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|Remember Prohibition? It was a not so lovely time in which all booze was prohibited thanks to the 18th Amendment
to the Constitution. Now if you really remember it for having lived through it then you must be a senior, senior, senior
citizen. If that’s the case then I salute your longevity which is most likely due to drinking beer, lots of beer. Even
more, if you were an honest to goodness bootlegger during that dry decade (and goodness had nothing to do with
your activities) then when we meet I will buy you as many beers or shots of “Johnnie Blue” that you want, whichever
is cheaper. Hey, don’t blame me for being frugal. BeerNexus gives us an expense account of $1.98….. for the year..
To put it mildly, our boss is really cheap. Once he was held up. The thief said "Your money or your life!”. After a
long delay the bad guy repeated “your money or your life?” To which our boss replied, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”
While most of us know that Prohibition was a “grand experiment” gone astray – “Prohibition is an awful flop, It don’t
stop what it’s meant to stop…..It's left a trail of graft and slime, It didn't prohibit worth a dime ….” – some don’t realize
that the day of its demise is still commemorated here in the 21st century, albeit with a touch less fanfare or maniacal
consumption. That’s not a knock on current day enthusiasm it’s just that on the very first day beer was legal 1.5
million barrels of beer were consumed! Statistics can be misleading however since on the last day it was illegal 1.7
million barrels were consumed.
Happily for beer people the freedom to legally drink our favorite beverage was the precursor to the full
implementation of the law that ended Prohibition, the 21st amendment. That amendment by the way is incredibly
eloquent in its simplicity - “The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby
repealed.” Before those words took effect, the Cullen–Harrison Act was enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
on April 7,1933. Cullen-Harrison basically allowed people to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol
by weight (or 4.05% by volume). Now that may not sound like much today but remember during Prohibition all
“intoxicating” beverages were banned so anything was better than nothing. By the way, "Intoxicating" was defined as
any drink with one half of one percent alcohol. That is roughly equivalent to mixing one can of Bud Light with 5 cans
of water - and you though Bud Light already tasted like water.
Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt uttered his now famous remark, "I think this would be a good time for a beer."
I’m sure we can all agree that statement needs its own amendment. It should say “it’s always a good time for a
beer.” And so it came to be that every April 7 since 1933 has been recognized as National Beer Day. Some
stalwarts even celebrate April 6 as New Beer’s Eve. Please note that beer gets its own day because the Cullen-
Harrison Act was not the official end of Prohibition, that happened on December 5, 1933.
Now while I’m all for celebrating just about anything on April 7 I have to admit I really don’t see it as being a truly
super special beer day. That’ understandable since just about any day I get out of work early , any day I don’t have
to go to work at all, any day before that day, or any day after, or any day ending in “y” is a beer holiday to me.
There are of course special days though out the year that are legitimate big time beer holidays. The top five as
measured by beer sales are according to Nielsen, (didn’t you love him in Airplane and Naked Gun?), in ascending
order are Christmas/New Year’s, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July. Four of those five
are during the beer industry’s peak summer months when beer consumption and production are at their highest.
That also explains why those same months are the biggest revenue ones for the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and
Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
When you get beyond those holidays the reasons why beer is linked to certain days seems mainly due to the
influence of large brewers and distributors. Guinness, for example, has convinced millions of folks that St. Patrick’s
Day is synonymous with their product. And that St. Patrick was actually born at St. James Gate and drove the snakes
out of the fermentation tanks. Millions more lift a bottle of Corona to celebrate Cinco de Mayo which they say
commemorates Davy Crocket’s victory over General Seguin at the Alamo’s lime farm. And countless more people
pound a pounder of Budweiser on the Fourth of July to celebrate the inventor of fireworks and Ben Franklin’s survival
after being hit by a lightening bolt. While those revelers’ history knowledge might be a tad flawed they nonetheless
got it right in knowing a beer is for celebration.
