Alt- has become a prefix like e- and i-, where you can stick it in front of any word and it instantly sounds more contemporary, more cool, more desirable. Alt-lit. Alt-rock. Alt-comedy. Alt-lifestyle. Alt-fashion. Alt-medicine. Alt-culture. Alt-right? Okay, maybe there are exceptions. In a low-attention-span world, the search for ‘alternatives’ is all-consuming.
I consider this thought whilst drinking a pint of alt-bier: as mental leaps go, it is not in the Bob Beamon category. What I am drinking is Mondo Brewing Company’s London Altbier, to be strictly accurate. 4.8%ABV; good, dark colour; lighter and crisper than its looks would suggest.
Alt-bier does not conform to the model of other alt-genres, mainly because the alt- in alt-bier does not stand for ‘alternative’ but means ‘old’. It is a German word, reflecting alt-bier’s traditional origins in Westphalia.
I take another deep draught; allow myself to descend into an increasingly darker realm, whilst essentially remaining fixed in the same place. And perhaps this is the way with all counter-culture: every alt- remains irrevocably linked to the very thing that it is so desperate to kick against. The apron strings of alt- are strong and inelastic like those of the most ferocious hausfrau. The rebel is only ever a short step away from the conventions of the old.
Alternative and old: polar-opposites, or one and the same thing?
I take another long sup and find my glass is as empty as my thoughts.
Of course, it would be perfectly possible to create an alt-altbier, but when the original product is so quaffable, why bother?
© Beery Sue
Beery Sue is so alt-alt she’s positively conventional.