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
The Membership Card
It’s nice to be in a club but it’s especially good if it’s a beer club. No, not a mail order beer of the month club or an online beer forum but a real live group that meets to discuss the manufacturing, marketing, history, distribution, corporate structures, annual reports, brewing techniques, and management philosophies of firms in the beer industry. At least that’s what my beer club’s charter says we do. In reality it should read “purpose: drink beer”. The club is the Draught Board 15, of which I’ve been one of its proud members for over a decade. Admittedly, my pride is not be as publicly expressed as fellow members Scott who named his dog “DB14” (he felt it disrespectful to use the hallowed number 15) or Steve who has “DB15” tattooed on his left cheek (the one below the waist).
Pride in membership is important to our club. To foster it, every individual who joins receives their very own official membership card. It’s a laminated work of art featuring the member’s picture, vital details, and signed oath of eternal loyalty to beer. Since the card itself is only produced at irregular intervals there are a number of members who still are awaiting this unchallengeable proof of their beer authenticity. And many of them are not happy about the wait (so don’t keep calling me about this Justin, I’m just a writer.) Their displeasure is understandable since nothing shouts “I am loved” louder than a membership card to, well, just about anything. A membership card of any kind is a testament that you belong, that people care about you, that you are special, a person of good taste and importance. That probably explains why I still carry my Captain Midnight's Legion and Loyal Order of Submarine Race Watchers membership cards.
The look and design of the DB15 card just screams gravitas. It’s not some barely legible, poorly printed cheap piece of junk you get for joining groups like the Mahjong Players of America Association or the Phil Hellmuth Fan Club. The DB15 card is made of high grade paper with the club seal prominently embedded in the background next to an American flag. The flag itself is in holographic form, waving majestically in an unseen breeze. The official seal is a picture of Uncle Sam holding an overflowing glass of beer with “15” boldly etched on front. It is truly an imprimatur of divinely given authority. The card is, of course, printed in dynamic full color. From any angle it looks as real as any fake government document that you’d be able to buy on the Internet, including the ones that make you a member of NCIS or authorize you to open a distillery in Utah.
Last year I attended the Newtown Beer Festival. It’s one of my favorites because it’s very well organized and offers great beer. However Newtown is in Pennsylvania, a state that demands every person attending such events show proper age identification to be admitted. Yes, every person, from the baby faced 25 year old to the white haired, wrinkled, octogenarian hobbling along on a cane.
The line of people waiting for the sold out festival gates to open stretched for at least six blocks. About 30 minutes before the noon starting time a fest worker began walking the line telling everyone that someone would soon be coming to check proof of age so entry would flow more quickly. Soon thereafter another worker accompanied by a diminutive female police officer began doing just that. Their system was simple and effective; the officer looked at a person’s ID and the worker put a blue paper band around their wrist. Things were going smoothly until they got to the group of 4 males directly in front of me. The youngest person seemed to be around 40 and the oldest, let’s be kind, was very, very mature. Actually he looked so old that the candles on his birthday cake would raise the earth’s temperature by 3 degrees. He was lucky to be going to a beer festival, if it was an antique show they might try to sell him.
I watched as everyone in the group dutifully got out their driver’s licenses. Everyone that is, except one - the senior, senior citizen. Mr. Methuselah searched his pocket, found nothing. “ID please sir” said the officer. “Must have left it in the car. Hey, I just turned 75” he said with a smile and a shrug. “Sorry sir, everyone must have an ID to enter.” “I think it might be in the car. “Everyone must show an ID.” Don’t worry I’m over 21” (wink). “No ID no festival!” “Joke, right?” “Last time, no ID, no festival.” “No brains. I’m 75. That’s years.”
The insults escalated as they each tried to out shout the other. I could almost see the smoke coming out of both adversaries’ ears as their faces began to turn crimson. Then, as the old gent screamed, “you’re a fool and idiot if you think I’m under 21”, the officer’s hand slipped ever so slightly toward her holstered gun. That was my cue to slip too, behind the closest tree. I could almost hear her say, ‘go ahead, make my day, Grandpa.’
I checked my watch – high noon. Where’s Gary Cooper when you need him? Fortunately one of the old guy’s buddies grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away telling the officer “we’re going back to the car to get his ID.” The officer nodded and moved on still fuming. To be more precise, she moved on to me, the next guy in line who was also the next one without a license.
“ID please, sir” she asked. “Ah"……I cleverly stalled for time knowing my driver's license too was left in the car. "Well? No ID, no festival." "Oh, finally found it. Here it is officer”. She thoroughly examined it looking especially enthralled by the waving US flag behind Uncle Sam. “Enjoy the festival.” "Thank you officer." Yes!! Thank you DB 15 card. If our club had an official song I would have sung it then and there.
Forget those Citi Bank commercials that tout the “power of the card”. Their card can only buy things then bury you with usury interest rates; a DB15 card can get you into just about any highly restricted beerfest or area in the nation, maybe even Area 51. It’s all very logical. The Police Department of Newtown, is a branch of a city government under the auspices of the sovereign state of Pennsylvania, which in turn is a member of the United States of America. So if Newtown accepts the DB15 card’s validity then so must the entire country. I think it has something to do with the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.
Always willing to help out the less fortunate, I thought about asking the old guy if he wanted to join the club. I decided not to; he might not see my offer as a humanitarian gesture since he looked winded and weary after what had to be at least a two mile long walk to retrieve his ID.
If any doubt remains about the card I give you the story of DB15 charter member, Wayne. He is serious about beer. In fact he’s so serious he burned three years of savings on a 10 day vacation trip to Belgium. Yes, that Belgium, the one with all the beer. Upon his return Wayne regaled the club with tales of his adventures ranging from a non-stop party at the Delirium Cafe in Brussels to a long drive to the abbey of Saint Sixtus to score the rarest of the rare, the oft called ‘best beer in the world’, Westvleteren XII. It was exciting to know that one of our brethren had made the pilgrimage to beer Olympus. At the end of his story, with a dramatic flourish, Wayne unveiled a box of mementos he had brought back just for us- bottles of beer, of course.
We gathered around this generous soul and did what our club does best – drink. Wayne then reached into his pocket and pulled out a receipt. “Check this out” he said. At the top it read ‘Yves Streekbieren, #1 O.L. Vrouwmarkt, Roeselare’, which he explained was a great beer shop in the same town as Rodenbach Brewery, in fact, directly behind it. Okay, I thought, the receipt makes for a nice souvenir but why bring show it to show us? The answer was there at the very bottom. The next to last line said “10% special discount”.
As Wayne explained, he simply showed them his DB 15 membership card. It only goes to prove slogan on the card is indeed true: “Accepted Everywhere in the World That Will Recognize It.”