OK, folks, how are your taste buds?

Do you savor so-called “original taste” drink and food products — from the ol’ days — or the multi-flavored concoctions clogging shelves of our 21st century super and mega markets?

While shopping at Pick ‘n Save, Walmart and Aldi, I’ve become more aware of shelves and aisles overflowing with favored this and flavored that.

What’s with all this flavored stuff?

Are we becoming a nation of pseudo connoisseurs?

Let’s get back to the basics. None of these flavor-added products for me. Give me “the real thing.”

In one of my columns seven years ago, I compared brands and varieties of cereals and ice cream with what was available when I was attending grade school and high school in the 1930s and ’40s. Surprisingly, in a Pick ‘n Save cereal aisle, I discovered 16 different brands representing 219 varieties. Among ice creams: 12 brands offered more than 200 flavors.

This time, I’m comparing “original recipe” products sold 50, 60, 70 years ago with similar flavor-saturated items in the modern marketplace.

Initially, I intended to randomly “research” beer, potato chips, crackers, coffee and bottled juice. But I soon discovered the flavored varieties of these five products were overwhelming, especially beer.

Let’s focus on beer. “Research” on the others can wait until next time.

In the ol’ days of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, I recall Milwaukee with six breweries. The big four were Blatz, Pabst and Schlitz, all located near downtown, along with Miller at its present site in the State Street Valley. Their little cousins were Gettelman, located near Miller, and south side Braumeister, near 14th and Cleveland streets.

Also, many smaller cities and towns in neighboring counties took pride in their own breweries, each one producing an individual but distinctive tasting beer. Among them: Waukesha’s Fox Head 400 and West Bend’s Lithia. Locally or nationally, all were the real thing. No flavoring allowed.

It seems the current trend for flavored beer is based on two factors: (1) keeping pace with the increasing number of flavored food products and (2) growth of the so-called craft brewers – small, local and regional breweries “crafting” products based on their own individual recipes and ideas.

The Brewers Association trade group reports nearly 2,500 craft breweries across the nation. USA Today recently reported that craft beer sales keep climbing as consumers continue to seek diverse offerings from local and regional breweries.

Any beer starts with a blend of water, malt, yeast and hops, those cone-like flowers grown on vines that give beer its unique, bitter taste. Flavored beer is a whole new six pack, case, keg and tap.

So, with notebook and pen I visited the Pick ‘n Save at 76th Street and Cold Spring Road, Greenfield. With my note taking, I figured I would be less conspicuous there than cruising the aisles of a smaller liquor store. And, while other Pick ‘n Save stores sell beer and liquor in adjacent separate facilities, beer aisles at the Greenfield store are arranged among other shopping areas.

After more than an hour “researching” two long aisles with shelves and floor displays, I suggest our modern beer lovers are flavor intoxicated.

A general observation: beer, with names as weird as rock stars, is available in almost any and every imaginable flavor. And, flavored beer is produced not only by craft breweries but national brewers as well.
The results of my research were interesting … and surprising.

Among Milwaukee brewers:

Miller brews a variety of brands rather than flavors: High Life, High Life Lite, MGD (Miller Genuine Draft), Miller 64 (calories), Miller Lite, Milwaukee’s Best Premium and Milwaukee’s Best Ice.
Sprecher features Special Amber.

Lakefront Brewery offers Eastside Dark, Riverwest Stein Amber Lager, Fuel Café and Fuel Café Stout, brewed with coffee.

The Horny Goat Brewery has Baby Got Bock and Exposed Cream Ale.

Among Wisconsin brewers:

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewering Co. in Chippewa Falls offers Honey Weiss, Sunset Wheat, Red Lager, Berry Weiss and lemonade flavored Summer Shandy.

New Glarus Brewing Co., in addition to its popular Spotted Cow beer, produces R & D Sour Fruit, Raspberry Tart, Strawberry Rhubarb, Serendipity and Wisconsin Belgian Red. Among the top 20 craft brewing companies nationwide, New Glarus Brewery ranks 18th.

Point Brewery in Stevens Point sells Drop Dead Blonde – a refreshing ale with 100 calories – along with its Special Lager.

Middleton’s Capital Brewery produces “annual beers” such as Amber and Wheat; and seasonal Maibock.

Across the United States:

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, producer of Budweiser and Bud Light, also offers Bud Light Lime.

Coors in Golden, Co., in addition to its original recipe, has Light and Banquet brands.

New Belgian Brewery in Fort Collins, Co., sells Fat Tire Amber Ale, 1554 Black Lager, Trippel Belgian Style Ale and Mighty Arrow Pale Ale.

Lesser-known beer labels include: Two Hearted Ale, Wheat Monkey Ale, Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale, Mouse Drool Brown Ale, Purple Haze and Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale.

Among imports:

Guinness, brewed in Dublin, Ireland, has Extra Stout and Black Lager.

From Mexico: Dos Equis Lager Especial; Modelo’s Negro and Especial; and Corona’s Light, Extra and Cinco de Mayo.

I also read that Madison’s MobCraftBeer LLC, honored with a “Best New Brewer” award, offers rare concoctions such as: Mayan Chocolate, Chili Ale (brewed with maize and cocoa and fermented chiles), Hazelnut Amber, blood Orange Green Tea Weizen, and Rabbit’s Bounty, a carrot cake ale.

Let’s face it: some of these flavors give beer an ugh-ly name The question is: Are they real beer? Perhaps, fermented tutti-frutti would be better, new or original category.

Personally, when dining out with family and friends, I prefer Sprecher Amber, Sam Adams Boston Lager or Belgian-brewed Stella Artois.

I believe my taste buds are as sensitive as they were 50, 60, 70 years ago. How are yours?

So, here’s to you. Just pour me the real thing!

(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)