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.
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