Sunday, August 19, 2007

I'm Taking My Suitcase on Vacation

I have been in the beer business for a long time. As you may or may not know, a beer distributor will not take a vacation. He is forced to take a vacation by the wife and kids. Sometimes this happens amicably. Sometimes it is done at gunpoint. The whole time we are gone, we think about the trucks going out, or someone not showing up for work, or the route deposits getting to the bank, or the warehouse catching on fire. When I was growing up, the only vacations we took were to beer conventions or meetings. That was the only vacation I ever knew, and they were wonderful. Nowadays my kids want to go to the beach. I can't stand the beach. I want to go on a beer distributor vacation that is chock full of beer drinking experiences and nostalgia. I love history, travel by car, beer, sports, and taverns (read “any hole in the wall tavern”). Please be aware that I am not a beer connoisseur, I really don't care about beer styles or flavors or trying to talk about beer as one talks about wine. I love the imagery of brands, the historical significance of the beers, breweries, and beer distributors, and the emotions that I have during beer drinking occasions. My memories of different beers started when the truckloads arrived at the warehouse and with the beer came the differing strategies of the sales call for each brand. Thoughts of the white-collar brewery representative with his new ideas, in and out attitude, and worthless business plans don’t enter my mind. I only think about what I would be doing and where I would be if I could enjoy the brand in any setting.

So, I am going to drink twenty four beers on my beer distributor vacation, my so-called “Suitcase Vacation Special”, one beer for each lovely memory I have of special brands and the locations that my mind correlates with these brands. If an itinerary for a beer distributor vacation existed, I think it would look somewhat like this:

Number 1. I pop the first one at the oldest brewery in the United States, the rathskellar at the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Of course I would have a Traditional Lager in a longneck bottle.

Number 2. Then I’ll head over to Clairton, Pennsylvania and find John Welch’s bar from “The Deer Hunter”. Did you know that was me shooting pool, singing Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, and drinking Rolling Rock twelve ounce cans. I was there.

Number 3. Why not give me a Narragansett longneck on the dunes at Horseneck Beach, Massachusetts, just seconds across the Rhode Island state line.

Number 4. When I was young I thought of Mr. Boh as other kids think of Mickey Mouse. I never understood why he only had one eye, my grandfather told me it was from a barfight! Give me a twelve ounce can of National Bohemian at the O’s game in Baltimore, Maryland.

Number 5. I guess I’ll never know what it feels like to have a Rupperts Beer at Yankee Stadium in New York. Gives me an empty feeling inside.

Number 6. I want a Haffereffer Private Stock at Fenway Park. I sold those stubby sixteen ounce bottles for years. I sure did love that brand.

Number 7. Easing over to Rochester, New York I find myself enjoying a Genny Cream at the old Genesee Brewing facility while relaxing by the High Falls Gorge of the Genesee River.

Number 8. Why not have a fire brewed Stroh’s and play fetch with Alex in Detroit, Michigan.

Number 9. 10. and 11. Oh, beautiful Milwaukee, Wisconsin! I’ll have a Pabst, Schlitz, and a Blatz longneck at any corner pub in town. The smaller, darker, and smokier the place, the better.

Number 12. Give me a High Life Pony on any lake in America with a cane fishing pole and some crickets. Talk about Miller Time.

Number 13. No one remembers Harry Caray hawking Old Style at Cubs games. How about Harry singing “Take me out to the Ballgame” in the seventh and me enjoying an ice cold Old Style draft at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.

Number 14. Why don’t we take a quick trip out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I can have stubby Olympia while bar hopping with Clint and Clyde.

Number 15. Did you know that Busch Beer at Busch Stadium is terrific? Try drinking a Bartles and Jaymes Wine Cooler there. I did.

Number 16. I would love to sip on an ice cold Goldcrest 51 longneck while “jukeing” down Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.

Number 17. The fountain of youth is in New Orleans, Louisiana. Just the thought of a Dixie Beer Longneck and the French Quarter stirs up feelings I left behind when I was eighteen years old.

Number 18. Drink a Pearl Longneck at the Corral again. I was fourteen the first time I did.

Number 19. Out from San Antonio not quite to Luckenbach, on a ranch full of Mesquite trees and rabbits the size of, well, Texas, there are a bunch of guys that sit around and drink Lone Star twelve ounce cans all day long. I would like to partake with them one more time. Also, do you know who was driving the old Lone Star delivery truck in “Midnight Cowboy”? It was me!

Number 20. I could drink an eight ounce can of Country Club Malt Liquor and crush it just like the guy from the commercials. Bring them back Pabst. I know I could sell them.

Number 21. The best creative imagery in the beer business, Colorado and Coors Banquet Beer. Sitting by a Rocky Mountain stream in Golden and drinking a gooseneck Coors.

Number 22. My first finished beer was a Pabst at five years old at a beer convention. My second was a Golden Champale twelve ounce green classic bottle with an Apple Jolly Rancher at nine. I will get around to trying that again, just to see if it tastes as good as I remember.

Number 23. When the movie “Boyz n the Hood” came out in 1991 Olde English 800 was a dying brand in our house. Overnight we were selling it by the truckload. A quick trip to Compton, California and an Eight Ball forty to pay my respects to Ice Cube and Big Worm.

Number 24. St. Louis, Missouri gave the world Falstaff Beer and I know for a fact Falstaff Beer is responsible for bringing me into it. Just one more chance to drink a Falstaff longneck on the grounds of old Plant #1.

There you have it, we have gone through the best case of beer our country could ever produce. Don't worry my “Beer Distributor Vacation Suitcase Special” will be coming to a travel agent near you. I will set up the itinerary and no hangovers will be allowed.

For some very entertaining reading please visit John Smallshaw’s History of Falstaff Brewing Corporation, A History of Malt Liquor by Kihm Winship, and’s Illustrated History of Olympia Brewing Company.

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