Big Beer

Until recently, in America “bigger” was always better,
as in big cars, “big” hair, big oil, Big Macs and King
sized everything. But lately, nutritionists, tree hugging
environmentalists and bean counters are crazed about
downsizing everything, from the cars we drive to the
food we eat. Although the astronomical rise in the
consumption of “lite” beer would indicate that beer is
also following this trend, for those of us who truly
appreciate the beverage, bigger is still better.

In craft brew circles “big beer” means beers that are
aggressively hopped with more body and high alcohol
content. Craft brewers are outdoing themselves with
“double” IPAs, Belgian “quadruples”, 12% barleywines
and even “Imperial” lagers. The difference between
these styles of “big” beers and the watery “lites”
offered by larger brewers is akin to the difference
between Kool-Aid and Johnny Walker Black: night and

But not only craft brewers are into big beers. The
relatively recent introduction of the “forty”, containing
forty ounces of high gravity malt liquor has afforded
another example of a big beer. Although there are no
“big” hops or body, this style of beer does offer it’s
consumers a very economical big drunk. “Midnight
Dragon” isn’t sold in nips for nothing!

Over the years, brewers and retailers of every day
American lager have always adhered to the bigger is
better theory. For off-premises consumption beer has
been sold in half gallon picnic bottles, gallon cans, “tall
boys”, “beer balls”, and anything else that gives the
consumer a bigger bang for his buck. In taverns, it’s
increasingly difficult to find the old standard seven
ounce glass. Most on-premises consumption is now via
pint glasses, large steins, pitchers and the occasionally
seen “yard” of beer. Even one of the last vestiges of
the nip, Rolling Rock, is served in buckets. The bottles
may only hold seven ounces but a dozen of them in a
bucket equal more than a six pack. The beers may be
small but the results are big.

Right here in New Jersey we had the world’s biggest
beer bottle which stood for many years over the
Hoffman/Pabst brewery in Newark . This sixty foot tall
landmark, is sorely missed by beer lovers and Garden
State Parkway motorists, but since it’s been safely
placed in storage, who knows, it may rise again,
making for the world’s biggest resurrection of a beer

In Toronto , above Dundas Square , hangs what is
probably the world’s biggest dancing beer can. The
thirty foot tall can, which sways back and forth,
supposedly would hold the equivalent of 437,000 cans
of Labatt’s Blue, if filled with beer. Undoubtedly, this
would result in the world’s biggest keg party if the can
could be tapped.

Labatt’s dancing can may be big, but of course it’s
only one. La Crosse, Wisconsin can easily claim title to
the world’s biggest six pack, now painted as LaCrosse
cans, but for many years they were proudly labeled
Heileman’s Old Style, as they stood outside the
Heileman brewery. Also in Wisconsin , the small town
of Potosi offers beer travelers the unequalled vista of
the world’s biggest cone top can, left over from the
days when cone tops were popular with smaller
breweries like Potosi that couldn’t afford a separate
bottling line.

But these super sized cans, bottles and six packs pale
by comparison to the vat constructed by the Meux
brewery of London . In 1814 the vat, which held
860,000 gallons of porter, burst, thereby creating the
world’s largest beer flood in which twenty Londoners
perished, some by drowning, others by over
intoxication and even some who died when the morgue
to which they had brought tickets to view the corpses
of the drowned, collapsed.

Other aspects of beer history are big as well. Dr.
Glendon Bogdon of Wisconsin (the state crops up
frequently when researching beer….they must drink a
lot of it there) is the proud owner of the world’s
biggest bar towel, measuring twenty feet by ten feet
and which he made by sewing 185 normal sized bar
towels together. Such a towel probably would have
come in handy during the beer flood of 1814.

American Ron Werner has managed to amass the
world’s largest collection of beer bottles. His total of
11,644 includes 7,128 that are unopened. If he were
to throw a little party and offer each attendee three
beers over the course of the evening, he’d have to
invite almost 1200 friends in order to run out of beer
before the night was over. Big crowd!

With over 5000 employees the Anheuser-Busch
brewery in St. Louis is the world’s biggest brewery.
Unfortunately for me, Budweiser usually gives me the
world’s biggest headache, so I try to avoid it.

The Blatz brewery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin at one time
employed the world’s biggest beer salesman, Cliff
Thompson, who, at eight feet seven inches tall, looked
down on everybody, whether they ordered Blatz or
not. Cliff left the beer selling business to enter
Marquette University ’s School of Law . From world’s
biggest beer salesman to world’s biggest shyster in
four short years!

The biggest single beer drinking day occurs in our own
country. Super Bowl Sunday beats every other day in
amount of beer consumed , but the Oktoberfest in
Munich is the world’s biggest beer event with over a
million and a half gallons of beer served during the two
week period.

The references to big, bigger, biggest and the state of
Wisconsin all lead to a fitting end to the discussion of
“big beer”: although drinkers who have downed their
beers in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean might
disagree, it is generally believed that the Glarner Stube
restaurant in ,where else, New Glarus , Wisconsin is
home to the world’s largest urinal. “Glarner Stube”
loosely means “living room of New Glarus, but perhaps
a more appropriate name would be “bathroom of New
Glarus”.  Due to the size of the urinal, it’s pretty hard
to miss, but the dimensions also make it easy to fall
into, so be careful how many big beers you have if you

Another two
glasses up
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Dan Hodge!
has to say
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by   Dan Hodge