I Drank a 43-Year-Old “Billy Beer” And This Is What Happened
Certain beers can be aged. This isn't one of them.
Billy Beer was a fixture in the beer aisles in the late 1970s. It was brewed at the behest of Billy Carter, President Jimmy Carter's younger brother. He was sort of the "black sheep" of the Carter family, and a man with questionable ties with Libya. But all that is unimportant. Could the man make a beer?
The beer itself was brewed by four different breweries during its brief run, one of which was Utica's own F.X. Matt Brewing Company, formerly known as West End Brewing Company.
I purchased an unopened can of this beer at the 2021 Bouckville Antique Show. If you've ever been to the Bouckville Antique Show, you know it's a venerable smorgasbord of weird stuff. I absolutely love going there. I've seen empty Billy Beer cans in the past, but this was the first unopened one I found. It was a steal at $8. (I talked them down from $10 with my masterful negotiating skills.)
Well, as is known to happen during those long Upstate New York winter nights, I got bored. And I decided to crack this baby open. To be clear, this beer is older than I am.
First I let it sit in the fridge overnight. Yes, I know there are some beer enthusiasts who claim that drinking room temperature or even warm beer it the proper way to take in all those subtle flavors, but I wasn't interested in subtle flavors. I just wanted to see if I would live.
So, how did it taste?
I was shocked -- it wasn't bad! Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good. But for a 43-year-old beer that probably wasn't stored in ideal conditions -- probably someone's garage or storage unit -- it was surprisingly palatable. It basically tasted like a light pilsner with a handful of pennies thrown in for good measure. What was crazy is that it still had carbonation. The color was fine, until you got to the bottom of the can, which was... a little weirder, that's all I can say.
The 5 brave souls who tried it with me all agreed: this novelty beer promoted by a novelty dude was still drinkable in the year 2022. And miraculously, none of us spent more than 45 minutes on the toilet afterwards. Cheers, Billy!