is a two time winner of
the Quill and Tankard
national writing award
for humor from the
North American Guild of
Vince's column is now
a regular feature of
|Challenge and competition have been the fuel that has made America great. Without them man might
never have reached the moon or broken the four minute mile mark in running; Babe Ruth would just have
been another guy with a beer belly. They're part of the drive that separates we Homo sapiens from lower
forms of life. And so it was in that spirit that the Trappist Tuesday Irregulars, a group of beer drinkers of
medium to ill repute who meet at the Tap Room Bar in Warren, NJ, issued a challenge to each other to
search the globe for the least expensive six pack of beer. Why the cheapest six pack? I’m not quite sure
except that finding the most expensive one wouldn’t get any contestants.
The wager may have been simple but rules were needed nonetheless. The six pack had to consist of
12 oz. cans or bottles. It had to be an intact six pack, no splitting a case or mixing bottles. The beer had to
have at least 3.5 % alcohol. To avoid any insider deals, it was stipulated that a defeated challenger had the
right to verify things by going to the store of record and buying said six pack for the same price. In addition,
a valid receipt, duly sworn and notarized affidavits, and a short polygraph examination attesting to the price
were also required . No other proof was necessary; after all, if you can’t trust a beer drinker, who can you
The stakes were big. All the losers would have to chip in to buy the winner any bottle from the Tap Room’s
Secret Stash List. No, not the regular Secret Stash List but the Double Super Secret Stash List. It’s the
one that doesn’t show any prices under the premise that if you have to ask what anything on that list costs
you have no business looking at it in the first place. And there was more. Every loser would have to drink
one can of the winner’s cheap beer, no excuses accepted other than death, (though that might be the
immediate result of drinking the winning swill). We agreed that the duel’s denouement would be two
weeks from Friday. I know we’re the Trappist Tuesday Irregulars but we are also the Happy Hour Friday
Irregulars so it made sense. A little.
The hunt was now on for the ten brave souls who officially entered. Forget the skyrocketing price of gas or
the ever increasing highway tolls. Cost is no object when it came to finding cheap beer. Rumors quickly
flew that Arty (yes our own BeerNexus Rails to Ales guy) had been looking for the Coors Light Silver Bullet
train to pick up a cheap six in the club car and Leo (“Mr. I don’t often drink beer, but when I do I order wine”)
has sent his entire staff out to find his entry. As he reportedly said, “I can’t go myself, after all, who would
believe I would buy cheap anything?”
Several of the couples that entered claimed their inalienable right to submit one six pack as a team entry.
An unfair advantage, if you ask me. Most of us would be out there alone while they’d have twice the chance
of hitting cheap pay dirt. Bruce & Ann plus Jack & Chris, argued that it was it was very legal and directed
me to section 3, paragraph 5 of the NJ Bar Contest Code Statutes signed into law by none other than
Governor Isaac Halstead Williamson in 1817. Who knew they had cheap beer contests back then?
While serendipity guided the others from store to store, I opted for research first. I studied newspaper ads
looking for that one deal that would make me a winner. I saw some great bargains like a 32 can case of
Bud Light at $12.99 but that wouldn’t qualify since it wasn’t a six pack. I saw other ads, like the one offering
a six of Stone's Ruination for $18.99, that would qualify........ but only for last place. Then it hit me, go retro.
Those classic beer brands now all owned by Pabst, all contract brewed, and all tasting the same, had to be
cheap. After all, they hardly used any hops or barely and corn doesn’t cost much. Besides, if they weren’t
cheap who would actually buy them?
I went to one of the great beer stores in all of New Jersey, Buy Rite Discount Liquors of Boonton, hoping
that any place that has a large selection of incredible beers just might have a retro section for geeks
involved in dopey cheap beer contests. I was right. Retro six packs filled part of their vast cooler. The
section itself may have been a very small but so too were the prices. They had six packs of Schmidts at
$3.99, Strohs at $3.99, and Piels at $3.99. If there was price fixing going on at $3.99, God bless them,
especially considering that on the other side of the store a six pack of Coke was going for $5.25.
