Thursday, August 14, 2014

Old Beer Drinkers Just Fade . . .

Being able to "hold your beer" in Wisconsin, land of many breweries, when I was a teenager was a badge of honor. That meant you could down quite a few lagers, the only beer readily available in most places, and act as though you were cold sober.

"Quite a few" was a bunch when an eight-ounce glass from the tap cost a dime. A dollar financed a fairly long night out at a beer bar. The legal drinking age was 18 back then, but it wasn't difficult to find bar owners who weren't at all concerned about winking at a fake draft card altered to prove a 15- or 16-year-old was really 18 or 19. Sometimes, they just took your word for it. Pete Zemlis served me my first beer at his Half Moon Lodge near Tomahawk, Wisconsin, when I was 14.

Practice may well make perfect in the beer guzzling world. By the time my real 18th birthday came around, I could walk a straight line after downing seven or eight short (eight ounce) beers. Later, I held my own at several bars during Mexican vacations at a level that would have made Jimmy Buffett proud.

I took to drinking dark ales, which had much more robust taste than the pale lagers. Ales also had slightly higher alcohol contents. I could no longer drain as many glasses without major consequences, but I still liked to think I was pretty good at "holding my ale."

Along with other things that faded with advanced age, my beer and ale capacity declined considerably. I retreated from dark ales back to light lagers. Even then, two beers became my limit. Perhaps that was good, because now I get full well before I get loaded.
 
Three Two Hearteds are two too many for me!
Nevertheless, there is room for adventure at any age. I began to take notice of "Two Hearted Ale," an India Pale Ale produced by Bell Brewery, a local brewer in our area. A newspaper article pointed out that the Beer Advocate Society gave Two Hearted a 95 rating, which translates to "world class." Another rating agency called it "outstanding." Yet another group concerned with such things announced Two Hearted Ale was the best beer in the world. After seeing that claim, I just had to try the stuff.

About then, the brewer announced that Two Hearted was being made available in cans for the first time. I found a four-pack, just enough for a trial drink or two, at the local supermarket. My son was coming over for a meal, and I thought two cans for him and two for me would be just right.

Each can held 16 ounces, four more than the usual amount. The ale tasted great, but I  barely made it through one can. A check of the label showed Two Hearted had an alcohol content of 7 percent. No wonder all those raters gave it such outrageously high marks; they probably quaffed one small glass and experienced what happens late at night to many tavern patrons when all the girls suddenly are beautiful.

Incidentally, the ale is named after the Two Hearted River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. That probably is of little or no significance, but it's the kind of thing one might ponder after downing a couple.

13 comments:

jhawk23 said...

I like the "microbrew" movement and all the choices it offers, but haven't sampled those that are made to provide extra kick. I do recall "Colt 45," from the 60s-70s, named as I recollect, for the effect it would supposedly have on you.

Another interesting thing about the micros is where they're made. I got a brew in Illinois a couple of weeks ago, with a locally-inspired name, looked to see where it was made. Answer: In New York!

Dick Klade said...

The "micro" movement is big in these parts, jhawk. A new one opened in the little city near us last year. Three new ones opened recently in Kalamazoo, about 15 miles away. If I had the capacity of my youth, it would be easy to misspend even more of my time now.

PiedType said...

When I was in school at CU in Boulder, we drank our beer by the pitcher. Coors draft, always. Of course the Coors plant was just down the road in Golden. I used to be able to tell you how much I drank on a record night at a local establishment -- 6 or 7 pitchers? -- but we were also dancing (the Twist) it off.

That was about the end of it. The atmosphere away from that setting just isn't conducive. They say Denver is "ground zero" for today's microbrewery industry. I guess I'm missing out.

Dick Klade said...

Pied: UW at Madison also was awash with pitchers of beer (85 cents each) in my day; Pabst Blue Ribbon was a favorite. Badgers were proud of the fact that ours was the first (maybe the only?) school in the U.S. to sell beer in the student union.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

My first drunk and only time I was ever drunk was when I was two years old. My WI parents were in the front seat, watching a drive-in film, drinking beer and tossing the cans in the back seat where I sat. Apparently, I was draining the cans. Pretty soon, they say I was walking up and down the back seat singing, maresydoats and goatsydoats.....

Dick Klade said...

Dianne . . . Not a bad thing to find out about the stuff early and avoid too much of it throughout a lifetime.

Ken Martell said...

Pete's and Hoovie's...my first underage beer bars ~'63 !!! Hoovie's occasionally, Pete's more my regular. Didn't Pete have a bum arm from some injury and spoke with an Irish/English accent...or is that the beer talking here?

Dick Klade said...

Ken, at least partly, the beer was talking. Pete did have a bum arm and an accent. However, I'm almost certain the accent was Polish, and absolutely sure it wasn't Irish! Cheers.

Colleen Post said...

I used to run over to Pete's to get beers for the adults....I always came back with an orange soda for the effort! Great memories!

Mike Gillette said...

My Dad said Pete was from Lithuania. We went with Dad and had a candy bar when we were kids. If you dropped money on the floor the dog would take it to Pete and he would have a birthday party for the dog every year. We lived on the other end of Half Moon,so we went there often.

Dick Klade said...

Mike, I think your Dad was right. I'd heard Pete referred to as a "Bohunk," but had no idea what that meant, and still don't. Had forgotten about the money dog and party. Thanks for the memory.

Alan G said...

I guess I was nothing more than a "beer taster" up until I was about 24 years old. Never found it all that appealing. Then... in 1965 I found myself stationed in Okinawa, Japan. A friend enticed me to a bar in the local town, sat me down next to a quart bottle of Orion beer and it was love at first taste! Turns out the beer was actually made in Okinawa and is one of Japan's most popular. After leaving Okinawa, went back to my role as only a beer taster!

Dick Klade said...

Alan, I too have reverted to "taster." It just took a longer time.