“Beer and the Young at Heart"

Note: This article requires a little disclaimer. In no way am I promoting
nor do I advocate underage drinking
, however it does occur and when
nobody gets hurt some of the occasions are funny.  

That being said, personal experience is the best way to
start. Being exposed to the draft and a possible trip to
Viet Nam caused my first flagrant violation of New Jersey’
s minimum drinking age of 21. New York’s Staten Island
with its much more sensible 18 minimum was only a
short hop over the Outerbridge Crossing and thus
weekly trips to quench our thirst helped to ease my and
my friends’ angst over the uncertain future ahead.

But the love of beer did not always require a trip to
Staten Island. Perpetually seated on a curb at the rear
of our own local liquor store was “Mooch”, an elderly
wino ostensibly paid a meager stipend to keep the
parking lot clean and who, for a pint of Night Train or
the equivalent, would enter the store and purchase our
six packs of Pabst. Nobody in the store ever questioned
why on weekends he’d sometimes buy as many as a
dozen or more sixpacks (as well as his daily two or
three pints of Night Train).

In 1966 my mummers band was engaged to perform on
a whistle stop train ride for the unsuccessful US Senate
campaign of Warren Wilentz. Each car on the train was
provisioned with large coolers of Ballantine Beer, XXX
Ale, Ballantine Real Draft and Ballantine Bock. Nobody
was doing much supervising (imagine that today!) so
those of us who had not yet reached legal age could
help ourselves to any amount of Ballantine we wanted.

However, being conscientious musicians, we had to
police ourselves in order to execute a respectable
performance, but saw no reason why all that Ballantine
should just lie there getting cold only to be gobbled up
by the train cleaning crew. So when the gig was over we
detrained with our instruments in one hand and our
“empty” instrument cases in the other. It’s quite a
struggle to climb down off a train with a baritone sax
hanging off your neck and trying to carry a baritone sax
case full of full Ballantine cans but we managed and
nobody wondered or cared why we didn’t just encase
the instruments beforehand. That train ride saved a
couple of trips to Staten Island but prevented Mooch
from earning several bottles of Night Train!

My mother-in-law once took her Brownie troop to visit
the Iroquois Brewery in Buffalo, certainly a change from
visiting a barnyard or other usual Brownie destinations.
That excursion didn’t include a stop at the tasting
room, but closer to home another class trip did that and
more.

Some years ago I read an account in the Star-Ledger of
an incident in Lakewood, New Jersey, home to a huge
Hassidic Jewish community. It seems that a debating
team from the local Yeshiva had won their debate and
as a reward, their bus driver, himself a Hassidic rabbi,
thought it a splendid idea to stop the bus, pop into a
liquor store and buy several cases of Rheingold to show
his appreciation for their debating skills. They’d have
gotten away with it, too, if the victorious debaters hadn’
t started throwing the empty cans out of the bus
windows. Oy Vey!

During our first visit to Munich’s Hofbrauhaus, my wife
and I were astounded to find a group of high schoolers
sitting next to us and going over their homework while
downing mass steins of maibock. Lucky for them
Germany’s beer drinking age is a liberal 16. Staten
Island would be a hell of a trip!

Behind the house in Colonia where I grew up is “the
creek”, a small stream where many dams were built,
many frogs were caught, and many feet were soaked
and frozen when we stepped on too thin ice. It was also
a place where my father would occasionally throw
bundles of twigs or leaves during yard clean up. While
doing so one day, a glint of something shiny caught his
eye, and brushing away some leaves and undergrowth,
he discovered two brand new sixpacks of Schaefer party
bottles.

I know they weren’t mine (I was over twenty one by
that time anyway and had no need to hide them near
the creek), but to this day none of my three younger
brothers has claimed ownership. However, later that
evening their mouths must have been watering as they
watched Pop sitting at the picnic table and enjoying a
few Schaefers in place of his usual Iron City.

Previous
Beer My Way articles have made reference to
the healthful aspects of Wiedenmayer’s beer, but their
late nineteenth century advertising is worth repeating as
a testimony to beer and the young at heart. The print
ad showed a picture of a toddler seated on a chamber
pot , grinning happily, and saying “I drank George
Wiedenmayer’s beer”. The same lad is then pictured in
the same position, but this time scowling like me after
the recent Presidential election, and saying “I didn’t”! I’m
certain that MADD would have something to say about
such an ad in 2013.

Only now that they’re in their thirties and now that
Farcher’s Grove, our local watering hole has long been
closed can I relate my experience of stopping in after
work and after ordering a Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest,
and having the bartender tell me “this one’s on the guys
at the end of the bar”. Raising my glass in that direction
to say thanks, I found myself looking at my neighbors’
kids, who were about seventeen at the time. Did I rat
them out? Did I tell their fathers? Did I decline their
offer?  NO! I did none of those things. I did what
barroom etiquette demands. I bought them a round in
return.

Not too far from Farcher’s and also long gone was a
tavern that did a huge Sunday morning business. As an
added inducement to stop in they even kept copies of
local church bulletins on the bar so that thirsty
husbands could bring proof of church attendance home
to theirdoubting wives.

One Sunday, a friend of mine, feeling a bit of religious
zeal and with skeptical admiration from his wife, decided
to take his three year old son “to church”. Armed with a
bulletin from St. Anne’s, he returned home and would
have pulled it off if the suspicious wife hadn’t found a
stack of Krueger’s coasters in the son’s pocket. He’s
still nursing the lump on his head.

That’s it for now. It’s time to go have a pint and peruse
the dozens of fake driver’s licenses displayed on the wall
of the Gaslight, testimony to the Young at Heart being
denied their beer!


Cheers!

Dan
Another two
glasses up
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Dan Hodge!
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