|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
Another Year of Beer
by Vince Capano
Last year at this time I had become a legend in my own mind. I had just completed a
successful quest to drink one thousand different beers in 365 consecutive days. Yes,
Oprah, Jimmy, Dave, and Jay all called asking me to appear but I was holding out for the
return of Johnny Carson, or at the very least, Chuck Barris. I blame that hallucination on
the fact that I had to drink five beers in the last 14 minutes before the year’s end
deadline. Now another year later I’ve added 546 beers to my total, solid performance but
not quite in my own former league. Then again since there are no repeat beers in the
1,546 it’s still worth one more Beerland column, don’t you think?
This year’s mini-quest brought its own revelations and thought provoking comparisons to
the Year of the Thousand. Drinking over 500 different beers in a year was fun, drinking
1,000 was work. Okay, so it might not be a task that will be featured on TV’s Dirty Jobs
show, but it wasn't all fun and games. Even worse, it was a job without a vacation.
Forget about having a Coke or iced tea or even a second round of a beer I liked.
Reaching one thousand meant having 3 different beers a day, every day so no lolly-
gagging or repeats allowed. This year however I could stop and smell the hops. My goal
this year was that there was no goal (think the USA team in the World Cup). So here’s
my first lesson learned one year later – good beer deserves to be enjoyed as a leisurely
pleasure not as a statistic.
One imposing legacy from the thousand that I carried with me all this year was an extra
twenty pounds- most of it around my waist. Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as a beer
belly. Oh, I’ve read the studies that say beer doesn’t really put weight on and that the
“beer belly” is simply caused by overeating, not drinking. Well they didn’t study me. At
the end of the thousand I got on the scale and it said “to be continued”. This year I
couldn’t seem to lose any of it. In fact when I got on the scale this morning it read like a
phone number. My friend Arty, the head brewer at Baker Street Ales, told me his
foolproof solution to any beer drinker’s weight problem. Why did I ask Arty for advice?
Well if brewers got me into this trouble it makes sense they could probably get me out of
it too. “All you have to do”, said Arty, “is eat next to nothing, exercise a lot, and give up all
beer except those made at Baker Street.” Gee, thanks. On the plus size, I mean side, I
can now proudly wear my extra large “never trust a skinny beer drinker” t-shirt. Ah, the
power of beer- I've been transformed from shaky character to Mr. Trustworthy!
Beer may be the drink of the common man but it can get expensive even at my local
watering holes which has a “Free Beer Tomorrow” sign over the bar. Bartender, let me
order another pint while I wait for that deal to kick in. We beer folk are proud of saying
that for $20 we can get a bottle of one of the best beers in the world while the wine snob
can’t even sniff the cork of a great wine for that price. Still, I discovered that I was down a
hefty chunk of change in drinking 500 beers this year (I was afraid to add up last year's
total). I’m fairly sure that if I gave up beer on the day I finished that one thousandth
bottle, I could be writing this column from a fine pub in Belgium enjoying what I gave up to
get there. Actually
I’m glad I didn’t do that, then what reason would I have to play the lottery?
Perhaps the most expensive beer I had this year was Odell’s Woodcut #4 at twenty-five
dollars a bottle. No, that is not a misprint. Truth in journalism demands I now admit that I
actually didn’t buy this beer but only tasted it (several times) at the Stouds beer festival
in Adamstown, PA. The beer was so good I was actually tempted to order a bottle direct
from a store near the brewery in Colorado. Sadly, the shipping fee wasn’t included in the
price so it was a no sale. However they did offer free shipping on Sam Adams Utopia at
$599 per bottle. What a deal.
In this year’s adventure the largest beer store I visited was “Dave’s Liquors” in Northport,
Long Island, NY. Dave carries over 800 bottles of beer and still has room for 8 taps of
New York’s finest brews. All taps are located on the wall at the far end of the store right
over the boxes of empty growlers just waiting to be filled. Now a logical person might say
all I had to do to have easy and immediate access 500 different beers and end my quest
in one stop was simply to camp in Dave’s parking lot. Even more, after drinking the 500
there would be nearly 40% of his inventory waiting for my following year’s adventure. I
did think about it but Dave said he wouldn’t let me keep the same camping site. It took
up too many parking spots. And for the record there are no available apartments within
ten miles of Dave’s. How did all of those people find out about this place before me?
It was interesting to see how differently people reacted to learning I was on a mission to
drink 500 beers as compared to last year when I told them my goal was a thousand. It
was yawn v. awe. One thousand was insanely cool; five hundred merely wacko
pedestrian. One thousand was absurdly chivalric and quixotic; five hundred was over-
indulgent and insensible. I had no choice but to change tactics or to be more accurate,
vocabulary. Style over substance usually works. So for most of this year I wasn’t trying to
drink 500 beers, I was on a actually on a Quest for the Half- Grand, Pursuit of the 500th,
and a Pint Pilgrimage for 499 Plus one . Feel free to send me your vote on which one
you like the best.
For those wondering, my calendar year of beer counting begins and ends on June 21.
Why June 21? Simply, it was the day in 2008 that I decided, for no particular reason, to
write down every beer I was going to drink. Now that I think of it, June 21 is also Martha
Washington’s birthday and the day New Hampshire entered the Union so maybe it was
fate. Hey, it’s well known that Martha’s spouse had a brewery, not to mention a distillery,
right on the old homestead and that the Granite State is one of the five stables for the
Budweiser Clydesdales. Mere coincidence? Sure it is…. just like Lincoln and Kennedy
having 7 letters in their last names and there being 24 hours in a day, 24 cans in a case
I’m now a few days into year three of this ongoing adventure. In fact, I now have a fresh
new flip pad to write down all the new beers I’m looking forward to trying. As for using a
pad instead of my traditional recording medium of bar napkins, well don’t blame me. The
pad was a gift from my friend Greg. He said he just got tired of seeing me mistakenly
sneeze into my work notes. Gesundheit.
I’m sometimes asked if I’m worried about finding new beers this year. In response may I
quote, in a fashion, William Shakespeare – “Age cannot wither beer nor custom stale its
Time for a beer….. a new one.
|Another Year of Beer