebrity is somewhere on the spectrum between noteworthy and notorious, which means I can sometimes get names in local newspapers—including my own. 

I mention this because I just received an invitation for “influencers” to participate in  a “beer tasting.” First off, mate, there’s no such thing as a “beer tasting”— sometimes there’s beer drinking from small glasses but trust me, it all tastes like beer. 

Secondly, how did I get on your influencer list? I’m an old-school newspaperman who’s seeing this print journalism thing out to its inky end. To wit, I don’t have a social media following to influence. The only influence I have is “under the influence.” And if that’s your spin, beer flack, don’t expect me to post pics of pints because the Internet doesn’t need photo evidence that I’m a drunk.

Moreover, I find the entire influencer trade suspect. Who’s influencing the influencers? Brands. Who’s branding the brands? Corporations… And so on up the chain to whoever’s watching the clock countdown to the End Times. TikTok, muthafucka.  

My most loyal readers (hey, you two!) don’t read me to be influenced, they do it to justify their continued contempt of me. When they want a beer, they don’t scour the news boxes for my hot-take on some craft brew, they make a cardboard sign and try their luck at the off-ramp.

I remember when the “Why Lie? I Need a Beer” campaign first hit the streets in the 80s. As a pre-Internet meme, that shit went viral instantly. Soon, “Why Lie?” was on street corners everywhere, sign after sign, it was the “Got Milk?” of beer-bumming. 

Its creator, a sunbaked Don Draper armed only with a Sharpie, a flair for copywriting and the DTs, took A-game sloganeering from Madison Avenue and delivered it to traffic medians across America. 

You want to talk about influence? That dude changed lives. Maybe not necessarily for the better but he helped manifest change nonetheless. Lots of it—nickels, dimes, quarters—all of which went right back into the alcoholic beverage industry that landed them there in the first place. A virtuous circle.

Which is all to say, beer flack, I’ll take your free beer, do a little influence pedaling. But you should know what it’s gonna cost. Hacks like me get a little chatty when the booze flows. So set ‘em up, Joe, I gotta little story…

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