It was in that spirit of celebration that I ventured to the Libertine Pub on National Beer Day 2017. As I entered it was
easy to see they were prepared for the big day. All along the bar were piles of pamphlets entitled in bold, large beer
glass shaped fonts “The Oregon Beer Trail”. Notwithstanding the fact that the Libertine is and always has been in
New Jersey, it still seemed an appropriate gesture for National Beer Day. I then heard several patrons who
undoubtedly remembered the adage that there are no bad questions ask the bartender if Oregon is north or south of
Atlantic City. As a long time worker at the Libertine he clearly knew it would be nearly impossible to underestimate
the intelligence of the pub’s clientele so he had prudentially prepared small maps of the USA in anticipation of just
that question. He offered them for free ......that's if asking for a bigger tip doesn't count..
The Libertine’s management’s affection for the holiday was also apparent in the day’s special pricing. It was $2 off
every beer during “double time happy hour” (how four hours is double one is beyond my math abilities) with one
throwback beer selected for extra reduced pricing. For a meager $2 one could get Pabst Blue Ribbon served in an
official Llibertine pint glass. To be accurate it was a “fake” pint glass. While it looks and feels like a legitimate 16 oz.
vessel it only holds 14 oz when filled to the brim which, as with most beers at the Libertine,, is rarely done.
Fortunately I had read about the glass on a fake news site so was aware of the scam. Still at $2 a glass it was a deal
which only goes to prove that a fake news fake glass fake story could actually be a not fake real deal.
Looking around the bar I noticed my friend, Leo Porter. Rumor has it that Leo was the first choice to play the Most
Interesting Man in the World in the Dos Equis commercials but turned it down because it was, well, uninteresting. He
certainly has the right resume for the role since he once ran a marathon, because it was on his way, he never has to
use insect repellent since mosquitoes refuse to bite him out of respect, and he has won every philanthropic
organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award… twice. He also looks the part from his custom made suits to designer
shoelaces. He puts the deb in debonair, the sop in sophisticated, and the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp
and the ram in the rama lama ding dong . I’m always so honored when he talks to me that if he were to
mispronounce my name I’d feel compelled to change it.
Leo is not only the pub’s leading citizen he’s also its undisputed scotch connoisseur and master oenophile. The
Libertine keeps several bottles of Balvenie 50 Year Old Single Malt and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945 in stock
just for him. As such you can imagine my shock when I saw the drink in front of Leo that evening. There sat this
iconic bar legend with a glass filled with – gasp - beer. As far as I know no one in the long, glorious history of the
Libertine had ever seen Leo even smell a beer never mind drinking it. It's also probably safe to say that neither had
anyone in the long, glorious history of the Universe, including extraterrestrials. To Leo, beer was a four letter word.
Shaken to my core, I stared at the glass. Shocked, all I could manage to say was “Ah, you with…..beer??”.He took a
long sip and said, “of course, after all it is National Beer Day.” “But, but, but….... you're Leo.” I muttered.
“I know I’m a wine and scotch guy but I’m joining in with today’s celebration because I’ve had a true epiphany. I’ve
come to appreciate how great craft beer can be. It may have taken me a while but remember wise men say only fools
rush in. And now I can’t help falling in love with beer. Like a river flows surely to the sea, that’s the way it goes.
Beer and me are meant to be.”
Everyone at the bar stood and applauded in euphoric delight. Shouting as loudly as possible in an effort to be heard
over the cheering din, I proclaimed to one and all, “I’m proposing a new Beer Holiday – Mr. Leo Porter’s Day!” At that
the decibel count in the Libertine rose to the point where it threatened to shatter any glass with a Bud or Coors logo.
Later on, as the evening was drawing to a quiet, gentle close, Leo was in a reflective, philosophical mood. “Looking
back, despite all my expertise, training, experience and achievements in the worlds of wine and distilled spirits,
somehow I think I was always destined to be a beer lover. It was inevitable. "And", he added with a hint of a knowing
smile, " it’s fitting and appropriate. After all, look at my name.”
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