Just as I was reaching for the Piels I saw “it”, the six pack sure to be the winning entry. It was Schaefer, the
one beer to have when you’re having more than one or the one beer to buy for less than $3.99. Price -
$3.85!! Surely, I surmised, some of my competitors might have somehow, somewhere, stumbled upon
their own $3.99 treasure but now I had them beat by 14 cents! I was so excited I almost forgot to put on my
Groucho disguise when I went to the checkout counter. Well, would you want to be seen buying a $3.85 six
pack of beer? A $3.99 one maybe, but not $3.85.
Carrying my official Buy Rite dark grey plastic bag I confidently walked into the Tap Room about 45 minutes
before the scheduled Friday showdown. To my surprise Bruce & Ann were not only there already, they
were on their second pint. “I think I have the winner” Bruce boldly stated. At first I thought he was talking
about the beer he was drinking but then I saw Ann proudly holding a receipt above her head. Ah, I thought,
too bad they’re headed for heartbreak. He’s probably got a $3.99 loser. Slowly the remaining contestants
drifted in with six packs carefully protected by a variety of bags. John had a cloth bag with his initials on it,
Chris and Jack an opaque black beauty, and Kevin a doubled layered white one that seemed to have a
supermarket label on it. Most of the others opted for standard brown which clearly was a sign of their lack
Everyone ordered a pint to steady the nerves for the showing of the beer and the authentication of receipts.
Our judge (and our bartender) Rachael, announced “it’s time to rumble” in her best Michael Buffer voice. To
expedite things, Rachael counted down prices beginning at $6. By the time she reached the $5.50 level
the majority of the contestants had been eliminated. At $4.75 two more hopefuls were forced to stand
down. Only five still survived. John went out at $4.25 with his Busch Natural Light and out again with a
$4.15 Bud Ice six pack. He alone had brilliantly thought of a double entry in a failed effort to prove that the
only person who could beat him was him.
Down to the Final Four, the judge called for each of us to read aloud our receipt. Going in for the kill, I said,
“no need for you all to show your receipts, here’s the winning one - $3.85!” As soon as the laughter
stopped, Kevin, Chris & Jack, Bruce & Ann shouted out to each other, “can you beat $2.99?” What? They
looked at each other, stunned. Each then reached into their bag and drew out a can. Three identical red,
white, and blue cans of Name-Tag (Minhas Craft Brewery, WI) now stood on the bar. It was a tie. A lousy
A quick look at the contest rules found that the first tiebreaker was a taste test with the worst beer winning.
Scratch that. Tie breaker number two was can design, ugliest can wins. No luck with that. I quickly
suggested that I should be declared the winner. I didn’t have a reason but it was worth a try.
The finalists ranted and argued forcing the Judge to step in. Rachael ordered that they each put their
receipt in a hat that she conveniently found behind the bar. Make that a very conveniently found hat. She
then mixed the receipts thoroughly and with eyes semi- tightly shut she reached into the hat. She slowly
opened the chosen receipt , held it close to her, and joyfully shouted “The winner is…… Chris and Jack!!”
At that she iinstantly put the receipt back in the hat. Huh? Well we are in New Jersey where a politician
once won elective office on the slogan “slightly less dishonest than the other guy”.
Jack and Chris immediately ordered their prize from the Double Super Secret Stash List – Westvleteren
12. Jack then handed us each a can of Name Tag to drink despite the fact that in several countries it’s
illegal to have those two beers within 100 feet of each other. The Name Tag was beer, I guess. It was
sweet, watery, and vaguely reminiscent of apple cider left out in the sun. Let’s just say it was no
Westvleteren as the giddy winners kept pointing out.
While we losers struggled to down the Name Tag, the bottle of Westvleteren 12 was quickly emptied. No
surprise there since it was being split three ways. I have to remember to ask Rachael how she liked it.
click to contact vince